W. Md. terrorizes Hopkins, 21-3 Win caps 10-0 season, clinches 1st league title

playoff fate due today

November 16, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Western Maryland sloshed through the mud and a well-drilled Johns Hopkins team, 21-3, yesterday to complete an improbable 10-0 regular season, capture its first Centennial Conference title and most likely gain its first berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.

The impressive victory in the 76th meeting between these two intense rivals touched off a rare wild scene at Scott S. Bair Stadium in Westminster, as several fans among the overflow crowd of 4,024 stormed the field to tear down the goal posts, set off a few firecrackers and dump one set of goal posts in the middle of Johns Hopkins' post-game huddle.

"A couple of buildings might come down around here tonight," said Western Maryland sophomore linebacker Tommy Selecky. "That's how excited everybody is, including a lot of the people in this town. We wanted to find out what would happen if we ever got behind in a game and we found out."

The Green Terror trailed for the first time this season when Todd Bencivenni kicked a 32-yard field goal to give Hopkins a 3-0 lead with 6: 34 left in the first quarter.

That lead lasted for more than 20 minutes before inventive Western Maryland quarterback Ron Sermarini sliced 3 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead with 1: 15 left in the first half.

The Sermarini score was set up by freshman Jeff Groff, who blocked a punt and recovered it at the Hopkins 20-yard line.

Western Maryland will find out its playoff fate today at noon when the Division III pairings are announced. The Green Terror entered yesterday ranked fifth in the South Region; the top four receive bids to the 16-team field. With No. 4 Albright losing to No. 3 Catholic yesterday, 44-22, a bid for Western Maryland seems likely.

This Green Terror is the third team in the 103-year history of Western Maryland football to finish the regular season unbeaten and untied.

Preseason forecasts had the Green Terror (10-0, 7-0) finishing fifth in the eight-team Centennial Conference, which was two places behind where the Blue Jays (7-3, 5-2) were expected to wind up and did finish.

With Western Maryland winning the title for the first time in the league's 15-year history, many longtime observers are ready to proclaim this the greatest Green Terror football team ever. Star junior running back Gavin DeFreitas said: "People around the country are going to know us as a football school along with all the academics. We proved we could play the game this season."

DeFreitas scored Western Maryland's third touchdown on a nifty 30-yard run in the fourth quarter and wound up the day with 27 carries for 141 yards.

Hopkins linebacker Greg Degl, who spent the entire day trying to stop the Green Terror's march to perfection, said, "This doesn't look at all like the same team we played last year. They are so much bigger and so much better."

Degl led all tacklers with 15 but admitted Western Maryland simply wore down the Blue Jays.

Hopkins coach Jim Margraff tried to console Degl and all his players by saying, "When these guys wake up tomorrow morning they still will be at one of the great institutions in the nation and will have played for a conference championship."

"That doesn't mean much to me right now," said Degl. "I'm not good at accepting defeat."

However, Western Maryland junior strong safety Tom Lapato said Degl and his Hopkins teammates exhibited class on the field in defeat. "They took it well, were classy and didn't say anything to us," said Lapato.

It was just another case yesterday of Sermarini, DeFreitas and a deeply talented Green Terror cast of players creating ways to win games when the wet elements took away many of their best weapons.

On a crucial fourth-and-two at the Hopkins 12 on the play before Western Maryland's go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter, Sermarini darted into the middle of the line, hit a wall of people and bounced outside for 9 yards.

Sermarini came back in the third quarter to throw an 8-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Matt McVey on a play that caught the Blue Jays a little off guard.

McVey had caught only one pass all season before he slipped virtually unnoticed into the end zone for the touchdown pass that gave the Green Terror a 14-3 lead with 3: 42 left in the third quarter.

Western Maryland coach Tim Keating said of Sermarini: "He is a great kid, has a big heart and loves to play. His strong arm and quick feet are way down the list on what makes him so super."

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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