DeFreitas puts Green Terror in title running Junior back's speed, power a perfect fit for unbeaten W. Maryland

November 22, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

When a lean and muscular Gavin DeFreitas lines up behind a huge Western Maryland offensive line that averages 265 pounds, he oozes with confidence.

"When I'm about to run the ball, I think only about wanting to get to the end zone. I have to believe I have a chance to score every time I get the ball," said the 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior running back who will lead fourth-seeded Western Maryland (10-0) against top-seeded Lycoming (9-0) at noon today in an NCAA Division III South Region semifinal playoff game at Lycoming. "Our offensive line is bigger, much better and stronger than it was two years ago."

Western Maryland coach Tim Keating said DeFreitas has enough talent to be thinking touchdown each time he takes a handoff from sophomore quarterback Ron Sermarini.

"He was always fast and he's even improved his speed by running track," said Keating. "The first time I saw him in high school I said 'My, what a player.' But now that Gavin has hit the weight room, he has a lot of strength to go with it. If you've ever seen him without a shirt, he looks like a Greek god. He is without a doubt an impressive sight. He is very chiseled and can find the holes to run through."

In a magical unbeaten football season for the Green Terror, DeFreitas has carried the ball 225 times for 955 yards and nine touchdowns and caught 29 passes for 313 yards and one touchdown.

He was the final ingredient the Green Terror needed to become a complete team and make the NCAA Division III 16-team playoffs for the first time in school history.

Western Maryland already had a somewhat spectacular passing game with Sermarini coming off an impressive freshman year and throwing to a gifted senior wide receiver in Donte Abron.

Add an imposing offensive line, a bruising defense, an outstanding kicking game and strong special teams to the mix and that left one major item missing.

If someone could just make opposing defenses respect the run, the Green Terror would be ready to roll.

Enter DeFreitas in a big way.

Western Maryland opponents not only have to prepare for the run but key on DeFreitas, especially on a muddy field. With more rain expected this weekend in Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming figures to be setting its sights on DeFreitas.

The product of DuVal High in southern Prince George's County said he is ready for the challenge.

"We watched the films of Lycoming and we think we can run on them," said DeFreitas. "And once we suck them in with the run, we'll hit them with the pass to Donte."

For certain, DeFreitas has seldom been better than he was in the mud last week in an emotional 21-3 victory over Johns Hopkins in the 76th meeting between the two schools.

After pounding the Blue Jays for 5 and 6 yards all afternoon, DeFreitas finally broke loose for a quick-hitting 30-yard touchdown run through the heart of the Hopkins defense in the fourth quarter.

With the exception of a few little jukes with his hips, DeFreitas didn't do anything fancy on the run. It was mostly all speed, 4.5 seconds in the 40, and power.

"That touchdown run against Hopkins had to be the most impressive thing I've ever seen Gavin do on the football field," said Keating. "He squeezed through a small hole and was gone. I don't see how it could get any better than that. We have a saying as a team 'the offensive line gets two, Gavin gets two and that makes four yards' and we keep moving down the field for a touchdown. But Gavin outdid himself on that run against Hopkins."

DeFreitas' score gave the Green Terror a 21-3 lead and wrecked any hopes Hopkins had of winning and gaining a share of the Centennial Conference title with Western Maryland.

The Green Terror stood alone at the top of the Centennial and was ready to join 15 other schools in a chase for the NCAA Division III national championship.

It's a chase DeFreitas wants to complete now, not next season, when the Green Terror will be a more experienced and tournament-tough squad.

The team loses only seven out of 94 players on the roster, with just three of those being starters (Abron, defensive tackle Justin Lavis and free safety Bill Parks).

"This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said DeFreitas. "If we do it any year, this is the year because we're breaking records and everybody is psyched up. Next year there might be a tendency to relax because we've already won our first league championship and been to the playoffs."

This incredible turnaround for Western Maryland (4-6 last year) and DeFreitas (480 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore) has all been kind of amazing for the running back.

"Western Maryland was my last choice out of four schools [Georgetown, Denison and Michigan State were others], but everything has really worked out here," he said. "We really didn't have any football tradition at this school before this season, and people on the national level still think it's a fluke we made the playoffs. They say our conference isn't that good. We want to prove all the skeptics wrong."

Pub Date: 11/22/97

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