W. Maryland ousted from playoffs DeFreitas' broken wrist takes toll as Lycoming rolls to Div. III win, 27-13

November 23, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The several hundred Western Maryland College football fans who lingered around Person Field long after the Green Terror lost, 27-13, to Lycoming yesterday seemed to be asking for a recount.

They didn't want to believe that sophomore quarterback Ron Sermarini and the previously unbeaten Green Terror had run out of answers and miracles in the NCAA Division III South Region semifinals.

They had watched Sermarini, powerful running back Gavin DeFreitas and a hard-hitting defense led by linebacker Tommy Selecky overcome all obstacles to win the school's first Centennial Conference title, register only the third unbeaten, untied football season in 103 years and gain the right to play with the Division III big boys for the first time in the playoffs.

But this time the mud that has followed Western Maryland (10-1) three of the past four weeks finally caught up to the Green Terror, thanks in large part to a mysterious broken bone in DeFreitas' left wrist and an outstanding Lycoming team that is now 10-0.

A healthy DeFreitas is critical to the Western Maryland offense in the mud because he can dominate a game on the ground with his power and speed, as he did last week in a 21-3 victory over Johns Hopkins with 141 yards rushing and a beautiful 30-yard touchdown run.

But yesterday DeFreitas was used mostly as a decoy when he came off the bench with a cast on his arm, carrying only three times for 3 yards and catching two passes for minus-2 yards.

The surprising thing about DeFreitas' injury was that no one knew it had occurred in the Hopkins game until last Sunday when the wrist suddenly became swollen.

"The only thing we could figure was somebody stepped on it in the Hopkins game," said Western Maryland coach Tim Keating. "He was only able to practice a little one day and couldn't have any contact, so I had to believe there wasn't much of a chance he could help us."

But DeFreitas was hoping that he would at least be able to catch some passes to take pressure off Sermarini, so he decided not to talk about the injury all week.

"If it had been a regular-season game, we would have taken a chance on throwing more passes to me but we couldn't risk it today with the injury," DeFreitas said. "I'm disappointed in myself. I wanted to help more. But the doctors wouldn't let me take the cast off and that hindered me a lot."

Keating said, "I'm going to try and not let this loss bother me. I'm going back to study the film and look at every play closely and try to learn from this game. Lycoming's Frank Girardi is a great coach who has a super program that has been to the playoffs so many times [eight]. They are a better team than we are. If we played 10 times, we might win two or three of them."

So it all came down to Sermarini trying to throw the ball in the mud against a relentless Lycoming defense but it didn't work often enough.

Sermarini tossed a 34-yard touchdown pass to Tim Herb and a 1-yard scoring pass to Greg Dubell to give Western Maryland a 13-6 lead with 2: 34 left in the first half.

But Lycoming got a big break with 22 seconds left in the first half when the Warriors' Nate Harvey blocked a Bob Spruill punt on fourth-and-26 from the Green Terror 17-yard line.

Jason Fuller recovered at the Western Maryland 1-yard line and one play later resourceful Lycoming quarterback Jason Marraccini tossed a scoring pass to tailback Brian Thompson.

That reduced the lead to 13-12 and Lycoming went for two, but Western Maryland's Marvin Deal broke up a Marraccini pass intended for Joe Spang in the corner of the end zone, preserving the Green Terror lead at halftime.

"That blocked punt really hurt us," Keating said. "It wasn't like we were jubilant in the locker room at halftime. It was like we were looking around for something else to go wrong."

And it did in a big way in the second half as Marraccini and Thompson took over the game on two long touchdown marches to send the home team ahead 27-13 with 12: 04 left in the fourth quarter.

Marraccini scrambled around and through the Green Terror all day to complete 12 of 20 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns and gain 41 yards on 16 carries.

Thompson was brilliant on several runs right at the heart of the Western Maryland defense and wound up with a school postseason record of 179 yards on 27 carries.

Pub Date: 11/23/97

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