Tricks give Wilde Lake title treat Thomas Johnson falls to hook-and-ladder, option in 3A final, 7-0

Wildecats finish 13-0

Two defensive stands clinch 5th state crown

November 29, 1997|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- "Return to glory" was their goal, "whatever it takes" their mantra.

What it took for fourth-ranked Wilde Lake's fifth state championship, and first since 1992, were two trick offensive plays and two final-quarter defensive stands.

Wilde Lake's 7-0 Class 3A victory over Frederick's Thomas Johnson at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium yesterday produced a cornucopia of memorable achievements.

It gave the Wildecats (13-0) their third undefeated season. It made the Columbia team a perfect 5-for-5 in state championship games. It was the 'Cats eighth shutout this season -- and second straight in the playoffs, a performance that lowered their points-allowed-per-game average to 3.7.

And the win made Doug DuVall the first coach to win state titles in three different enrollment classifications. The Wildecats moved from Class 2A to 3A this season.

Brandon Finney, Derrick Jordan and Luke Vanderwagen made the most decisive plays for Wilde Lake.

Jordan caught a 16-yard halfback option pass from Finney in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown with 5: 29 left. It was his 13th catch this season -- the seventh for a touchdown.

"My defender covered me well all day. I couldn't get rid of him except for that one play," Jordan said. "Even then, he was with me. It was just thrown where no one but me could get it."

A 72-yard hook-and-ladder play from Wilde Lake's 20-yard line to Thomas Johnson's 8-yard line set up the winning touchdown pass.

On the trick play, the first time all season Wilde Lake had used it, quarterback Derek Bell passed to Jordan for 10 yards, and Jordan pitched to Finney, who ran for another 62 yards down the right side line before being caught from behind by Leroy Ambush.

"We talked to the kids during a timeout about the halfback option, and we practiced against the hook-and-ladder," said frustrated Thomas Johnson coach Ben Wright, whose team was making its fifth straight state playoff appearance and was averaging 35.6 points a game. The Patriots' only state title was in 1982.

DuVall said: "We were real confident about the halfback option. We knew it was there. Brandon [Finney] is a tough, two-way competitor and a quiet leader, and he laid it on the money."

Vanderwagen, a defensive end, stopped a 59-yard, nine-play Thomas Johnson drive at the Wildecats' 11 after the touchdown. The Patriots tried a pass on fourth-and-1 at the 11, and the 6-foot-3 Vanderwagen leaped up, blocking the view of quarterback Ricky Roberts. Roberts, with the play's rhythm broken, had to pump again, and overthrew his diving receiver.

"Luke saved the day, because our coverage wasn't right," said Wilde Lake defensive coordinator Mike Harrison. "We only had one guy covering two receivers."

On their previous possession, the Patriots drove 69 yards in 10 plays but missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt.

Roberts (89 yards, 13 carries) ran 37 yards on an option to start that drive, but holding and delay-of-game penalties hampered Thomas Johnson. The Patriots could not convert a third-and-two at Wilde Lake's 9 before trying the three-pointer.

Three other times, for a total of five, Thomas Johnson (11-2) moved inside Wilde Lake's 40-yard line, but each time, the Wildecats came up with big plays.

"A couple of times, we were a step away from a touchdown, but a slip or two cost us," Wright said. "But you can't blame a muddy field. Wilde Lake's offensive and defensive lines did a nice job."

DuVall praised the play of two-way linemen Garth Herdrich, Tyler Fisher and Sam Levy.

Finney, in addition to his 62-yard run on the hook-and-ladder, had a 41-yard run with 1: 40 left to pull Wilde Lake out of a deep hole at its 5-yard line. He gained 117 yards on 15 carries.

Wilde Lake scored only 19 points but gave up only six during three playoff games.

"Our players are the only ones who thought they'd be here," said Harrison. "Our game plan was not to let them break any big plays."

Wilde Lake 0 0 0 7 -- 7

Thomas Johnson 0 0 0 0 -- 0

-- Jordan 16 pass from Finney (Tyson kick)

All-Metro football

The Baltimore Sun 1997 All-Metro football teams will appear in Sunday's editions.

Pub Date: 11/29/97

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