Loaded Wildecats go for two in a row Last season's unbeaten state 3A champions feel they can win another title

September 04, 1998|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

A 13-0 season ending with a state football championship changes some things. It has for Wilde Lake's two returning All-Metro defensive players, team captains Luke Vanderwagen and Danny Bayron.

"This time last year, no one expected us to win states. Now everyone expects us to defend our title. There's more pressure," said Bayron, a 200-pound defensive back and running back. "Defending a title is harder."

Vanderwagen, a 215-pound linebacker said: "A day doesn't go by that someone asks if we'll wins states."

The added pressure shouldn't prevent Wilde Lake from winning its sixth state title.

"I'm feeling like we're looking at another state title," Bayron said. "We've rebuilt pretty well. We have a lot of size and talent. Our defense is one big swarm -- as good as last year."

Wilde Lake allowed only 49 points all last season, and its goal this season is perfection.

"We don't want to give up any points," Bayron said. "We have these lofty goals, but realistically, we know you have to take it one game at a time."

Vanderwagen said: "Last season, we played like every game was our last one. And we have to play like that again this season to accomplish our goals."

Last season's state title hasn't jaded Bayron and Vanderwagen. It has whetted their appetites.

"A lot of people said last year's title was luck," Vanderwagen said. "We want to show them it wasn't. It won't get old to win again. I want it much more this year, because it's my senior year, and you always want to go out with a bang. We look at this season a lot differently, because we know what it takes now."

The Wildecats are trying not to sound too cocky, but they have all the ingredients of a juggernaut. They are deep. They are big. They are fast.

And yes, they are even lucky like they were during the state playoffs last season, when they won three games despite scoring only 19 points; they allowed six.

Lucky, as in picking up 6-foot-5, 295-pound transfer Emmanual Glover from Lake Clifton in Baltimore to fill out an offensive line that averages 260 pounds.

Lucky, as in having running back Jimmy Levins, a speedster who transferred from Buffalo, N.Y., last year. He's a potential 1,000-yard rusher.

"We really have three potential 1,000-yard rushers this season," said Bayron, who was always a guard until last season. "Kye Snell could do it, too."

Wilde Lake did suffer heavy losses to graduation, but they used three summer one-hand-touch, seven-on-seven tournaments to get to know one another.

"We were able to bond during the summer," Vanderwagen said. They even defeated state title opponent Thomas Johnson again by the identical 7-0 state championship game score.

Wilde Lake won the state title on a trick play -- a hitch-and-pitch. "I still remember bringing in that play from the sidelines," Vanderwagen said.

Bayron said: "It's one of the hardest plays to complete. We only succeeded at it 35 percent of the time in practice. It takes great timing. Hopefully, we won't have to use that play again."

They'd both like to play Thomas Johnson in the playoffs again, however, to prove last season was no fluke.

So far, they've beaten Calvert Hall, Parkdale and Patterson in scrimmages. Bayron and Vanderwagen see Long Reach, Oakland Mills and Howard as Wilde Lake's toughest county opponents.

Oakland Mills and Howard have 1,000-yard running backs in Vinnie Rubbo and Gerald Smith, respectively. And Long Reach's Devin Conwell rushed for 826 yards.

"I'm shooting for 2,000 yards this season," said Smith, who LTC pulled a hamstring in the first quarter against Wilde Lake last season.

Smith is the one player Bayron and Vanderwagen fear the most. "Smitty is shifty," said Bayron.

But Wilde Lake expects to be ready for all of them.

The Wildecats have T-shirts that say on the fronts: "Grim Reapers." And on the backs: "Stay home if you don't want to get hit."

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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