For Western Md., it's Texas time Postseason: The undefeated Green Terror hopes for better road luck this time when it meets Trinity tomorrow in a Division III playoff opener.

November 20, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

A short 64 years ago, the Western Maryland football program had its shot at the big time. And blew it. Offered an Orange Bowl bid and the opportunity for extravagance, the school opted for prudence, deciding that the train trip to Miami would be too costly.

Cut to 1998 and the Green Terror's trip to San Antonio and another distant football game, this one 1,589 miles away in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs. Western Maryland will meet Trinity, Texas, tomorrow at 1 p.m. in a meeting of 10-0 teams.

Though the NCAA is picking up the cost of hotels and the equivalent of commercial airfare for 60 persons, "it would be my guess that that train fare [in 1934] would be significantly less than what we're going to pay," said Western Maryland coach Tim Keating.

The Green Terror, ranked No. 3 in the South region, won the Centennial Conference championship and clinched its berth in the playoffs last week with a 17-0 shutout of Johns Hopkins.

Western Maryland is hoping the on-field price of travel won't be as great as last year. After an un- defeated regular season, the Green Terror played a spirited first half before fading against Lycoming, which prevailed, 27-13, in the first round of the playoffs.

But Keating is looking forward, not back.

"We're very excited. I wish I was already there," the coach said before his team left yesterday afternoon. "Being in San Antonio and playing in the tournament with these types of stakes and knowing that this is an opportunity you earned, it's very exciting."

While the Green Terror enters the playoffs having won its last 20 regular-season games, dating to 1996, Trinity has compiled an even more impressive run. The Tigers, of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, have beaten 31 of their last 32 regular-season opponents, dating to 1995.

Trinity coach Steve Mohr is just happy to be home after five plane trips this season. The closest football-playing SCAC school is Millsaps in Jackson, Miss., about 500 miles away. "We've done enough traveling this year," Mohr said.

On the ground in San Antonio, the Green Terror may find it has little room to run. Its rushing game, led by Joe Kendorski's 827 yards and nine touchdowns, will be in for a challenge.

The Tigers, led by linebacker John Paul Visosky, have a rushing defense that is the nation's third-stingiest, allowing 57 yards per game. Overall, Trinity has allowed 217 yards per game, fifth-best in Division III.

But Keating said he's most fearful of Trinity's passing game. The Tigers make no secret of their intent to pass on just about every down. And it's a goal they reach often, as junior quarterback Michael Burton has thrown for 3,031 yards and 32 touchdowns this season.

Almost a third of Burton's connections have been with receiver Bo Edwards, who has 841 receiving yards and 11 touchdown catches.

"They throw the ball just like we did three years ago," Keating said. "This quarterback really puts the ball on the money."

While Western Maryland's 396 yards of production per game are more balanced, the Green Terror has its own passing attack, featuring quarterback Ron Sermarini. The junior won his second straight Centennial Conference Player of the Year award after leading the league in quarterback rating (146.2) and finishing second in total offense (194 yards per game).

On defense, the Green Terror has been solid, earning a No. 6 national ranking in pass defense (153.1 yards per game), allowing only four passing touchdowns.

One of the tapes Mohr received from Western Maryland was last week's Hopkins game in which the normally high-powered Blue Jays were held to nine first downs and 183 yards of total offense.

"I was most impressed by their ability to shut Johns Hopkins down, at their place," Mohr said. "[Western Maryland] constantly put them in poor field position, and I was impressed by the way their guys flew to the football."

Pub Date: 11/20/98

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