W. Md. extends conference streak

Luster's pass to Wright tops Muhlenberg, 28-25, in OT for 31st in a row

September 30, 2001|By Beth Hudson | Beth Hudson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- They don't always dominate.

They don't always have a 100-yard rusher or great passing numbers.

But champions have a way of coming up with the right plays at the right time. They find a way.

That was the story for Western Maryland yesterday.

Trailing by three points in overtime at Muhlenberg, the Green Terror faced third-and-seven at the Mules' 22-yard line. Backup quarterback John Luster threw a screen pass to Louis Wright, who ran down the left sideline, eluded tacklers and slipped into the end zone.

That quickly, it was over.

Western Maryland, winner of four consecutive Centennial Conference titles, escaped with a 28-25 victory. The Green Terror's conference winning streak -- now at 31 games -- was intact.

And the Muhlenberg sideline fell silent.

"They're a tough team," Western Maryland running back Jemel Johnson said. "We knew it was going to be a dogfight. We just played like champions -- that's what I believe."

Western Maryland improved to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the conference.

Muhlenberg, the team considered most likely to break the Green Terror's victory streak this season, dropped to 3-2 overall and to 2-1 in the conference.

It was a game that lived up to its hype.

At halftime, it seemed as if the Green Terror couldn't lose. By late in the fourth quarter, when momentum had shifted to the Mules, it seemed as if it couldn't win.

The key to the first half was turnovers. Muhlenberg quarterback Justin Jones threw a ball early in the second quarter that ended up in the hands of Western Maryland linebacker Matt Wilchinski.

The Green Terror took over at the Mules' 11-yard line, and running back Jason Hartman finished the drive with a 1-yard carry to give his team a 6-3 lead.

Muhlenberg fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Aaron Hutsell recovered for the Green Terror. Four plays later, Hartman ran 6 yards for his second touchdown. After a two-point conversion, Western Maryland held a 14-3 halftime advantage.

"The kids played hard," Muhlenberg coach Mike Donnelly said. "[But] we certainly dug ourselves a huge hole. Usually, turnovers and mistakes are the difference when you play big games. Give [Western Maryland] credit. They did a good job."

Late in the game, Muhlenberg rallied. Matt Bernardo ran for three fourth-quarter touchdowns. The third, which came with 34 seconds left in regulation, tied the game at 22 and sent it into overtime.

Muhlenberg went on offense first. Christopher Reed kicked a 36-yard field goal, forcing Western Maryland to score on its possession.

"There's always pressure," Johnson said. "Everybody's trying to take out the top dog. This had to be one of the most exciting games [of my career]."

Bernardo led all rushers with 36 carries for 182 yards. Johnson ran 19 times for 81 yards to lead Western Maryland. Starting quarterback Boo Harris left in the second quarter after aggravating a hamstring injury. Luster, a junior from Sykesville, completed 5 of 8 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

Western Maryland 0 14 0 8 6 -- 28

Muhlenberg 3 0 0 19 3 -- 25

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