Finch, Westminster run to semis

Owls rally past Seneca Valley behind senior running back's 429 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns

Football

High Schools

November 26, 2005|By RICH SCHERR | RICH SCHERR,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Seneca Valley entered last night's Class 3A West football final with a storied tradition, including a record 12 state titles, and one of the most effective rushing offenses in the state.

What the Montgomery County power didn't have, however, was an answer to Westminster running back Ryan Finch. Finch, a 5-foot-8 senior, had 429 all-purpose yards, catching two touchdown passes, running for another two and returning a kickoff 90 yards for a score to help the No. 2 Owls build an insurmountable first-half lead in a 38-20 win against the Washington area's eighth-ranked team.

With Seneca Valley's defense geared toward stopping quarterback Kevin Clancy, who surpassed 3,000 yards passing - by far a county record - Finch took every opportunity to make his mark on the ground.

"Everybody knows Kevin Clancy and our receivers, but we also have the running ... it's the whole package," said Finch, who knew that taking an early lead was key against a team that struggles with the pass. "We knew that if we came out hard and put the points on the board, they'd be struggling trying to get back with the passing game."

Westminster (11-1), making its first playoff appearance since 1981, advances to next week's state semifinals, where the Owls will face an opponent to be determined.

Finch finished with 174 yards rushing and 106 receiving, helping his team build a 32-6 lead. The Germantown team also hurt its own cause with five turnovers.

After Westminster held the Screaming Eagles three-and-out on their opening possession, Finch gave his team the lead, taking an inside handoff from quarterback Kevin Clancy and running 48 yards untouched for a touchdown.

Junior running back Shawn Perry briefly pulled Seneca Valley even with a 58-yard run, but Finch answered on the ensuing kickoff with a 90-yard return for a touchdown, putting his team ahead, 12-6.

Seneca Valley (10-2) then suffered what could have been a fatal blow when Perry, who had gained more than 1,200 yards entering the game, left with an unspecified injury. Without their star back, the Eagles were rendered ineffective on offense. Perry was taken away by ambulance, but returned in the third quarter.

By then, however, Westminster had the game well in hand, Clancy, who has now thrown for 35 touchdowns, hit Finch with touchdown passes of 14 and 48 yards before the end of the half to put the Owls ahead, 26-6, then found Ryan Payne on a 20-yard strike to extend the lead to 26 in the third quarter.

Though Seneca Valley clawed back with long touchdowns runs by Perry and Christian Stahl, this night belonged to Finch and the Owls.

"It's about the team, but we know that on certain nights, there will be great individual performances," said Westminster coach Brad Wilson. "Tonight he had his."

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