Wilde Lake holds off Franklin to win 3A state title, 21-14

Wildecats cap surprising season with first state crown since 1997

December 03, 2010|By Katherine Dunn | Baltimore Sun reporter

Wilde Lake wasn't even expected to get out of its all-Howard County region, much less reach the state football final, but the No. 8 Wildecats stifled No. 6 Franklin's running game, intercepted two passes and held off a late Indians surge en route to a 21-14 victory for the Class 3A state title Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

Wilde Lake quarterback Joe Kelly had a big kiss for the state championship trophy as the Wildecats (11-3) finished off their fourth straight upset to win their sixth state crown and their first since 1997.

"This is something," Kelly said. "I've been watching Wilde Lake football since I was 8 years old, watching my brother Matt play. To hold this trophy as a senior in my last game, I can't put into words how it feels right now."

Khalil Viera, who ran for 121 yards on 19carries, scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a double handoff from E.J. Gilman with 5:51 left in the third quarter. The Indians, who had won their past two playoff games in the final five seconds, rallied to within 21-14 on Joey Dorsey's 23-yard touchdown pass to Ian Thomas with 2:18 to go, but the Wildecats recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

In the regional playoffs, Wilde Lake avenged regular-season losses to Howard County foes Atholton and River Hill and then, in the state semifinal, they pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of the season, 21-14, over previously undefeated Damascus of Montgomery County, the No. 1 team in the state. But no win was bigger than the state championship.

The Wildecats only threw the ball three times, but they had a lot of misdirection in their running plays, scoring on the double handoff and a halfback pass from Viera to Eron Pruitt.

"Franklin's a great football team … and they came to play. We weren't just going to line up and bang it directly down their throats," Wilde Lake coach Michael Harrison said, "so we had to resort to some of the stuff we might not run all the time, but we certainly are practicing it all the time."

The Wildecats held the Indians (11-3) to 92rushing yards and picked off two of Dorsey's passes. Kelly, who also plays free safety and does the punting and kicking, intercepted one of them, and Anthony Miller grabbed a second one with 54 seconds left in the first half that set up Viera's pass to Pruitt for a 13-7 Wilde Lake lead.

The Indians had tied the game at 7 on Dorsey's 4-yard pass to Thomas early in the second quarter, but did not put a second score on the board until 2:18 remained in the game. Although the Indians had rallied for a win over North Harford with five seconds left in the regional final and a win over Huntingtown as time expired in the state semifinal, it was too late for another comeback.

"My brothers, we're known to fight to the end," Franklin running back Mark Venable said. "We left it all out on the field and like coach [Anthony] Burgos said, that's all you can ask for out of a team -- to play all four quarters and leave it all out there and that's what we did. It's just this time we came up short."

Venable led the Indians with 69 yards on 18 carries, while Dorsey was 12-for-23 passing for 169 yards. The Indians finished with 261 total yards to Wilde Lake's 236, but they threw only three passes and had the edge on the ground, 228 yards to 92.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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