No. 5 Gladiators’ perfect season undone by Oakdale in 2A state football final (VIDEO HERE!)
by Tom Hayden
Special to VSN
As the final seconds ticked in Saturday evening’s Class 2A state football championship game, Glenelg High seniors Wande Owens, Tyler Reiff and Sam Alsheimer gathered on the sideline in front of the midfield stripe. They hugged each other.
Reiff slowly bowed his head. Alsheimer and Owens stared across the field where Oakdale and its faithful began celebrating.
A historic season ended in disappointment for the No. 5 Gladiators, who dropped a 35-7 decision to the Frederick County squad at a chilly and damp Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. Schlee threw two touchdowns and ran for two more for Oakdale (13-0 overall).
After a brilliant start, things methodically distingrated for Glenelg, playing in its first state final. The Howard County champions finally reached the final weekend of the state public season after three state semifinal in the prior four seasons.
Though the Gladiators (13-1) were unable to finish a perfect season, coach Butch Schaffer had no regrets.
“The seniors on this team have a lot to be proud of,” said Schaffer after completing his 14th season at the western Howard County school. “They put in the hard work to get here. But I love these guys. I wouldn’t trade these guys for the world.”
“I’ve never been more emotionally attached to one team,” said Alsheimer, who was a dominant force at linebacker and fullback this fall after missing the final 11 weeks of the 2017 season with a broken leg. “I love this team and I’m proud of every single one of them.”
Glenelg (13-1) rode a stingy defense (eight shutouts) and the running of Owens, who shattered the Howard County record books, to Annapolis. The formula worked to a ’T’ as the Gladiators covered 80 yards (60 on a Reiff run) in four plays on the game’s opening drive, capped with Owens’ 10-yard jaunt off left tackle.
“We came out with a lot of energy and intensity and made some plays,” said Reiff.
Oakdale couldn’t get out of its own way in its first possession, drawing several penalties. The Bears, left with a 4th down-and-44, punted from their 5.
The promising start quickly turned sideways for Glenelg. Following a personal foul penalty against the Gladiators, Reiff had his first pass of the game intercepted by Oakdale’s Blake Baxter.
Two plays later, Schlee raced 66 yards off left tackle for a touchdown, but Oakdale missed the extra point. The Bears took advantage of a short punt from Owens, going just 35 yards in seven plays as Schlee connected with Ethan Reifer from 14 yards to take the lead with 25 seconds left before halftime.
“Getting that touchdown right before halftime was huge,” said Oakdale coach Kurt Stein. “I felt like we got the momentum going into the half. Then we came out and scored early in the third quarter and you could sense we were working downhill from there.”
The Bears, who ended Damascus’ 53-game winning streak in the West Region final, got the second half kickoff and quickly went 76 yards in four plays, highlighted by Schlee’s 45-yard pass to Noah Miller to Glenelg’s 2. The next play, Maurio Goings plowed into the end zone, and Reifer pulled down Schlee’s conversion pass in the back corner of the end zone, giving Oakdale a 21-7 advantage.
Glenelg responded with its best drive since the impressive game-opening assault, but turned the ball over on downs at Oakdale’s 25. The Bears promptly marched 75 yards in nine plays as Schlee hit Blake Baxter in the middle of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown.
“In the second half, we just couldn’t get anything going,” said Reiff. “Then we they started to pull ahead, it was really tough.”
Owens had 103 yards on 26 carries, but had 27 yards over the final three quarters. The Gladiators finished with 236 yards rushing Saturday, but Oakdale finished with a 402-240.
A big reason was Schlee, arguably the state’s best quarterback. The Kent State University commit threw for 210 yards (completed 10 of 22 passes) and rushed four times for 89 yards, including a 18-yard touchdown run early in the fourth.
“You have to give Oakdale credit. That’s a tremendous football team,” said Schaffer. “We had a lot of success early but Oakdale made some adjustments.”
Midway in the fourth, Schaffer began pulling his starters.
Owens, who finished with a Howard County record 2,676 yards this season and helped the Gladiators to 38 victories in his four-year varsity career, sat by himself on the bench.
“In the fourth quarter it was really getting emotional for me sitting there,” Owens said. “We had been so good throughout the season. Getting to this game was a big accomplishment, but obviously we didn’t want our season to end like this.”
Class 2A state football championship
at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium
Oakdale 35, No. 5 Glenelg 7
Oakdale 6 7 15 7 0 35
Glenelg 7 0 0 0 – 7
GLN – Wande Owens 10 run (Chris Retzbach kick)
OAK – Collin Schlee 66 run (kick failed)
OAK – Ethan Reifer 14 pass from Schlee (Justin Ritter kick)
OAK – Maurio Goings 2 run (Reifer pass from Schlee)
OAK – Blake Baxter 14 pass from Schlee (Ritter kick)
OAK – Schlee 18 run (Ritter kick)