What a difference a week made for Wilde Lake High’s football team.
After losing at Atholton last week, the Wildecats returned to Freetown Road and posted a 21-7 decision in a Class 3A East Region semifinal contest Friday evening. Wilde Lake advances to the region title game next weekend against No. 8 River Hill.
Senior running back Khalil Vierra rushed for 114 yards, and AJ Harris and EJ Gilman each scored rushing touchdowns for Wilde Lake (8-3 overall). Curtis Pumphrey’s 62-yard catch and run accounted for Atholton’s only score.
Last weekend, Andrew King’s 226 yards including scoring runs of 65 and 42 yards, propelled the Raiders to a 27-15 victory. The win secured home field for round two with Wilde Lake.
It didn’t matter to an inspire Wilde Lake squad that pushed to a 14-0 second half lead. The Wildecats controlled the clock with their potent running attack of Khalil Vierra, Gilman and Harris and kept King under wraps defensively.
“I thought we would come back and have a great week of practice, and we did,” said Wilde Lake coach Mike Harrison. “The kids played hungry they wanted to prove they’re a good football team.”
“It was a battle all week in practice. The Green team worked the Gold team; the Gold team worked the Green team,” said Wilde Lake senior running back Khalil Vierra. “We pushed each other to the limit because we knew what we were going into.”
The Wildecats set the tone early, going 70 yards over seven minutes as Kelly found Pruitt in the corner of the end zone. It was the only pass in the scoring drive.
“Once we got in the red zone they [Atholton] started going for the run,” said Kelly. “We saw an opening and E’ron was wide open in the end zone.”
Wilde Lake took its first drive of the second half and went 73 yards over eight plays, capped Harris’ 33-yard run, extending the lead to 14-0 with 3 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Harris finished with 99 yards on 11 carries.
Atholton (8-3) finally got its first points as Brian McMahon found Pumphrey, with a three-yard gap on his defender, down the right sidelines. Pumphrey hauled the pass in and sprinted about 30 yards into the end zone.
Pumphrey picked up added momentum for the Raiders recovering a fumble by Harris on the Wildecats’ ensuing drive. Atholton reached Wilde Lake’s 34 before a fumble snap knock it back to midfield, and the Raiders eventually had to punt.
Anthony Miller helped set up the Wildecats’ final score with a 45-yard punt return. Six plays later, Gilman leaped over the goal line for a 1-yard score with 5:50 left in regulation.
Atholton coach Kyle Schmitt figured it was going to be a tough task beating a familiar foe like Wilde Lake in consecutive weeks.
“We missed a lot opportunities and they took advantage,” said Schmitt, who got 13 tackles from Steve Whiting on defense with Alex DeMarco adding 11. “In this region, let’s face it; it’s us, River Hill and Wilde Lake right now. I’ve coached 23 games at the school, four against Wilde Lake.”
Wilde Lake gets to see River Hill for the second time this season, this time for a state semifinal berth. The Hawks routed Stephen Decatur in the other regional semifinal Friday evening. River Hill defeated the Wildecats, 21-6, in week seven.
“It’s everything we could’ve hope for when we started,” said Harrison, in his second season succeeding legendary coach Doug DuVall. “Two years ago, we were trying to replace 10 kids on defense and seven on offense. To be playing for the regional championship, we’re absolutely thrilled.”
CLICK RELATED VIDEOS TAB FOR HIGHLIGHTS AND INTERVIEWS
|Wilde Lake 21, No. 18 Atholton 7|
|WL-Pruitt 25 pass from Kelly (Kelly kick)|
|WL-Harris 33 run (Kelly kick)|
|A-Pumphrey 62 pass from McMahon (Haas kick)|
|WL-Gilman 1 run (Kelly kick)|