As Westminster's prolific passing attack grabbed all the headlines this season, coach Brad Wilson kept stressing that his Owls could run the ball, too.
Friday night against a quick, athletic James H. Blake team that put a lot of pressure on Owls quarterback Deryk Kern early, the No. 5 Owls leaned on that running game. They scored two of their first three touchdowns on the ground and finished with four rushing touchdowns — the most all season — en route to a 51-7 victory in a Class 4A North regional football semifinal.
The Owls (11-0) will host Sherwood, a 26-7 semifinal winner over Catonsville, for the regional championship Friday at 7 p.m. Sherwood defeated Blake, 35-0, during the regular season.
Although the Owls averaged 325 yards and more than five touchdowns through the air coming into the game, they needed the running game when their passing offense stalled at the start of the game.
On their first two possessions, Kern threw an interception and the Owls turned the ball over on downs, but on their third drive, Kern hit Garrett Bean on the sideline with a 23-yard pass to set up Johnson's 5-yard touchdown run.
"They were doing everything to shut down the pass, which put a lot of pressure on me," Johnson said. "You had to get [yardage] in chunks. You couldn't really break anything deep because they were back there."
Johnson ran for two touchdowns for the second straight game and wide receiver Bradley Metcalf also ran for two scores, as well as catching two touchdown receptions.
Kern, a 5-foot-11, 155-pound senior, threw three touchdown passes to bring his season total to 55 — just one shy of the state record set by Arundel's Billy Cosh in 2008. Twice this fall, Kern has matched the state record with seven touchdown passes in a game and Bean caught five of them in the win at Linganore, also tying a state record.
Johnson's second touchdown, a 4-yard run, gave the Owls a 41-7 lead with 3:34 left in the third quarter. Two minutes later, after a C.J. Nichols interception, Kern hit Metcalf with a 42-yard touchdown strike to boost the Owls lead to 48-7 and kick in the running clock.
Kern was 14-for-28 passing for 212 yards. Metcalf had four receptions for 94 yards and ran three times for 30 yards.
For the fifth straight game, the Owls defense allowed one touchdown or less. On 25 carries, the Bengals had minus-39 rushing yards and 71 yards of total offense. The Owls had four sacks — by John Morrissey, Jeff Evans, Dylan Adams and Johnson — for a total of 48 yards.
The Owls had a 28-0 lead before the Bengals (6-5) got on the board. They converted after Ricardo Malcolm picked off Kern early in the third quarter. Quarterback Stefan Sigwalt hit Marquis Robinson with a 33-yard touchdown pass.
Two drives later, the Owls neeeded just one play from scrimmage after Chase Sanovich's 24-yard return on a short punt set Westminster up on the Blake 4-yard line. Metcalf took it in for a 35-7 lead with 7:15 to go.
Kicker Justin Cohen hit six extra points to boost his Carroll County-record season total to 59. He also closed out the scoring with a 24-yard field goal, his first of the season.
"This feels really good," Metcalf said. "It's just amazing, but we've got three games left. We're not done. yet."
B 0 0 7 0 --- 7
W 14 14 20 3 -- 51
W—Johnson 5 run (Cohen kick)
W—Metcalf 23 pass from Kern (Cohen kick)
W—Metcalf 16 run (Cohen kick)
W—Clifton 8 pass from Kern (Cohen kick)
B—Robinson 33 pass from Stigwalt (Ashiru kick)
W—Metcalf 4 run (Cohen kick)
W—Johnson 4 run (Cohen failed)
W—Metcalf 42 pass from Kern (Cohen kick)
W—Cohen 24 FGCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun