Westminster left New Market on Friday night feeling confident it can soon enough be the team winning regional championship trophies on a regular basis.
The Owls got back to the Class 3A West Region final for a second consecutive season by winning their playoff opener, but had to get through Linganore once more. And the Lancers, like they did back in Week 3, showed Westminster why they’re the ones advancing.
The Owls have won regional titles before. In fact, they dispatched Linganore in the postseason to claim one back in 2005. But it’s the Lancers securing the hardware and getting a chance to play in another state tournament.
Their latest victory came at home, a 52-20 win in which Westminster (8-4) committed four turnovers in the first half and couldn’t stop the home team from taking advantage.
“Everybody puts in work … we have athletes out here,” Ryan Clatterbuck, a senior receiver, said after Friday’s game. “I just don’t know how to put it. We come out here every day, go hard. And we just keep progressing every week. We fell short today.”
Clatterbuck’s voice trailed off as he spoke, and he stood alongside quarterback Christian Etchison, a fellow senior, moments after a group of Owls huddled near midfield for a prayer.
The finality of their high school careers being finished hit them both, and emotions were flowing. Etchison and the Owls knew coming in they were likely going to need to bring their best effort in order to take down Linganore (11-1), which defeated them 48-7 on Sept. 14.
“It was just killing ourselves. We shot ourselves in the foot [in the] first half,” Etchison said. “Didn’t finish a couple drives, didn’t get a couple stops that we could have. And that [stuff] adds up when you’re playing good teams.”
Westminster had plenty of offense — Etchison threw for three touchdowns, and had Clatterbuck and senior Tavian Montgomery each had 100-plus yard efforts. Linganore had more, however, led by standout running back Davon Butler’s 250 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The Owls lost to the Lancers twice in 2017, which made this year’s matchups tougher for the team’s veterans to absorb. But after going 10-2 last season, and winning eight more games in 2018, those veterans are leaving with plenty of positive vibes.
Westminster went 5-1 in Carroll County Athletic League play, losing only to county champion Liberty. And the Owls posted a pair of wins over South Hagerstown, a playoff team in 3A West (they beat the Rebels 27-24 last week in the regional semifinals).
Study said he knows the Owls are tired of losing to Linganore, and in order to get past their Frederick County rivals it takes a strong nucleus of players. Skilled players such as Etchison, Clatterbuck, Montgomery, running back Jaden Louis, defensive end Jacob Busic, and linebacker Owen Babylon.
There are more, of course. And there will be more down the line. That’s how successful football programs tend to operate.
Study said he’ll return three offensive linemen in 2019, along with several receivers and running backs. And Westminster’s junior varsity team put together a solid fall season (the JV Owls beat Linganore on the road) in 2018.
“I had nine JV kids pulled up,” Study said. “I want those guys to stay in there, and keep working, and stay in the weight room. These guys will be in there. They’ll take a week off, and then they’ll be rolling. That’s just what we do.”