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Westminster football holds off Winters Mill to cap undefeated season

Rivalry games are never easy.

Unbeaten Westminster rallied in the second half to top a Winters Mill team eager to upset its city rival. Owls senior running back Erick Stranko scored the team’s lone touchdown and the defense made it hold for a 9-7 victory to cap off an undefeated season.

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Carroll County Athletic League champ Westminster (6-0) is the third team in program history to finish unbeaten in the regular season. The Owls went 9-0-1 in 1963, while the 2012 team went 12-0 prior to falling in the state semifinals. Westminster also became the sixth team in county history to win every game of its regular season.

“Super proud of these guys,” Westminster coach Chris Bassler said. “This was a tough year for everybody. A lot of adversity, a lot of things we have never had to handle before. These guys handled everything we threw at them with professionalism and class. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be their head coach.”

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Trailing 7-2, Westminster got the ball on its own 38 and rode Stranko to the decisive score. The senior had six carries on the drive, including the capper. On the touchdown, the offensive line opened a big hole in the WM defense and Stranko did the rest, motoring for a 34-yard TD.

“Give all the credit to my line,” Stranko said. “It’s always the line makes all the plays for me. My line, my fullback through all the years, made the plays. Thank you.”

The Falcons (2-4) had a chance after getting the ball back with under two minutes to go. WM picked up a pair of first downs as senior quarterback Cooper Maus hit fellow senior Cam Vogel for two 10-yard gains. The drive stalled at the Westminster 40 as the Owls held to close out the game. On fourth down, Stranko pressured Maus into a hurried throw and Westminster senior defensive back Ian Mullen knocked the throw to the turf to preserve the win.

“We have been a team all year led by our seniors,” Bassler said. “It gave us a leg up on some things to have that much experience. We leaned on those guys all year and they never let us down.”

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Winters Mill let Westminster know this would not be an easy game from the start. Maus got Winters Mill on the board first with a big play on the Falcons’ second drive. The senior took the snap at the WM 38, found a seam in the defense and broke free. He outraced a pair of Owls’ defenders on a 62-yard score that put WM up 7-0.

“We don’t take a backseat to anybody,” Falcons coach Matt Miller said. “Our kids come to play. Our kids have heart, our kids have guts. We ran into a good football team tonight and kudos to them for making the plays they had to. We are not a second-tier program. When you come to Winters Mill, you get heart, you get guts.”

It was a bittersweet night for both coaches as they said goodbye to seniors that have been so integral to the success of each program.

“You know it hurts because it was important to you and it comes to an end. That is the measure of how much you love something,” Miller said. “It is hard that we are done because it has been such a great group of kids to work with. This was a special group.”

SCORING SUMMARY

WM-Cooper Maus 62 run (Braxtyn Koch kick)

W-Koch recovered fumble in end zone for safety

W-Erick Stranko 34 run (Cam Doolan kick)

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