In the nearly three-hour football game in 90-degree heat, Wilde Lake’s Amari Hutson never slowed down.
The junior wideout/cornerback/punter did it all in the Wildecats’ 27-6 homecoming win over Atholton on Saturday afternoon.
“I knew I was going to have to go against the weather and be a dog every play,” Hutson said. “That’s all it is. I just know I have to be better than the man in front of me.”
On offense, Hutson caught five passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, he took part in two of Wilde Lake’s six turnovers, forcing a fumble on a blitz in the third quarter and picking off a pass in the fourth. He also stood out on special teams in the first quarter, executing a fake punt with a 15-yard gain with his legs.
Junior Amari Hutson talks Wilde Lake football after the Wildecats' 27-6 homecoming win over Atholton on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.
“Amari is growing every year,” said Wilde Lake head coach Brian Henderson. “He’s been up since he was a freshman, and to watch that young man mature and come full circle has been a special thing to watch. He’s a dynamic player, and he’s an even better young man.”
The victory is Wilde Lake’s first homecoming triumph since 2015. Hutson said the team was eager to break the “curse” against the Raiders.
“To get a win on Homecoming, to break the homecoming curse, it means a lot to us,” Hutson said.
Hutson started off the game’s scoring with a 62-yard catch-and-run touchdown midway through the first quarter. Playing out of the slot, Hutson, a 2018 all-county selection, caught a 20-yard post from quarterback Kofi Boampong and outran the Atholton defense for the score.
“I saw the safety, and I knew if I ran the post inside that I could beat him,” Hutson said. “Kofi threw a perfect pass, and that was all I needed.”
While Wilde Lake (1-1 Howard County, 1-2) blew the game open in the second half, kicker Sam Nason provided much-needed scoring when the Wildecats offense stalled. The senior made two field goals — a 33-yarder in the second quarter and a 27-yarder in the third — and all three extra-point attempts.
Atholton’s lone touchdown came on a 25-yard interception from Bryce Jamison. The Wildecats were backed up in their own territory, and Jamison intercepted the errant throw and went untouched into the end zone. If it weren’t for the defensive score, the Wildecats would have likely shut out the Raiders, who totaled just 129 yards of offense.
“The defense really played hard,” Henderson said. “We had some really good stops on key downs and we had some big turnovers. It was great to see that momentum shift our way and see our defense close out a full game.”
Atholton (0-3, 0-3) started the second half with three straight fumbles on offense. William Parker, Travis Cannon-Cherry and Cameron Burris recovered the fumbles for Wilde Lake, with Hutson forcing the third fumble on a cornerback blitz. The turnovers led to 10 points for Wilde Lake — a Nason field goal and a 19-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Malik Hough to Hutson. Hough entered the game for a banged up Boampong and remained at quarterback for most of the second half.
“Turnovers will always plague you in big games,” said Atholton head coach Justin Carey. “We have to continue to get back to practice and focus on our mistakes.”
Hough intercepted his second pass of the day early in the fourth quarter and then threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Justin Avinger to seal the win for Wilde Lake.
The victory is the first for Henderson, who took over the Wilde Lake program this season. While he said the win is “all about the kids,” he admitted the excitement of his players and coaches for him getting his first win — including the mini-water cooler shower — was a special moment.
“I really love our team, our kids, our coaches and our community,” Henderson said. “I’m very humbled and blessed to be here. It’s beyond words.”
Both teams are back in action next Friday. Wilde Lake travels to Mt. Hebron, while Atholton plays at Long Reach.