Showing typical poise, Wilde Lake rebounded from a lackluster first half to score four touchdowns and turn a tight game into a 31-6 rout over visiting Hammond yesterday.
The Wildecats (9-1, 7-0) won their seventh straight game and clinched their fourth consecutive county championship, while securing the top seed in the Class 1A playoffs. They will open the defense of their 1A title Saturday against a quarterfinal opponent yet to be determined.
Winning a 13th county title under coach Doug DuVall, the Wildecats wrapped up their fourth straight perfect season against the county and knocked Hammond (4-3, 6-4) out of the 2A playoffs.
Wilde Lake has won 28 consecutive games against county opponents, but that streak appeared to be in jeopardy at halftime.
After Hammond quarterback Rudy Cooper hit Tim Spruill with a 39-yard touchdown pass midway through the second period -- )) the first points the Wildecats had surrendered in 25 quarters -- the Golden Bears pulled to 7-6.
The Wildecats trudged off the field having managed only 52 yards of offense, despite terrific field position throughout the half.
"They didn't play football in the first half the way they're capable of playing it, and they had to reach back," said DuVall. "We told them, 'It's gut-check time. Are you going to wait all day to start playing, or what?' "
The Wildecats gave DuVall their answer in commanding fashion. They scored on their first four possessions, capitalizing on two Hammond turnovers along the way. They rolled up 230 yards in the second half, while limiting the Bears to 35 yards and one first down.
Quarterback Seth Willingham hurt Hammond several ways. In the first quarter, Willingham faked a pitchout, kept the ball and rambled 24 yards for the game's first score. In the second half, he sparked the opening drive with a perfectly timed pitch to Nate Cassella, who ran 20 yards and set up his own 3-yard scoring run five plays later.