Wilde Lake coach Doug DuVall called yesterday's 28-20 victory over Riverdale Baptist the most satisfying ever for his No. 3 Wildecats (1-1).
"That's the truth," he said. "Everybody always says that sort of thing, but they [Riverdale Baptist] are a great football team, and we've got a lot of new kids who haven't played before and they just didn't know they were good enough to win."
Riverdale Baptist (1-1) received the opening kickoff and took over at its own 20-yard line.
Olandis Gary, who rushed for 2,019 yards last year, quickly put Riverdale Baptist out in front of a stunned Wilde Lake defense as the tailback capped a personal 80-yard drive with a 52-yard scoring run just 1:49 into the game.
"I just said to myself, 'That kid is as good as everybody said he was,' " DuVall said. "We were throwing the kitchen sink at them, but they were pulling the plug and just draining it."
Gary finished the game with 23 carries for 228 yards and three touchdowns, pushing his career rushing mark past 4,000 yards in just 22 games.
Wilde Lake senior quarterback Seth Willingham, however, engineered four consecutive first-half touchdown drives that exploited the Crusaders' inexperienced secondary and gave the Wildecats a comfortable 28-7 halftime lead.
On third-and-14 from the Crusaders' 17, Willingham (10 of 16, 101 yards) connected for his second touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Tarkese McDonald to give the Wildecats the lead for good at 14-7.
"They thought they had the speed advantage, so they played up a little too close and that enabled me to get outside and deep," McDonald said.
Wildecats senior running back Mike Green (21 carries, 87 yards) finished off a 55-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run that increased the Wildecats' lead to 21-7 with 5:55 left in the first half.
Willingham's third and final touchdown pass was to senior split end Jermaine Sutton for 35 yards with 37 seconds left until intermission.
Riverdale Baptist of Prince George's County would not roll over for the Wildecats, however. Gary took four carries for 80 yards to open the third quarter and cut it to 28-13.
Riverdale Baptist sustained a 14-play, 80-yard drive that was aided by a Wilde Lake pass interference penalty and ended with a 16-yard Gary touchdown run with 7:16 left.
The Crusaders' offense put a last-minute scare into the Wildecats, but a quick whistle saved the defense.
With 26 seconds left and Riverdale Baptist with the ball at midfield, Green hit quarterback Chris Folkenberg as his arm went forward, sending the ball up into the air.
After the ball bounced off two Wilde Lake defensive backs' hands, it wound up in the arms of Crusaders sophomore wide receiver Vance Robbs, who was heading down the sideline when officials stopped the play. They ruled Green had halted Folkenberg's forward progress and a whistle had signaled the play over.
"We self-destructed, there's no doubt," Riverdale Baptist coach John McGroarty said. "It's discouraging. Take away a few plays and we played well enough to win."