Westminster's fast start fades in 51-31 loss to Thomas Johnson


FREDERICK -- The Westminster Owls still were celebrating a solid opening touchdown drive when Mike Gusman responded with a 67-yard jaunt down the left sideline for a Thomas Johnson score.

Gusman and the Patriots were far from done.

The Patriots scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions to build a 24-point lead by halftime and coasted to a 51-31 win over the Owls last night.

It's the fourth straight year the Owls have lost to their Frederick County foes. Turnovers and an inability to stop the run proved costly for Westminster, which dropped to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Central Maryland Conference.

"In the first half, we got on our heels with turnovers and missed tackles, and you just can't do that against a good football team," said Westminster first-year coach Tim Ebersole. "I liked how our kids never stopped fighting in the second half. That's something to build on."

The Owls got off to a good start when Justin Sholkoff returned the opening kickoff 49 yards to the Patriots' 36.

Eight plays later, quarterback Steve Mays rolled left and found Tim Herb for a 5-yard score.

Sholkoff's extra point gave the Owls an early 7-0 lead, but the rest of the night belonged to Gusman and the Patriots (4-1, 1-0).

Gusman followed his first touchdown run with another one late in the second quarter -- a draw that went for 30 yards -- to give the Patriots a 31-7 lead at the half. He finished the night with 138 yards on 11 carries.

After a successful opening drive, the Owls offense struggled with four turnovers in the first half. The Patriots took advantage on two of Mays' three first-half interceptions with touchdown drives.

Thomas Johnson quarterback Colby Cloude ran for two scores and threw for another -- a 10-yarder to fullback Tom Bellino.

Mays threw for three touchdowns and also ran one in. His second touchdown throw -- a 5-yarder to Sholkoff -- capped an impressive 10-play, 77-yard drive midway through the third quarter. It came with the Owls trailing 38-7.

Westminster running back Eric Jones, Carroll County's leading rusher going into the game, was limited to 52 yards on 19 'D carries.

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