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Rushing attack sends Wilde Lake into semifinals

The Baltimore Sun

Wilde Lake running backs Ashton Hayes and Jarrel Epps put on a show that North Harford wished it hadn't seen.

The host Hawks never found a way to stop the speedy Wilde Lake running backs in last night's Class 3A East regional final. Hayes ran for 225 yards and four touchdowns, and Epps added 138 yards as No. 14 Wilde Lake defeated North Harford, 26-6.

Wilde Lake (10-2) advances to next week's Class 3A state semifinals, and the Wildecats will be tough to stop if they keep racking up yards like they have done in their first two postseason games. They got 359 yards in their initial playoff win over Howard and added 432 yards in this victory.

"We've been running well all year long," Wilde Lake coach Doug DuVall said. "We hoped we'd be able to sustain it."

Hayes and Epps combined for 363 of those yards in the run-oriented double-wing offense, each getting 16 carries and often breaking away for long runs that would keep a drive alive or go for a touchdown. Hayes scored all four of Wilde Lake's touchdowns, with runs of 1, 32, 53 and 74 yards.

"He was amazing," North Harford coach Ken Brinkman said. "He's probably the best player we've seen all year."

Hayes often got his long runs after breaking several North Harford tackles and then out-running the Hawks (10-2). He rushed for three first-half touchdowns to give the Wildecats a 20-6 halftime lead.

"I just took daylight where I saw it," Hayes said. "I just kept my legs moving and kept going down the field."

Epps set up Wilde Lake's touchdown on the game's first series with consecutive runs of 23 and 22 yards that gave the Wildecats the ball at North Harford's 1-yard line. Hayes scored on the next play.

Epps didn't score but came close on the final series of the game, breaking free for a 40-yard run that put Wilde Lake at the Hawks' 9. But Wilde Lake then ran out the clock.

North Harford moved the ball but couldn't make enough big plays. The Hawks finished with 216 yards of offense, with quarterback Dan Griffin completing 10 of 20 passes for 143 yards and running for a 6-yard touchdown. His 55-yard pass to Ben Weimer (seven catches, 119 yards) set up that score.

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