Wilde Lake defeats Franklin to win Maryland 3A football championship

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 3, 2010; 12:08 AM

BALTIMORE - The team with the so-called vanilla offense reached deep into its playbook and a pair of trick plays lifted 10th-ranked Wilde Lake to its sixth state title.

Running back Khalil Viera threw a tiebreaking touchdown pass just before halftime, then added a 36-yard touchdown run on a double handoff midway through the third quarter as the Wildecats beat Franklin of suburban Baltimore, 21-14, in the Maryland 3A championship game before 3,500 at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night.

"I got a little razzle dazzle in me," Wilde Lake Coach Mike Harrison said with an ear-to-ear smile. "Hey, in '97, [former coach] Doug [DuVall] did the same thing - hitch and pitch got us down to the 10-yard line and three plays later we threw a halfback pass for a touchdown and beat Thomas Johnson, 7-0."

Thursday's victory wasn't quite as dramatic as that 1997 championship, the most recent of the Wildecats' five previous state titles, when Harrison was on the sideline as an assistant coach. Wilde Lake (11-3), which played on the road as the lower seed in its first three playoff victories, controlled things throughout against Franklin.

Still, it was 7-7 late in the first half when linebacker Anthony Miller intercepted a pass and returned it 44 yards, giving the Wildecats the ball at the Franklin 16-yard line with 54 seconds left. Two running plays netted seven yards and Harrison called his final timeout of the half.

"We kept watching what the cornerback was doing and thought he was biting up there trying to be run support," said Harrison, who normally relies on his team's wing-T rushing offense to gain yards.

So Harrison called for Viera to take a pitch to his left and then throw, a difficult maneuver for a right-handed thrower. Viera watched to make sure the defense flowed to him, then threw to open wide receiver Eron Pruitt in the back of the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown and a 13-7 lead with 34 seconds left in the half. It was Wilde Lake's only completed pass in the game.

"I was shocked they called it," said Viera, noting that he does throw the ball occasionally in practice as the third-string quarterback. "But we had gone over it in practice."

In the third quarter, facing third and six from the Franklin 36, running back E.J. Gilman took a toss to the right and handed off to Viera heading back toward the right. Viera burst through some defenders near the line of scrimmage, put his hand down to maintain his balance and scooted into the end zone. Joe Kelly's two-point conversion run made it 21-7.

"We weren't going to line up and bang it directly down their throats. We had to resort to some of the stuff we might not run all the time, but we practice it," Harrison said. The wing-T "works for us. It's our style, our character. We were able to win 11 football games running the most boring offense in the state. I'm okay with that. We're state champions. It's fine."

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