The Westlake offense that has given Southern Maryland Athletic Conference opponents fits for five years was dissected by Thomas Stone for the second consecutive week, as the Cougars beat the Wolverines, 41-12, in their Class 3A first-round playoff game.
Though Westlake threw in a few new wrinkles, attempting 16 passes compared with two last week, the Cougars held the Wolverines to 12 points, matching Westlake's lowest point total this season. The high-powered offense was held to 287 yards, with more than 100 of those coming on two big running plays.
Wolverines running back Denis Hicks rushed for 173 yards on 15 carries, including touchdown runs of 57 yards in the first half and 53 in the second. But the rest of the offense could generate only 114 yards the entire game.
"Westlake is a run-up-the-middle team," senior defensive end Mike Finamore said. "[After halftime] we read the plays and swarmed better."
Turnovers also were a key to victory for the Cougars. Finamore intercepted a pass in the second quarter and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown to put Thomas Stone ahead, 13-6, a lead the Cougars held at halftime.
"That interception put us up, and there was no looking back," Finamore said. "We killed them with that."
In addition, the Cougars caused two fumbles and recovered both of them to stall Westlake drives. The first was caused by junior defensive back Tymon Barnes, who was blocked on the play, but got a hand on the ball to force Recardo Evans to fumble.
"When [Evans] ran toward me, he didn't have the ball tucked all the way under his arm," Barnes said of the play. "We practice knocking the ball out of the running back's arm, and that's what I did."
Westlake made it hard for the Cougars' defense early on, using various offensive sets with two and three wide receivers, spreading the field and running Hicks up the middle.
The Wolverines seemed to be challenging senior running back and linebacker Marcus Whalen by running right at him, with 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior tackle Randy Starks leading the way.
"They came right at me with their pulling guards, and they're big," Whalen said, "but I had to step up and make the plays."
Whalen and his teammates held all Wolverine backs other than Hicks to 52 yards rushing. And while the Wolverines passed far more than usual, they were able to complete only quick slants and screens.
The Thomas Stone defensive backs held Wolverine receivers to little yardage after their catches, and the Cougars said they felt that facing a more aggressive passing attack may prove beneficial in the next round of the playoffs.
"Our defense can hold teams to six or eight points per game," Whalen said. "If we can stop the pass, then we'll be all right."