Thomas Stone football player Mike Farland agreed to kiss teammate Marcus Whalen if the Cougars won their game six weeks ago. They won, and a tradition started.
Whalen returned the favor Friday night after No. 10 Thomas Stone's 16-7 win over visiting Randallstown in the Maryland 3A semifinal. There's one potential kiss left--if the Cougars can defeat No. 1 Seneca Valley in the state final, scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at Byrd Stadium in College Park.
"It started as a bet [with a teacher], but it's become a good-luck charm," Whalen said of the postgame ritual. "We do it every time we win. . . . Thank God the season is almost over."
Thomas Stone, which improved to 12-0 for the first time in school history, became the fourth team from the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference to make a state final in the 1990s (McDonough made it in 1990 and 1991, and Westlake did it in 1996). McDonough was the last SMAC team to win a state title (in 1990); the Cougars have never won a state football title.
"I'm real happy for the kids," Thomas Stone Coach Richard Callahan said. "They've been working hard all year, and they deserve to be here."
Thomas Stone scored on its second possession of the game.
Whalen (24 carries, 161 yards) set up the drive with a 20-yard punt return, and junior quarterback Phil Buddenbender threw a 17-yard pass to junior tight end Morgan Fields to keep it moving.
Mike Finamore's 21-yard run set up a 16-yard touchdown run by Whalen with 2 minutes 32 seconds left in the first quarter.
Three plays later, Thomas Stone extended its lead to 9-0 when junior defensive end Steven Peaper burst through the middle of the line and tackled Randallstown quarterback Archie Trader in the end zone for a safety.
"Our defense played pretty good today," said Thomas Stone senior Robert Pepper, who had seven tackles and made a number of key blocks on offense. "We ran to the ball well and did a good job of gang tackling."
Randallstown (9-3) regained the momentum in the second quarter, marching 54 yards in five plays to cut the lead to 9-7. Junior running back Tyese Ademiluyi had a 16-yard run, and Trader threw a nine-yard pass to Quan Mitchell.
That set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Davon Johnson with 37 seconds left in the half.
The Rams threatened again in the third quarter. But on third and 10 from the Thomas Stone 11-yard line, Thomas Stone sophomore Gamal Sheard intercepted a pass at the goal line.
Thomas Stone put the game out of reach with 3:16 remaining, when Whalen bounced outside and scored a 20-yard touchdown.
"They were blitzing inside, so we knew we could run off tackle," said Callahan, whose team racked up more than 250 total yards. "If a team blitzes inside, that means they have two less guys outside. We took what they gave us, and Marcus made them pay."
Notes: Thomas Stone assistant coach Dave Kristofic was at the rehearsal dinner for his wedding in Pittsburgh on Friday night, but called assistant Kevin Heider throughout the game to get updates. After the game, Heider called Kristofic, and the players let out a loud cheer. Kristofic is supposed to arrive home from his honeymoon on Sunday, but said he may change his flight to attend Saturday's championship game.
Thomas Stone (12-0)
TS--Whalen 16 run (Finamore kick)
TS--Safety, Peaper tackled quarterback in end zone
R--Johnson 1 run (Woodson kick)
TS--Whalen 20 run (Finamore kick)
LEADING RUSHERS--TS: Whalen 24-161, Finamore 11-86; R: Johnson 13-64, Savage 11-68.
LEADING PASSERS--TS: Buddenbender 1-3-0 17; R: Trader 5-12-2 33.
LEADING RECEIVERS--TS: Fields 1-17; R: Mitchell 2-24, Johnson 3-9.