McDonough 23, Westlake 3

McDonough junior A.J. Wallace knew his team's secret weapon to beat Westlake was not in any playbook. It was in the head of each Wolverine.

The Rams hoped Westlake would look past them and ahead to its much-anticipated game next week against Lackey. Many thought that game would pit a pair of undefeated teams playing for the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title on the last weekend of the regular season.

McDonough ruined that plan with a 23-3 home victory behind a masterful defensive performance that put the Rams in position to clinch their first playoff berth in 13 years with a victory at La Plata next week.

"I think they were looking right past us," said Wallace, who caught an 87-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, intercepted a Westlake pass at the Rams' 2 in the fourth quarter and sealed the victory with a 98-yard run on the next play. "They didn't think we could beat them. They didn't give us any respect."

The top seed in the Maryland 3A South Region is still up for grabs Friday, when Westlake (8-1 overall, 8-1 SMAC) hosts Lackey, which defeated Huntingtown, 36-0. While Wolverines Coach Dominic Zaccarelli did not dismiss the possibility of his team looking forward to that game, "That can't be an excuse," he said. "McDonough outplayed us."

Unlike many Westlake opponents, McDonough (7-2, 7-2) was not intimidated by the Wolverines' speed. The Rams have similarly speedy players, who chased down the Wolverines and held them to zero or negative yardage on 13 plays and a season-low 117 yards rushing.

"We concentrated on their speed sweep," said senior linebacker Ryan Mullhattan, who had three tackles for a loss and recovered a fumbled Westlake punt return early in the fourth quarter. "That's what their whole offense is based on. Coach [Dave] Bradshaw just made us believe that we could do that."

Mullhattan's fumble recovery set up McDonough at the Westlake 30. Four plays later, Andrew Geisert kicked the second -- and longest -- of his three field goals, a 42-yarder with 8 minutes 7 seconds to play to give the Rams a 13-3 lead.

After McDonough stopped Westlake on downs in the next series, Geisert kicked a 39-yard field goal with 5:23 to play to make it 16-3.

Westlake drove downfield, helped largely by two of McDonough's five 15-yard penalties in the fourth quarter. But on third and 10 at the 15, Wallace intercepted Buck Smith (15 of 26, 114 yards) at the McDonough 2.

On the next play, Wallace bulled into the line, then broke to the right sideline and did the one thing most opponents only dream of doing to the Wolverines -- outran them.

McDonough probably will make the playoffs regardless of whether it wins next week, but the Rams learned Friday night not to overlook any opponent. All they have to do is look at the video of the game.

"La Plata is not to be taken lightly," said Bradshaw, who beat Westlake for the second time in his five seasons as head coach and overcame three straight defeats by an average of 28 points. "We showed them the film of [the team's game against Westlake]. They know La Plata is a tough team. Plus, they beat us last year."

Andrew Geisert, above center, with holder Cory Yates after his third-quarter field goal gave McDonough a 10-3 lead. Geisert later kicked field goals of 42 and 39 yards. Below, A.J. Wallace runs for a score on an 87-yard catch in the second quarter.