Thomas Stone 18,
All season, Thomas Stone junior Wiley Brown has bugged Coach Steve Lindsay to play him at inside linebacker. There's just one small problem: Wiley's older brother Nekos, who has committed to Virginia Tech, plays there.
But in preparation for the Cougars' regular-season finale at Westlake, Lindsay wanted to mix things up a bit to counter Westlake's multifaceted running game and moved Wiley Brown inside. Brown responded with as dominant a defensive performance as any this season in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, as he led Thomas Stone to an overwhelming 18-6 victory.
"I've been playing [inside] since [youth] ball, and I've been asking to play there now," said Brown, who made nine tackles, each one seemingly harder than the last. "I had to do other things to help the team. This was finally my opportunity, and I wanted to take advantage of it."
Until Westlake turned to a passing attack out of desperation in the final six minutes, the Wolverines (8-2) managed only seven first downs and 97 yards of total offense against Thomas Stone (7-3). By the time Westlake started to move the ball, Thomas Stone was up 18-0, thanks, in part, to a 45-yard touchdown catch by Willie Milhouse and a 15-yard scoring run by Patrick Swearinger.
Brown "played phenomenal," Lindsay said. "The whole defense was phenomenal. The focus was there. The kids can take a lot of momentum into the playoffs now."
The two teams could not be starting the postseason on more different notes. Thomas Stone will be coming off what was just its second victory over Westlake since 2000 and a last-minute comeback win over Great Mills. The Cougars will face Arundel next week in the Maryland 4A East semifinals.
Meantime, Westlake, which just a few weeks ago had its eye on the top seed in all of 3A, now is resigned to playing on the road next week. With Lackey's 52-27 victory over McDonough on Friday, Westlake dropped behind the Chargers in the 3A South standings.
If Friendly beat Surrattsville yesterday (that game ended too late to be included in this edition), Westlake will finish as the fourth seed and will visit unbeaten Gwynn Park in the region semifinals. If Friendly lost, the Wolverines will visit Lackey, which would move up to the second seed.
Injuries have taken their toll on the Wolverines, most notably to their star backfield of Aaris Reed and Pha'Terrell Washington. Reed has not played the past three games since injuring his knee against Great Mills and is unlikely to return next week. Washington, meantime, had only one carry and played sparingly on defense while nursing a sore right ankle.
"We're falling apart," Reed said. "It seems like we don't have the fight we used to have. I don't know what happened."
Westlake Coach Dominic Zaccarelli, who watched his team play its most complete game in the third week of the season against Lackey, said something is missing.
"It's a strange combination here," he said. "We're not in sync. We've lost our momentum, and we've got to get it back in three or four days.
"Am I concerned? Yeah, I'm concerned because we've got the playoffs coming up."