On its face, Westlake's 14-7 loss to Gwynn Park on Saturday in the Maryland 3A South semifinals looked like the fitting end to a stunning three-game collapse for a team that had state championship aspirations.
But it was clear that this was not the same Westlake team over the previous two weeks. In spite of increasing injuries all season -- continuing in that game with lineman Calvin Dixon and defensive back Darius Harris going down -- the Wolverines put forth an effort characteristic of the first month of the season, when Westlake looked unbeatable.
"It's hard to take solace in a loss," Westlake Coach Dominic Zaccarelli said, "but the kids played with the emotion and intensity" that's the way the game should be played. "It's tough that we couldn't do that all year."
What doomed Westlake against Gwynn Park -- besides not having a full healthy lineup -- was its difficulty in moving the ball. The Wolverines managed just 45 yards of offense and two first downs in the second half. Punt after punt pinned the Westlake defense deep in its own territory, and Gwynn Park just waited for the right moment to pounce.
With 21/2 minutes to play, that moment came when Yellow Jackets quarterback Andrew Banks hit Quintin McCree on a 54-yard touchdown pass to provide the winning margin.
"I wish we would have had the pieces of the puzzle together one more time," Zaccarelli said.
'Tough Way to Finish'
In a similarly dramatic role reversal, Thomas Stone followed its inspired victory at Westlake two weeks ago with a flat 33-0 loss at Arundel on Saturday in the 4A East Region semifinals.
"That was a tough way to finish," Cougars Coach Steve Lindsay said. "After coming off a week like last week when you finish the regular season on a high, we definitely crashed into a load today. It wasn't like we weren't ready. It was a few things early that really kind of flattened us out emotionally."
The Cougars did themselves no favors. They committed five turnovers, including four fumbles, and gained only 144 yards of offense.
"We just couldn't hold on to the ball," Lindsay said. "We had a tough time executing today for some reason. We just weren't able to make the big plays on defense when we needed them."
Staff writer Daniel Lyght contributed to this report.