Standing alone, awaiting the punt or kickoff, Marlon Evans's mind is on the big play. He thinks about finding the hole he can squeeze through. He wonders if there will be an opening that will allow him to accelerate downfield. He wants the score that will put his team ahead or break the opponents' spirit.

Evans, a junior, is the big-play man of the Wootton Patriots, unquestionably the surprise football team of the metropolitan area.

This year, Evans's heroics have helped Wootton to a 12-0 record -- its best ever -- including last week's 20-7 upset of then top-ranked Springbrook. Saturday, the Patriots go after the Maryland Class 4A championship against Randallstown at Westminster.

"Basically, my job on the team is to make the big play," Evans said. "Just like the linemen's is to block and the runners' is to run. I feel like I didn't do my job unless I take a kick back for a score."

Evans has done the job all season for Wootton. He averages 23.7 yards on kickoff returns and an astounding 20.9 on punt returns. He's returned three punts back for touchdowns, but his biggest play may have been on the opening kickoff against Springbrook.

Evans took the kick at the 1-yard line and cut directly to the left sideline. He then sprinted past everyone for a 99-yard touchdown.

"My first move is to make the other team unsure of the way I'm actually going so they can't stay in their right lanes," Evans said. "So I may juke left then go for the right side, or something like that. I'm just thinking about scoring."

Coach Bob Hampton said Evans's run back against the Blue Devils allowed Wootton to dictate the pace of the game.

"To have seven points on the board after 13 seconds of play, we could then take a more conservative approach to play calling," he said. "It took the pressure off our offense and that's good because we did not want to make any mistakes to give Springbrook the ball."

Evans is dangerous in other ways. As a receiver, he's caught 28 passes for 495 yards. He's carried on five reverses for 92 yards (18.4 average). Together, the returns, receptions and rushes average 19.7 yards every time he touches the ball.

Evans's older brother, Kendall, played for Wootton and, briefly, William and Mary before a knee injury ended his football career last year. In fact, it was Kendall's school-record 92-yard kickoff return that Marlon broke last Saturday.

"Football was his sport," Marlon said of Kendall. "He loved it so much I was unsure if I was even going to play. But when I saw his courage {after his injury}, I figured I'd play, sort of, for him. I wanted to do something for him, football-wise."

Evans has another family tradition to live up to: academic success. Kendall graduated from Wootton with a 3.4 grade point average. Older sister Andrea, a former track runner now at Stanford, had a 3.8.

With a 3.2, Marlon says it can be difficult balancing athletic and academic careers.

"I put my academics first but it's kind of hard when you get home at six and you're tired and you're thinking about the game and your mind sort of floats off your homework," he said. "But my dad's always there to make sure it gets done."

Right now, it must be hard to think of anything besides the upcoming state championship.

"We've gotten the big play when we needed it this year so I'd like to win any way we can," he said. "This has been our goal all along and we just have one test left."