Junior running back Mario Merrills scored on a 10-yard touchdown run on Wilde Lake's first play in overtime to give the Wildecats a 13-10 victory over defending 1A state champion Oakland Mills yesterday in Columbia.

Merrills took a pitch, escaped a head-on hit by senior linebacker Nick Fambro at the 9-yard line, then sprinted to the corner of the end zone to give Wilde Lake (6-1, 5-1 Howard) its fourth consecutive victory and second overtime win this season.

"I don't even know how I did it," said Merrills, who rushed for 32 yards on 10 carries. "I thought they had me, so I spun to the outside and it was wide open."

The Scorpions (5-2, 4-2) had their best chance on their overtime possession on third down from the 12. Quarterback J.T. Rembert threw into the end zone for Fambro but defensive back Chris Riley dove to his right to break up the pass. The Scorpions settled for a 29-yard field goal by Robert Roche to take a 10-7 lead.

The victory moved Wilde Lake, three-time defending Howard County champion, into a first-place tie with Howard (6-1, 5-1), which lost its first game Friday at Long Reach.

"The kids just hung tough," Wilde Lake Coach Doug DuVall said. "Having won the River Hill game in overtime [21-20 on Sept. 25] and having played overtime in scrimmages early in the year has given our kids confidence."

Leading 7-0 early in the fourth quarter, Wilde Lake appeared close to putting the game away until Curtis Gore fumbled on the Oakland Mills 1 after a 34-yard reception. Roche recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

The Scorpions then went on an 11-play, 80-yard drive to tie it at 7, when Rembert threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Fambro on fourth and 10 with 7 minutes 49 seconds remaining. Two plays later, Fambro intercepted quarterback Chad Fawcett at the Wildecats 31, but freshman running back Keion Reames fumbled three plays later on Wilde Lake's 11 with 5:41 remaining.

"I felt we should've won the game down on the 10-yard line," said Oakland Mills Coach Ken Hovet, whose team lost two of seven fumbles. "Ultimately, mistakes kill you."