Westlake used a punishing ground attack last night, piling up 283 yards rushing in the first half against Patuxent on its way to a 45-12 victory in a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference game.

The game marked the first time No. 13 Westlake had three running backs in its lineup -- seniors Denis Hicks and Gonzie Gray and junior Recardo Evans. Hicks led the trio, carrying 14 times for 121 yards and three touchdowns.

"It's the first time all year that we've had them all healthy at the same time," Wolverines Coach Dominic Zaccarelli said. "And it's a good time to have them."

Westlake will host No. 14 Thomas Stone (8-0), which leads the SMAC, next week in a game that will decide the conference championship. Thomas Stone defeated Leonardtown, 32-8, last night.

The Wolverines used their methodical ground attack to post the first points last night. After taking over on their 20-yard line on the first possession, the Wolverines handed the ball to Hicks, Evans and Gray, respectively, who moved the ball a combined 73 yards, highlighted by a 31-yard pickup by Hicks. Two plays later, junior quarterback Larry Johnson found junior split end Lavon Chisley on an 11-yard slant to give Westlake a 6-0 lead.

The Westlake defense got the ball right back, forcing Patuxent to lose a yard on its first three plays from scrimmage, then punt. The Wolverines took advantage of the quality field position with the ball on the Panthers 25. Hicks capped a six-play drive with a two-yard touchdown, giving Westlake a 12-0 lead.

After another three-and-out drive by Patuxent, Johnson kept the ball on an option play and raced 62 yards for the Wolverines' third score with 2 minutes 35 seconds remaining in the first half.

Patuxent tried to keep the game within reach. Senior running back Anthony Baldwin gained 35 yards on an end-around, moving the ball to the Westlake 15. Terry Caulley, the SMAC's leading rusher, then picked up 13 yards to move the ball to the 3. Patuxent junior quarterback Judd Vail found Baldwin on a screen for a three-yard touchdown to narrow the score to 18-6.

That would be as close as Patuxent would get: Westlake's running game proved too much for the Panthers. Gray scored on a 23-yard sweep, and Hicks added a two-yard touchdown plunge and a 35-yard score to help the Wolverines pull away for good.