Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wheaton rides ups, down

Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009

Defensive stops lift Knights to 2-2 record, 14-12 win over rival Kennedy on Friday
by James Peters Staff Writer
In a roughly 3-minute span of Friday's road contest with Kennedy, the players and coaches on the Wheaton High football team experienced a roller coaster ride of emotions. The coaster stopped at the top: the Knights' second win of the season, by a 14-12 score.

First, there was the thrill of halting the Cavaliers (1-3 overall, 1-1 Montgomery 3A Division) at the Wheaton 15-yard line with 2 minutes, 52 seconds left while clinging to two-point lead. Then came a fumble by running back Ricardo Mcleod, who had an otherwise strong game, on the Wheaton (2-2) 26 that gave the Cavaliers the ball right back.

A Kennedy penalty — one of many — and four plays later the Knights wore broad smiles, as Peter Ngoh's fourth down pass was batted down with 56.5 seconds left to seal Wheaton's victory.

"Those guys sucked it up big there," said Wheaton coach Joe Ortega of his defense, which sacked Ngoh for an 8-yard loss on third down to set up fourth and 19. "There were a couple of big plays there. … Josh Ramos came up and really slowed [Ndubisi Ezekoye on second down] before he got around the corner. That was really big. I was really proud of my defense sucking it up. They bailed us out at the end."

Wheaton's stand followed a rather sloppy game that saw both teams move the ball up and down the field but fail to score because of penalties and turnovers. Two of the bigger miscues came late in the third quarter and early in the fourth.

Trailing 14-6, Ngoh hooked up with Prince Alex Dawkins for a 70-yard touchdown; Dawkins got wide open behind a defense geared to stop Ezekoye. However, he was penalized 15 yards for taunting on the play, after he pointed his finger at a defender for the final 10-15 yards of his run to the end zone.

The penalty forced Kennedy to try its potentially game-tying 2-point conversion from 18 yards away instead of 3. The ensuing pass play failed, with Ngoh throwing too high for an open Nicolas Merriman in the end zone.

"We preached all week that the only way we're going to lose games is if we beat ourselves," said Ezekoye, who was held to 14 yards on 11 carries while playing quarterback, running back and wideout. "And as captain, I take that on myself. It was mental mistakes. It was very sloppy."

Wheaton, exclusively using its single-wing, unbalanced rushing attack, rambled 68 yards to the Kennedy 1-yard line, but on fourth and goal, the snap was too strong and was eventually recovered by Dawkins at the 18 with 8 minutes, 5 seconds left. The Cavaliers drove back to the Wheaton 15, but Ngoh's pass fell incomplete on fourth and 11.

That was followed by Mcleod's fumble and then the Wheaton defensive stop. Before that fumble, however, Mcleod was having a stellar performance, rushing for 211 yards and both touchdowns on 20 carries.

The first score was a 26-yard touchdown run that saw Mcleod bowl over lineman Rodrique Andele en route to the end zone with 7:43 left in the first quarter. The team's 2-point conversion failed.

After Kennedy tied the contest on a 6-yard run by Ngoh with 9:47 left in the second quarter, Mcleod raced 75 yards down the visitor's sideline for a 12-6 lead. Rayshawn Taylor followed with the 2-point run roughly a minute into the second half.

"The line did a great job of blocking for me and I just took the hole I was presented," Mcleod said. "This gives us a place in the playoffs now. This is what we want to do; go to the 2A state championship."


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