Oct. 23—WALKERSVILLE — At a time of year when making big plays in the big moments is becoming more important, Walkersville did just that Friday night.
In a 28-13 homecoming win over Brunswick, the Lions scored a touchdown on third-and-10. They capitalized on a botched punt for a score. They found the end zone in the final 10 seconds of the first half and then on fourth-and-3 in the fourth quarter.
"It's critical," Walkersville coach Joe Polce said of playing well when it matters most. "We are right here at playoff time. It's important to be playing your best football at the end of the season."
With one game remaining in the regular season, the Lions are 6-2 and vying for a first-round home game in the Class 2A West playoffs. They will host archrival Middletown (6-2) next week in a game that will go a long way in deciding just that.
"They'll be tough. I mean, they always are," said Walkersville junior and first-year starting quarterback Gavin Hughes, who completed 9 of 20 passes for 168 yards, including touchdown passes of 18 and 25 yards to senior Jeremiah Franklin and junior Collin Sewell, respectively, in the win over Brunswick.
"No matter if they are amazing, and we're terrible, or we are amazing, and they are terrible, Middletown is always a tough game."
Brunswick, meanwhile, lost for the second consecutive week to fall to 5-3 overall. The Railroaders travel to play winless Catoctin next week and hope to secure the No. 2 seed and a first-round home game in the 1A North playoffs with a win.
"We played tough, not well," Brunswick coach Jerry Smith said of his team's latest effort against Walkersville. "I thought our defense responded well from last week [in a blowout home loss to Middletown]."
The pivotal sequence for Walkersville occurred in the final minute of the first half.
After forcing Brunswick to go three-and-out, the Lions took over at the Railroaders' 43, leading by seven, with 17.2 seconds left in the first half.
Hughes was in the shotgun with three receivers, including the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Franklin, a Boston College recruit, in the formation.
Though they use this look in practice regularly while running two-minute drills, this was the first time the run-heavy team had shown it in a game this season.
Hughes took the snap and then fired a deep pass over the middle that senior Micah Hess, who has a nose for the ball on offense and defense, ran under to snag. He was dragged down just short of the goal line with a little more than 10 seconds remaining before halftime. The Lions had to use a timeout to stop the clock.
"We had it covered," Smith said. "We just lost it in the light."
On the very next play, senior Jae Sean Fulton darted right up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown with 7.9 seconds left to extend the Walkersville advantage to 21-7.
"That was huge," Hughes said of that scoring sequence. "[Brunswick] had momentum. It was a one-possession game. I saw [Hess] out there and threw it up, and he made a good catch on it."
Brunswick recaptured the momentum right at the start of the second half, as it marched 64 yards in five plays to pull within 21-13. The quick drive was capped by a 4-yard touchdown run by junior Muhamed Jallow.
Walkersville then blocked the extra point.
It was the last great scoring chance for the Railroaders.
Walkersville added a late score when junior Collin Sewell took a swing pass from Hughes on fourth-and-3 from the Brunswick 25 and darted into the end zone to essentially put the game away. The Lions led by 15 points with 9 minutes, 49 seconds to play.
"I thought we did great," Polce said. "Brunswick was a tough team. It was a fourth-quarter battle. I am really proud of how our kids played. I thought we executed pretty well on both sides of the ball."
Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter: @greg_swatek