In its Class 2A West Region semifinal football game against Poolesville High School on Friday, Walkersville utilized the same formula that earned it nine victories during the regular season: a dominant and swarming defense and an explosive running attack led by Frederick County's leading rusher, Avery Ezell.
Both components were on full display from start to finish as the Lions won convincingly, 49-7, to advance to next week's region championship game against rival Middletown.
Ezell continued his record breaking season by paving the way on the ground for the Lions with five rushing touchdowns and 293 yards on 27 carries.
“We knew we had to play hard in the first game of the playoffs and we did that,” Ezell said, “We had a lot of players step up.”
“He's our guy,” coach Joe Polce added. “He's a workhorse. We've leaned on him all year and he hasn't let us down.”
After Poolesville tied the game at 7 on an impressive 15-play drive to close out the first quarter, Walkersville picked up the intensity and very quickly took the game to whole new level. The Lions scored 42 unanswered points, including three touchdowns in the last five minutes of the first half.
Ezell scored two touchdowns to increase the lead to 21-7 in the second quarter and Lions got the ball back with 18 seconds left on their own 29. Instead of taking the two score lead to the locker room, quarterback Brady Policelli threw a 41-yard pass to receiver Nick Tucker and then found Cody Tharpe for a 24-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone as time expired to give the Lions all the momentum.
Policelli finished with 103 yards passing and his touchdown throw broke a 24-year school record for most passing yards in a career (3,389).
“That put us into a great rhythm going into the second half,” said Policelli. “I knew if we could get down there we definitely had the playmakers to score. They brought the blitz, I looked and saw that the Big Giant (Tharpe) was behind the defense and he came down with a great catch.”
The Lions defense shut down the Falcons after allowing the one touchdown in the first quarter. The unit held Poolesville to only 16 total yards in the second half. Tanner Dixon, the anchor of the defensive line, recorded six tackles and broke the school record for most tackles in a season with 114.
“I tried to break the record last year, but I fell short,” said Dixon. “So this year I set my goal on defense to break the record and go down in school history. But I would never have been able to do that without my great teammates around me.”
With Middletown beating South Carroll 38-0, the Lions will now have to face the Knights again for the second time in three weeks. Middletown handed Walkersville its only loss of the year last week in the season finale, 31-6.
“Middletown again, here we go,” said Policelli. “There's going to be a lot of people there. It's going to be one of those big playoff games. We were in the same situation last year when we went up there and unfortunately they came out on top. It's going to be a dog fight. These are two top of the line teams.”
Walkersville 49, Poolesville 7
Poolesville (7-4) 7 0 0 0 — 7
Walkersville (10-1) 7 21 14 7 — 49
W — Avery Ezell 4 run (Brady Policelli kick)
P — Cody Zinnser 8 pass from Kirby Carmack (Josh Womack kick)
W— Avery Ezell 15 run (Brady Policelli kick)
W — Avery Ezell 2 run (Brady Policelli kick)
W — Cody Tharpe 24 pass from Brady Policelli (Brady Policelli kick)
W— Avery Ezell 41 run (Brady Policelli kick)
W — Avery Ezell 25 run (Brady Policelli kick)
W — Everett Polzin 1 run (Brady Policelli kick)
Poolesville — Nikolay Henze 20-57; Kirby Carmack 4-33; Charles Lyles 7-22
Walkersville — Avery Ezell 27-293; Brady Policelli 4-22; Everett Polzin 4-73; Trae Harris 1-9; Jonathan Sandoval 5-45
Poolesville — Kirby Carmack 6-11-27-1
Walkersville — Brady Policelli 4-6-103-1
Poolesville — Cody Zinnser 3-17; Sean Parker 1-10; Noah Blaker 1-0; Nikolay Henze 1-0
Walkersville — Cody Tharpe 1-24; Nick Tucker 1-42; Braden Smith 1-16; Ryan Robertson 1-16