Oakdale quarterback Collin Schlee hoists the 2A title trophy skyhigh as fans celebrate in front of him. Photo by Austin McFadden.
ANNAPOLIS — When Kurt Stein took over this newborn football program freshly tabbed “the Oakdale Bears” in 2010, he instantly projected relevance and state titles.
It was a level of belief the then 28-year-old, first-time head coach could only comprehend. On the outside, the upstart was an uncharted march upstream. There was no credibility. No legacy. Smack dab in the middle of football-rich districts Linganore, Urbana, and Thomas Johnson, which, at the time, peaked as three of the best units in the state.
The inaugural season resulted in zero wins. The second year: two victories. The foundation became rickety, and Stein feared of losing his job. He drilled to the core: build a brand at all levels, the youth especially, and hope one day it all comes to fruition. On the night of Dec. 1, 2018, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, in Year No. 8, those championship fruits had inconceivably blossomed: Oakdale 35, Glenelg 7. That was the final score in the 2A title game.
Collin Schlee, the quarterback who will go down as one of the most talented in Maryland public school history, the once-upon-a-time-ago kid Stein molded the offense around, went out like any legendary gridiron figure: 215 passing yards, 96 on the ground, four total touchdowns, and a ring.
When the defense teetered, inside linebacker Maurio Goings and accomplished defensive coordinator Andy Hirshorn righted the ship with toughness and wit. The Gladiators, behind Yale commit Wande Owens, stampeded for 161 yards on 17 carries in the first quarter, a chunky 9.5 yards per carry. Through 12 games, the Bears were yielding 2.2 yards per rush. Goings and Hirshorn fastened the clamps, stifling Glenelg to 75 yards over their final 34 rushing attempts.
All the while, Schlee and his offense dialed up the heat. The Bears scored with 13 seconds left in the first half to go up 13-7, a 14-yard connection from Schlee to Reifer, who freed himself on a crisp stop-and-go route and then proceeded to snatch the well-placed bullet. Schlee then channeled more of his magic to lead a quick five-play, 78-yard scoring drive out of the second-half gate — connecting with Noah Miller for 51 yards to get to the two-yard-line, where Goings bulldozed across the plane for six. On the two-point conversion, Schlee danced free of barreling Glenelg defenders and found Ethan Martin to make it 21-7.
“Keep the throttle down!” one assistant yelled, and did they ever.
On the following defensive possession, Goings ripped through the Glenelg line of scrimmage and clobbered Owens in the backfield on third-and-long, forcing the 2,000-yard rusher to hobble the field. When the Gladiators got the ball back and threatened, Goings motored across the field to dole one of the meanest blows imaginable and stop Glenelg a yard short of converting fourth-and-five at the Bears 42.
Everything after that was inevitable: Schlee whipped a 40-yard bomb to Reifer on third-and-eight to put the Bears in business, at the Gladiators 25, which then set up the senior quarterback’s third touchdown of the night on a 14-yard sling to Blake Baxter. Glenelg followed with a three-and-out and Schlee capped the final drive of his high school career by slicing his 6-4, 200-pound frame through the Gladiators defense for an emphatic 18-yard rushing score.
When it became 35-7 with 10:30 to go, Goings’ most important assignment became orchestrating the renowned Gatorade bath. Once those remaining 10 minutes, 30 seconds waned to its final seconds, Goings and Martin doused their coach, the architect and original believer of this very moment.
Long gone are the days of playing as the doormat, a cupcake on the schedule. Not only are they champions, but they go down as one of the greatest. Starters on starters, these Bears outscored opponents 515-35. A gaudy 35 glowed on the board as Stein hoisted that wooden trophy high and then repeatedly kissed it. They passed the hardware around to anyone and everyone with Oakdale Bear attire, most notably the 26 seniors, the class of kids Stein built the skeleton for years ago.
Eight years ago, the ledger was bare. Now, it’s inscribed with “2018 2A state champions” to the end of time.