By MARK F. GRAY, Special to the AFRO
Championship programs carry themselves with a confident swagger because they know how to peak at the right time. They fight through the moments of midseason boredom with their focus on the playoffs and the pressure of the moment to be at their best when the days get shorter and temperatures start dropping.
Wise has become so proficient at this formula over the last decade they have taken the playoffs for granted. The Pumas went through a stretch of 42 games without losing and made it look so easy some in Prince George’s County though they had become too arrogant as they opened this year’s state 4-A championship defense in September.
As if the suburban high school football gods intervened to give them an early wake up call their streak came to a crashing halt the week after Labor Day. Wise lost to Calvert Hall, just outside Baltimore, 19-14 to open the season. Opening the season with a loss after multiple seasons without losing was unfathomable to the Upper Marlboro faithful.
But it happened!
That could’ve been the moment to give their county rivals hope that Wise was ripe for the picking. Perhaps they had indeed gotten too big for their britches. It could’ve led to dissention among lesser teams. Those thoughts were immediately extinguished, and they haven’t lost since.
The Pumas are riding an eight game win streak heading into the playoffs opener against Eleanor Roosevelt. After the glitch versus the Cardinals they have literally been flawless. They were undefeated against Prince George’s County rivals and appear to be primed for the run to defend their MPSSAA 4-A state championship.
Wise is built for the playoffs and their recipe for success has played out through their regular season run. Their offense is explosive and strikes quickly from anywhere on the field. Two seniors in the backfield trigger the attack after the snap and are the leaders before it.
Quarterback Quinton Williams gives the offense its versatility which keeps opposing defenses off balance. He has been able to successfully manage games and changes via land or air accounting for over 1,900 yards and 19 touchdowns. Williams threw for 1,449 yards and nine touchdowns while completing over 60 percent of his passes. He also ran for 473 yards and scored 10 times averaging 10 yards per carry.
The Pumas get their balance on offense from running back Brandon Bell. Bell, the 10th rated back in Maryland according Maxx Preps, led the team in rushing with 868 yards and 16 TD while averaging just under seven yards per carry. He ran for over 100 yards four times this season despite spending long stretches on the bench when Wise was in control during the fourth quarters of blowout victories.
Bell set the tone for the year by rushing for 156 yards against Camden (NJ) in the season opener. He then erupted for 185 yards against Laurel and rolled through Oxon Hill for 130 and Potomac for 102. Coach DeLawn Parrish has managed his usage limiting him to only 125 carries behind a road grading offensive line. However, in their only loss he was held to 42 yards.
Wise’s defense has been championship caliber all year. The Pumas yielded only 46 points during the regular season. Since the loss to Calvert Hall Wise allowed 26 points total and held four teams scoreless.
Through the complex formula that the MPSSAA uses to determine its playoff seeding Wise enters at number six. They must beat at least two of three teams – Eleanor Roosevelt, Flowers or Suitland – who they’ve beaten already- to advance to the semifinals.