Wise's defense bends, but delivers -- Gazette.Net


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By the time Quince Orchard High School running back Tyrell Williams broke off his second massive run of the Maryland 4A state championship game, Henry A. Wise linebacker Franklin Porter was livid.

The emotional and tactical leader of a defense that allowed 43 points in 13 games entering the showdown at M&T Bank Stadium, Porter was screaming, flailing and reprimanding as the third quarter clock wound down.

The Pumas weren't used to giving up big plays. Heck, they weren't used to giving up medium-sized plays.

“If there were college coaches in the stands, they were probably looking at me like, 'What the hell?'” Porter said. “'Cause I know I was on the field in my own feelings a little bit, getting on everybody else. Usually, I'm out there making sure everybody does their job, but today, we gave up big plays.”

Porter's tough love aside — and Williams' 184-yard rushing performance withstood — Wise's defense proved its worth when it mattered most, stymieing the Cougars in a 12-7 victory.

The win secured the school's first state championship and the first for a Prince George's County team since 2006.

The result was in question, and the defense tested, until the game's final seconds as Quince Orchard threatened to score the game-winning touchdown in dramatic fashion.

During that fourth-quarter drive, Wise lineman Antonio Harris remembers hearing his senior leaders, Porter and Benjamin Robinson, yelling advice to the weary group during a timeout coach DaLawn Parrish called to refocus his players.

“Frank and Ben, all they kept saying was, 'We stop them two more plays and we're state champions,'” Harris said.

Turns out, they only needed one. Quince Orchard quarterback Matt Choi's pass toward the front corner of the end zone was intercepted by junior Joseph Shelton at the 1-yard line to seal the victory. Shelton dove in front of Choi's intended target, Malcolm Brown, and corralled the ball with both hands for the decisive pick. It was Wise's 19th interception of the season and 38th forced turnover.

“Joe made a great play on the ball. He won us the game,” Porter said. “The defense stepped up and made plays when they had to. We bent but we never broke.”

In total, Wise surrendered 300 yards, the most anyone on the defense remembered surrendering all season. In the Pumas' previous two playoffs victories against Meade and Suitland, the defense surrendered a combined 360 yards.

“We gave them a lot of yards,” Harris said. “We never did that since I've been here. I don't know how we won. We just preserved.”

After winning the coin toss, Wise deferred to the second half, allowing the defense to set the tone with an impressive opening stand. Harris, Michael Akinlosotu and Warren Wright all made big stops.

Quince Orchard's lone touchdown came when D'Andre Johnson plunged in from inside the 1-yard line in the second quarter. The 80-yard drive began after Wise running back Chase Powell fumbled the ball inside the Pumas' 5.

“Defense is about having attitude and we had that attitude,” Porter said. “Even when we gave up points, we knew we had to make another stop. That's what we did. We kept digging, we kept digging and when you dig hard enough, this is the reward.”

ncammarota@gazette.net