As the Henry A. Wise High School football team waited outside its locker room for the 4A state championship game, quarterback Isaiah Black stared down an M&T Bank Stadium hallway.
Tight end Micah Till tapped Black's shoulder to get Black's attention and offered a calming high five.
When it counted, Till didn't need a tap. He had Black's attention in full.
Till's 24-yard touchdown catch with 2:14 left proved to be the game-winner in Wise's 12-7 win against Quince Orchard on Friday, giving Wise its first-ever state title.
“We talked about it,” Black said of throwing a fade route to Till. “I said, 'How would you feel if that play was the game-winner?' He was like, 'Man, let's just do it. Let's just do it.'”
Wise (14-0) trailed 7-6 at halftime and its offense stalled most of the second half. But on a 3rd-and-10 during the game-winning drive, Black hit Till over the middle for a 26-yard gain, finally giving Wise a spark.
“He kept saying, 'Give me a shot.' He kept saying, 'I'm 6-5. Throw it up,'” Wise coach DaLawn Parrish said.
For most of the game, Black had looked away from Till, who was constantly double-teamed by Quince Orchard. But Wise's coaches finally instructed Black to throw to Till, anyway. On his big catch, Till fought off two Quince Orchard defenders in tight coverage.
“I wanted to make the game-winning play, but I really didn't expect to,” Till said. “But anytime my name is called, I want to do the impossible. So, I just did the impossible.”
When the game ended following Joseph Shelton's interception, players on both teams fell to the turf — Quince Orchard's in agony of their second straight state-final loss and Wise's overjoyed with their perfect season.
Linebacker Franklin Porter — who delivered a stirring locker-room speech about winning a state title following Wise's playoff loss to Suitland last year — ran around telling everyone, 'I told you.”
Running back Chase Powell — who ran for 131 yards and Wise's first touchdown Friday after being slowed the last several weeks with an injury — cried as teammates took turns hugging him.
Wide receivers coach A.J. Jones — part of a staff for which the team holds immense respect — dropped his crutches and stumbled into his player's waiting arms.
The victory, which gave Prince George's County its first state champion since Suitland and Friendly won in 2006, was Wise's first win by fewer than 20 points this season. After losing in the 2009 and 2010 state-title games, Wise won its first title in its seventh year of existence.
“I guess in terms of years, you could say it's been a quick rise,” Parrish said. “But, for us, it's been a lot of heartache in this rise. So, it's been a long time coming also.”
Quince Orchard understands the heartache.
After losing to Old Mill by one point in last year's state final, Quince Orchard (12-2) came nearly as close this year.
Quince Orchard coach Dave Mencarini stood with his hands on hips at midfield, waiting for the post-game handshake line as, directly in front of him, Parrish conducted interviews and Wise players celebrated — a miserable view, to be sure.
“Last year, I was heartbroken. This year, I'm very frustrated,” Mencarini said. “I felt like that was a game we didn't play our best.”
“Those men over there deserve to be champions, too, in that other room,” Parrish said. “They played their guts out. They played hard. Sometimes, unfortunately, you can't have two champions in one year.”
As the Wise celebration spilled off the field and into the post-game interview room, a rarity occurred.
“I'm so speechless,” Porter said.
That's not common for Porter, the team's emotional leader who's quick with a pep talk whenever its necessary.
Moments after Black's and Till's pregame high five, Porter emerged from the locker room.
“They've doubted us before,” Porter yelled as he skipped ahead.
Henry A. Wise 12, Quince Orchard 7
Quince Orchard (12-2) 0 7 0 0 — 7
Wise (14-0) 6 0 0 6 — 12
W — Chase Powell 4 run (kick failed)
QO — D'Andre Johnson 1 run (Jake Barkdoll kick)
W — Micah Till 24 pass from Isaiah Black (run failed)
Quince Orchard — Tyrell Williams 18-184; D'Andre Johnson 12-39; Matt Choi 11-19.
Wise — Chase Powell 19-131; Isaiah Black 7-28; Franklin Porter 8-25; Kenneth Scott-Kelow 3-14; Benjamin Robinson 2-4.
Quince Orchard — Matt Choi 6-14-58-1
Wise — Isaiah Black 6-13-94-0
Quince Orchard — Elliott Davis 2-25; Malcolm Brown 1-15; D'Andre Johnson 2-13; Tyrell Williams 1-5.
Wise — Micah Till 2-50; Anfernee Perry 2-27; Kenneth Scott-Kelow 1-9; Benjamin Robinson 1-8.