As another year comes to a close and families throughout Prince George’s County celebrate the holidays, there’s no better time to reflect on 12 months of remarkable accomplishments in sports.
10. Down by the Baysox
In the 20th anniversary season of the Double A affiliate for the Baltimore Orioles, the Bowie Baysox made the postseason for the first time since 2008. In a year that saw Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy, as well as local product LJ Hoes, receive significant playing time for the Baysox before being called up to the big club, the playoff appearance was the fifth in team history. Despite losing a first round series against Akron in heartbreaking fashion — three consecutive losses after two wins — the season still provided county baseball fans plenty of opportunities to cheer.
9. Flowers power
Prince George’s County isn’t traditionally known for tennis, but Charles H. Flowers senior Myron Davis set out to change that this year. A four-year No. 1 singles player for the Jaguars, Davis reached the semifinals of the state championship tournament for the first time in his high school tenure before bowing out to eventual state champion, Mateo Cevallos. The 5-foot-5 Davis became a three-time Region III champion in the process while Eleanor Roosevelt’s Katelyn Stokes remains the county’s last singles state champion (2010).
8. An unexpected situation
There’s little doubt Shawn Petty was a beast of a football player at Eleanor Roosevelt High School at both linebacker and quarterback. That’s why he eventually ended up being recruited by the University of Maryland and accepting a football scholarship to play linebacker. So when the true freshman ended up under center against Georgia Tech in a season riddled by injuries to four of Maryland’s scholarship quarterbacks, it was quite a sight. Petty finished the game, which Maryland lost, by completing 9-of-18 pass attempts for 115 yards and two touchdowns, including one to Our Lady of Good Counsel product Stefon Diggs.
He finished out the season for the Terps (39-of-84, 500 yds, seven TDs, two INTs).
7. Scandals abound
With life comes controversy. And that’s true in sports as well. At Northwestern High School, the football team sprinted to a 4-0 start and appeared to be a lock for the playoffs after defeating rivals DuVal and Flowers. But an investigation by the county’s athletics office discovered that an ineligible player had participated in the Wildcats’ first two games of the season, knocking what would have been a 9-1 playoff-bound team down to 7-3. Northwestern missed the postseason by mere percentage points.
In a far more troubling scandal, midway through DeMatha’s football season, five players were removed from the program after it was discovered that they ordered prostitutes to their hotel room during a trip to North Carolina. The Stags won the game easily, 52-14, but the incident, which occurred around 5 a.m., left a bit of a black eye on the program’s otherwise sterling reputation.
6. Dominance defined
Despite his 5-foot-3 frame, Bishop McNamara’s Alfred Bannister produced perhaps the most eye-popping stats of any county athlete in 2012. He won a shocking 80 matches last season and only lost twice. Both of those losses came to the same opponent in the 138-pound weight class — Todd Preston of Blair Academy — and the second time occurred in the National Preps Championship match. Bannister captured a second Maryland Independent state title and is on pace to set the state record for wins by a wrestler in four years of competition and win four Independent titles.
5. Gone streaking
Of all the prestigious, and not-so-prestigious, streaks floating around the county last year, two stood out. At DeMatha, the boys soccer program entered the season on a 44-match winning streak. That streak was snapped at 46 following a tie against Gonzaga early in the season, but the unbeaten streak lived on. That is, until the two clubs met again in the WCAC championship. After playing to a 1-1 draw in 100 minutes of action, Gonzaga prevailed in penalty kicks to end the Stags’ remarkable unbeaten stretch at 61 games.
On the flip side, High Point’s football team entered the season on a 41-game losing streak, but didn’t take long to break it. In the first game of the year, the Eagles crushed Laurel, 38-16, besting their entire 2011 point total in the process. The win ended a losing streak that dated back to November 2007 — one that saw a graduating class matriculate through the program without recording a victory.
4. The legend continues
Tucked away in Upper Marlboro, in a gym that more resembles an abandoned barn than a Mecca of basketball, the Riverdale Baptist girls basketball team continued its era of dominance. In what ended up being coach Diane Richardson’s final season with the team before leaving to become an assistant at George Washington University, the Crusaders won the ESPNHS National Invitational title, 63-59, against Phillips (Fla.). The Crusaders went 37-2 and finished the year ranked No. 3 in the nation by USA Today and No. 5 nationally by ESPN. The team also graduated seven seniors, all of whom received athletic scholarships from Division I colleges. Sam Caldwell took over the program in June.
3. Five-hundred and counting
DeMatha wrestling coach Dick Messier isn’t simply the grizzled, long-tenured leader of the Stags. He is the program. Messier has been the coach since the team’s inception and in his 33rd year at the helm, he recorded his 500th career win. The victory came on Dec. 4, a 69-12 demolition of WCAC rival Bishop McNamara, and served as a tribute to the many years of fantastic teams Messier has produced. During his tenure, the Stags have captured 25 WCAC titles, including 22 in a row between 1986 and 2008 and won five consecutive National Preps titles from 1995-99.
2. Puma power
On a cold night at M&T Bank Stadium, the Pumas of Henry A. Wise won their first state football championship. A thrilling 12-7 victory against Quince Orchard — during which quarterback Isaiah Black connected with Micah Till for the game-winning touchdown with 2 minutes, 14 seconds remaining — brought DaLawn Parrish his first title as a head coach and the first football championship to Prince George’s County since 2006.
The Pumas lost in the title game in both 2009 and 2010, but finished this year with a perfect 14-0 record. The Gazette’s Player of the Year, Antonio Harris, was one of many key contributors in the memorable night, as well as running back Chase Powell, linebacker Franklin Porter and Joseph Shelton, who came up with the game-sealing interception.
1. The best (and fastest) around
Prince George’s County has a rich tradition in a variety of sports, but perhaps no athletes from within the county had a better showing throughout 2012 than did those who ran track and field.
Potomac’s Dondre Echols tops the list. The senior, who currently is a freshman at South Carolina, holds four state records and won 12 state titles over the course of his tenure with the Wolverines, including three last season. He was the only American to qualify for the 110-meter hurdles at the IAAF World Junior track and field championships in Barcelona, Spain.
Add to Echols the likes of his teammate Ronald Darby, Wise’s Champ Page, Suitland’s Taivon Jacobs and David Winters and DuVal’s Mobolaji Adeokun, the county rarely has looked better in any track and field season than it did in 2012. A truly remarkable depth of talent and athleticism.
In the state outdoor championships at Morgan State University, the Bowie girls and the Wise, Potomac and Frederick Douglass boys all won team titles. Athletes also captured 39 individual titles in a banner day for the county.