Joseph Shelton snatched the football, a victory and the Henry A. Wise High School football team's second championship in its last two games.
With Frederick Douglass quarterback Devin Butler rolling right on a fake punt late in the fourth quarter — a greater-than-capacity crowd watching from beyond the outer fences at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex — Shelton raced up, grabbed the ball from Butler's hand and ran 25 yards for a touchdown.
Those were No. 2 Wise's final points, all of them coming in the fourth quarter, in a 20-14 win after trailing No. 3 Frederick Douglass 14-0 Saturday.
“I had been trying to strip him the whole game, and I finally just took him,” Shelton said. “I got it.”
Despite being the season opener for both teams, Wise coach DaLawn Parrish said the game was “on that level” with a state-title game.
“It felt almost a little bigger,” Frederick Douglass coach J.C. Pinkney said. “The lead-up and everything, the media and everything else — I think we got more coverage for this game than any game.”
These teams certainly know something about playing in state-championship games.
Wise has played in three of the last four 4A title games, including wining last season's championship, and Frederick Douglass has played in the last two 2A title games.
Before Saturday, that was the only level where Wise has been seriously challenged lately.
Wise has won 15 straight games, but aside from Quince Orchard — which lost to Wise, 12-7, in the 4A state-title game last season — no other opponent has played Wise closer than 20 points during the streak.
“Tonight, we was the better team,” Parrish said. “It felt like it could have went either way.”
For a while, it looked like Frederick Douglass, which took a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter, would hand Wise its biggest loss since another state-level game, a 45-8 loss to Sherwood in the 2008 semifinals.
Then, Wise safety Marcus Allen recovered a fumble on Douglass' first possession of the second half.
Wise marched on a 17-play drive, momentum turning with every gain, only for Adam Gillis, Jr. to lose a fumble at the Douglass' 5-yard line.
Gillis crouched on the sideline, his head hung.
One play later, Wise recovered a fumble, and on fourth-and-goal inside the 1-yard line, Gillis ran in the touchdown.
“I told my team, I told my coach, I owed them,” Gillis said. “Every play after that fumble, I owed them. So, I had to get in the end zone.”
Later in the fourth quarter, Allen recovered another fumble, this one on a muffed punt. Using the short field, Wise quarterback Isaiah Black ran for a 10-yard touchdown and threw the two-point conversion to Reggie Ware, tying the game.
That set up Shelton's game-winner, and Wise's Michael Akinlosotu recovered a fumble on Douglass' ensuing possession to seal the game.
Wise claims an unofficial championship of Upper Marlboro, the area that houses two of the state's top teams, teams that had never played each other before Saturday. As for actual championships, those will be determined later.
For now, this game can best be described by the same thought Parrish had when his team trailed 14-0 and lost the ball with about 13 minutes remaining.
Wise 20, Frederick Douglass 14
Wise (1-0) 0 0 0 20 — 20
Frederick Douglass (0-1) 6 8 0 0 — 14
FD — Mikale Makle 28 run (run failed)
FD — Kevin Freeman 32 pass from Devin Butler (Kenneth Freeman, Jr. run)
W — Adam Gillis Jr. 1 run (pass failed)
W — Isaiah Black 10 run (Reggie Ware from Isaiah Black)
W — Joseph Shelton 25 fumble return (kick failed)
Wise — Adam Gillis Jr. 19-73, Isaiah Black 14-60, Antwan Benjamin 4-5, Juwaun Hatton 1-4, Malik Null 1-4, Anfernee Perry 1-2.
Frederick Douglass — Kenneth Freeman Jr. 10-91, Mikale Makle 6-48, Kevin Freeman 2-19, Devin Butler 13-3, Akiva Wedge 1-2,
Wise — Isaiah Black 3-6-54-0.
Frederick Douglass — Devin Butler 3-5-40-0.
Wise — Micah Till 1-42, Anfernee Perry 1-7, Adam Gillis Jr. 1-5.
Frederick Douglass — Kevin Freeman 1-32-1, Mikale Makle 1-7, Kenneth Freeman Jr. 1-1.