UPPER MARLBORO – Nine months ago, Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr High School’s senior quarterback Quinton Williams celebrated winning his first football state championship.
Away from all the glorification of the victory, the quarterback met with his captain and running back, John Oliver, to relish the moment. For Williams, the conversation was a passing of the torch moment.
“I was talking to (Oliver), and I kept saying ‘we did it, bro! We did it!’ But he kept telling me ‘I knew you could do it,’” Williams said. “He was a great leader for us all season and (winning a state title) was all surreal. But he understood what I was about to go through.”
Now, as the season opener on Aug. 31, the six-foot-four, 187-pound Williams is preparing for a year where he will have the reigns of an Upper Marlboro dynasty that has racked up a 42-game undefeated streak with three straight state championship titles. It is a lot of pressure for a high school senior.
However, he is used to it and ready to lead the Pumas.
“I am more confident now in what I can do, what the team can do and they have adjusted to what I can do best,” Williams said.
“Quinton Williams has been outstanding since he got here. His grasp of the offense over the past two years has been phenomenal,” Wise Head Coach DeLawn Parrish said. “There are not many things that he cannot do, and we will go as he goes.”
In his first season as a starter after transferring from Our Lady Of Good Counsel High School, Williams jumped out immediately as a dual-threat quarterback with his passing and running abilities. However, even with one interception in his first six games, Parrish had to issue a vote of confidence in support of his quarterback after Wise’s 15-13 nail-biting win against Calvert Hall.
Opinions changed on Oct. 13 as Williams threw for four touchdowns in the Pumas’ 58-14 homecoming win against Oxon Hill. With an explosive rushing attack with Oliver and David Medley providing support, Williams excelled, throwing for 2,015 yards and 27 touchdowns. The quarterback became a running weapon as well, rushing for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think at the beginning of the year, we were just trying to figure out what he was good at within our offense,” Parrish said. “He had to learn a whole new system, and we had to learn him. We had to find out what exactly he likes, and he doesn’t like. And he ended up playing extremely well.”
Heading into this year, Parrish is giving Williams more leeway with the types of plays that will stay in the playbook. While there still may be elements of a power running game with senior Brandon Bell and junior Jarhaud Bentley as the primary rushers, Williams will have the “keys to the kingdom.”
“I am more comfortable in the pocket behind the guys up front and making deep throws,” Williams said. “But I can also move around it and complete plays as well…I just want to give our guys a shot on one-on-one coverage so they can make those plays as well.”
Even though he lost his primary receiving weapon in two-way star Anthony “A.J.” Lytton, Williams will have two of his core receivers returning this year. Sophomore Jalil Farooq will look to improve on a splendid freshman season, where his 20 catches for 320 yards earned him seven offers college offers already from Michigan, Maryland and South Carolina.
All eyes also being on Williams relationship with senior wideout Isaiah Hazel, who recently announced his commitment to West Virginia on July 28. The six-foot-one Hazel caught the third most receptions last season (19) and his pairing with Williams will be critical in the wide receivers leaving a lasting impact at Wise in his final year.
“We’ve had that connection from the moment he came in last year,” Hazel said. “Me and (Williams) have an understanding that we have to be ballers this year, show everybody that we are the best and that is what I am looking forward to this year.”
Hiding in the background away from the offensive attention is the Puma defense. After a season where they accumulated six shutouts, Parrish expects the unit to continue excelling even after all five of their top tacklers from last season graduated.
The defensive line gained stability with junior Rashard Jackson and senior Nigel Johnson as cornerback Dennis Stokes is returning and will be expected to lead the secondary. As long as the basics are in order and the defense stays physical, going to a fourth straight state championship would be reaching expectations. But the ultimate goal is to continue winning another title and outpacing the standard left by past Puma teams, Parrish said.
“We set the bar with our past couple of seasons so I think we should go undefeated and make it back to the state championship game,” Williams said. “But we are going take it one game at a time, one practice at a time and let the season play itself out.”