UPPER MARLBORO – Against the Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School football team, opponents cannot afford to make mistakes. They already have enough trouble with the Pumas’ speed and relentless defense while struggling to contain their dynamic offense.
That is why what happened to Charles H. Flowers High School in the second quarter of Nov. 22’s state quarterfinal was so costly. Trailing 14-6, the Jaguars punter fumbled a snap, giving Wise the ball at Flowers 24-yard line.
Three plays later, running back Terron Kellman punched it in from 1-yard out. On the ensuing kickoff, Keith Boddie Jr. stripped the Jaguars returner and the Pumas took over at the 18-yard line. With the pocket collapsing, quarterback Jayden Sauray took off and ran for a touchdown on the next play.
A one-possession battle turned into a blowout in under a minute. The sequence was the knockout punch for the Pumas (12-0), who advanced to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 4A state semifinals for the fifth straight year with a 35-6 win over the Jaguars (9-3).
“We knew when we came out here we had to play mistake-free ball in order to have an opportunity to win the game,” Flowers Interim Head Coach Frederick Groves said. “A lot of mistakes on special teams, we got behind fast and it was hard for us to recover against a team like this.”
With the win, Wise will host Old Mill High School on Nov. 29 as they look to play in their fifth state championship game this decade. The Pumas put together another perfect year against Prince George’s County competition and have now won 56 straight against county foes since a 2014 loss to DuVal High School in the first round of the playoffs.
Flowers (9-3) came in confident after keeping the Pumas close in a 22-12 loss in the same round of the playoffs last year and had a solid game plan.
Even after Wise scored a touchdown in just three plays to start the game, the Jaguars stayed the course and put together a methodical touchdown drive. Quarterback Amanni Stewart capped off the 15-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal, but the extra point was blocked.
Flowers could move the ball against Wise’s line, though every yard was earned. The Jaguars got push up the middle but could not handle the Pumas speed on the outside. Flowers did not have a play longer than 10 yards all night.
“They had big guys who would be playing both ways,” Wise Head Coach DaLawn Parrish said. “With them trying to chase us around and then pound us offensively, we didn’t think they could keep that up for four quarters.”
Meanwhile, Wise had no trouble ripping off big plays. Running back Joseph Johnson ran for 10 yards on the Pumas’ first play from scrimmage, and wide receiver Jalil Farooq took a sweep play 38 yards for a touchdown two plays later. Following a three-and-out, Sauray found Farooq down the left sideline for a 55-yard touchdown.
Wise scored four touchdowns on just 14 plays in the first half, one play less than it took the Jaguars to score a touchdown on their opening drive.
“When I have a lot of athletes on the field that can make plays, they can make a 2-yard pass into a 50-yard touchdown,” Sauray said. “It helps me a lot.”
Unlike last weekend’s second round playoff game against Suitland, where the Pumas committed five turnovers and had to play excellent defense to keep the Rams out of the end zone, Wise did not give the ball away. That made Flowers’ life much tougher, as Wise’s usually excellent defense played up to its high standard.
To start the second half, the Jaguars had a 19-play drive that extended into the fourth quarter but could not score.
The Pumas finally reeled off a long drive to finish off the win, putting together a six-minute drive that ended with 1-yard touchdown by running back Anthony Morales in the final minute.
Wise is now two wins away from another state championship, which they failed to win last year after losing to Quince Orchard in the state semifinals. The teams could meet in the championship in a rematch, though the Pumas know they must focus on Old Mill first.
“We have to stop the run, they do a good job of coming down hill,” Parrish said. “…We’re just going to have to button up as they say and prepare to be physical.”