UPPER MARLBORO – Dorian Strong is rarely mentioned as one of the key weapons that the Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School football team has installed. However, the Virginia Tech commit allows his play to do all the talking.
Early in the second half, as Old Mill High School quarterback Myles Fulton stepped back to make a midrange pass, Strong jumped in front of the intended receiver to make an interception. The senior kept his balance to remain standing before rushing 35 yards for a touchdown. When asked about the play, the senior called his interception “all luck.”
“Out of my peripheral (vision), I saw (the play), so I put my foot on the ground and sprinted over and did the rest,” Strong said.
“People always focus on Jalil (Farooq), but they do not realize that we have another Division I recruit on the other side,” Wise Head Coach DaLawn Parrish said.
The interception return was the first of three touchdowns for the two-way senior at a time where the Pumas played its best. Wise thoroughly exercised their demons of last season with a dominating display in their 44-0 victory over Old Mill in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 4A State Semifinals on Nov. 29.
Wise (13-0) secured their place in the state finals in Annapolis on Dec. 6 after missing out on the championship game last year. This year’s team focused more on having various weapons on the field and the bench than seasons before, Parrish said, earning themselves their fourth undefeated season in five years.
“You can take away one man, but we have three other people,” Strong said. “We got athletes all around the board, skill all around the board, talent all around the board; backfield, receivers, DBs, it does not really matter. We have talent all around.”
Despite the scoreline, the game did not start as flawless for the Pumas as senior Jalil Farooq almost gave the ball away after dropping a punt and their wide receivers dropped two consecutive passes in Wise’s opening offensive drive. In their second drive, an offensive pass interference call set up a third-and-22 on Wise’s 27-yard line.
As the punting unit prepared to come onto the field, sophomore quarterback Jayden Sauray launched a spiraling pass to junior Keith Bodie Jr. in the middle of the field. The wide receiver proceeded to outrun the Patriot secondary to the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown for Wise’s first touchdown. The score brought down the nerves on the Puma sidelines as they regained control and never surrendered if for the rest of the game.
After forcing Old Mill (10-3) to turn the ball over on downs, it would only take Wise three plays to strike as running back Anthony Morales darted through a hole created by his offensive line and wiggled away from two would-be tacklers for a 51-yard touchdown.
Following Strong’s interception return score, senior Jalil Farooq added his name in the score sheet by completing a 23-yard pass reception for the Pumas’ fourth touchdown of the first half. Wise finished the game with over 300 yards of total offense.
“This was a very good football team we played against tonight,” Old Mill Head Coach Chad McCormick said. “We were not able to match the energy and score any points tonight, and that hurt us a lot.”
Meanwhile, Old Mill could not get its offense going against Wise’s tough defense as they punted the ball away in five of their six possessions before halftime. After surrounding their fifth touchdown on another 23-yard pass reception by Strong, the Patriots looked forward to their first drive after halftime.
However, a bad pitch by quarterback Zach Shojamenesh to running back Caron Tull allowed the Pumas to pounce on the loose ball and obtain good field possession for their next offensive series. The Patriots finished the game accumulating 119 yards of total offense and crossed the 50-yard line once.
Late in the fourth quarter, Old Mill finally progressed upfield to set up for a long field goal attempt. However, the kick flew too far right with Wise reigning victorious and excited to return to the state finals.
“Last year was a terrible feeling,” Farooq said. “To go a long way from home to end up not going (Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium) and head home with a sad face; I want to go home happy this year, and we are going to make sure that happens.”
The Pumas will be facing a new foe in the finals in Northwest High School of Montgomery County, who last won the state title game in 2014. Since that season, Wise won three of the last four championships and amassed a five-year winning streak against Prince George’s County opposition.
With a strong veteran defense and an explosive offense with multiple weapons, Parrish said he feels that this version of the Pumas can “complete the mission.”
“The kids set these goals, and now, they are one way from completing those goals,” Parrish said. “They wanted to be conference champs, make it back to the state championship, and of course, they want to win. We are almost home.”