UPPER MARLBORO — The Pumas only needed one more stop on defense to win this highly anticipated public school-private school matchup. On one side was 5-star senior cornerback AJ Lytton, and on the other was junior cornerback Dennis Stokes.
The Puma faithful stood up for what could possibly be the final defensive play, their collective voices the loudest it was all evening. When the ball snapped, Cardinals quarterback Mike Campbell quickly surveyed to his right, and then his left, and unleashed a pass downfield to Chris Cooper, but Stokes out-jumped Cooper for the long-ball and snagged the game-clinching interception to preserve the 15-13 for the No. 3 Pumas.
— Winston Hylton (@SportsTalkNC8) September 9, 2017
“I just, I just blacked out,” Stokes said, laughing after put away No. 14 Calvert Hall. “But I knew I had to get [the ball] to secure the game.”
Big plays we’re never a problem for Wise. It was discipline and lack of conversions on third down, however, that stalled many promising drives. Fourteen penalties and inefficiency on third down haunted the Pumas all night. Fortunately for Wise coach DaLawn Parrish, his program has always thrived in defensive battles.
“[This game] took me back to old school Wise,” Parrish said. “Playing defense, trying to ground it out, things of that nature.”
Quarterback Quinton Williams and the Wise offense got off to a fast start. On their first possession of the game, senior running back John Oliver took a kickoff 90 yards for the game’s first score.
When Calvert Hall got the ball back, they barely got its first play off before the Wise defense forced a fumble within the Cardinal 10-yard line. However, the Cardinal defense stood tall and forced a turnover on downs, ensuring that the Pumas wouldn’t enforce their will early on.
The Cardinals’ first touchdown wouldn’t come until the second quarter, when a pass and catch was taken 81 yards to the house to make it 8-7.
The first half was a repeated cycle of inefficient offense for Wise. For every long play that Wise created, a silly penalty halted their progress. The vaunted Pumas defense had its fair share of mistakes as well. It allowed two long touchdowns, one rushing score for 89 yards the other through the air for 81. A hands-to-the-face penalty had the Cardinals knocking on the end zone door, but the Wise defensive line drew a holding penalty and sacked Campbell on third-and-long, forcing a punt from midfield.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Parrish said. “We showed character. Things weren’t looking right for us offensively at times, and going back and forth, penalties, but the kids kept fighting. Wasn’t any fussing or arguing between each other. I just couldn’t be more proud. The defense especially stepped up. I liked what I saw.”
Despite the early miscues, first-year starter Quinton Williams showed glimpses of the player he could be on a consistent basis in the near future. He was able to set up a 10-yard AJ Lytton touchdown after a long pass that went 49 yards. He threw Lytton a pass in the flat and all he had to do was make one guy miss and he was off for six points. After converting the two-point conversion, Wise held a 15-7 lead.
“You just have to grow from this,” Parrish said of Williams. “I don’t think we’ll play a team like this the rest of the way, but it was good for us to face adversity early. My players will respond to that and grow.”
Wise will play Bladensburg next, while the Calvert Hall will play Riverdale Baptist.