One-point loss a painful end for Wise
Pumas take lead into halftime, but lose 17-16 to Old Mill in 4A state title game on Friday
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The Henry A. Wise High School football team set a state record for consecutive shutouts this season and held its first 13 opponents to a grand sum of 29 points. But on Friday night the Pumas fell one point short of their ultimate goal.
Old Mill upended Wise, 17-16, to win the 4A state championship in front of 8,534 spectators at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Wise (12-2) thrived all season on running the ball and limiting opponents' ground games. At one point this fall, the Pumas set a state record by registering eight shutouts in a row. Then they added two more shutouts in the 4A South Region playoffs. But Friday night, despite Old Mill playing most of the game without its top running back, Wise's defense spent much of the game on the field as Old Mill moved the ball effectively.
Patriots' senior running back Jason Clements carried 40 times for 162 yards, shouldering the load after fellow senior Josh Furman (six carries for 11 yards) left the game with a knee injury early in the second quarter. On most teams, Furman's injury would have been devastating. The 6-foot-3, 202-pound senior ran for 31 touchdowns and more than 2,200 yards this season.
But Clements was an 1,100-yard back this season, and he spent Friday night darting through the Wise defense, quickly changing directions and making would-be Wise tacklers miss him. His performance allowed the Patriots to own a commanding two-to-one advantage in time of possession.
"Jason was tremendous," said Old Mill coach Damian Ferragamo. "When Josh got hurt, we knew we could run Jason. He was 100 percent and Josh wasn't, so we didn't want to take a chance."
In their final game together at Wise, seniors Rahsaan Moore and Titus Till found it difficult to accept the defeat. Moore played nearly every snap on both sides of the ball and had two two-point conversions, while Till had an interception in the first quarter. Both will continue their football careers next year at the University of Maryland after helping lead Wise's fourth-year program within one point of a state championship.
"When the final whistle sounded, it was kind of surreal," Moore said. "I just didn't think it could happen. I just stood there. We had worked so hard to get here and to come up one point short was tough. [Old Mill] did a good job running the ball. [Clements] was shifty. We had focused so much on stopping Josh [Furman] we might have let down a little bit when he got hurt. But [Clements] was quick and tough to tackle."
"When I looked up at the clock, a cold chill just went through my body," Till said. "It was a difficult feeling to take. We had four good chapters at Wise. My sophomore year we went 5-5 and last year we went 7-3, and after we were 2-3 coach [DaLawn Parrish] asked us if we believed in him. We told him we did and we won seven straight games and made it to the state semifinals. We learned a lot from that loss [to Sherwood]. It motivated us for this year. We had a great season. I think chapter five will be big."
Old Mill (12-2) set the tone early when Clements carried six consecutive times on the Patriots' second possession and then found the end zone on a 4-yard run. A Brad Cummings extra point made it 7-0 with 3:49 remaining in the first quarter. But the Pumas answered quickly when quarterback DeAndre Smith found a seam up the middle and scampered 47 yards for a score. Moore's two-point conversion gave Wise an 8-7 lead with 3:01 left in the opening quarter.
Old Mill then marched 79 yards on 20 plays retaining possession on a fumbled punt by Wise's Howard Cook and reached the Pumas' 1-yard-line midway through the second quarter. But on fourth and goal, Old Mill quarterback Joe Thorton was stuffed on a sneak and Wise regained the momentum after thwarting the Patriots on the nine-minute drive.
Wise went back to its ground game and marched 99 yards in 3 minutes to take a two-score lead. Jabril Baldwin shifted the field position with a 56-yard run to the Patriots' 12-yard-line. Two plays later Smith scored on an 8-yard run, and another Moore two-point conversion gave the Pumas a 16-7 lead with 2:44 remaining in the half. Wise took that advantage into the locker room, although its defense had already been on the field for nearly 18 of the 24 minutes of game time in the first half.
In the second half, the Pumas gradually lost the battle of attrition. Smith was injured on their first series of the third quarter and did not return until 6:41 remained in the contest. Old Mill took advantage of his absence on both sides of the ball. The Patriots went 88 yards in 11 plays, with Clements carrying six times on the drive. Thorton connected with Chad Hicks on a 38-yard scoring strike. Another Cummings extra point narrowed the Wise lead to 16-14, but clearly the momentum had shifted back to the Patriots.
Wise went three-and-out on its next possession, as the Patriots began to move their secondary up to thwart the running attack with backup quarterback Devin Donnell inserted to replace the injured Smith. Old Mill then went 59 yards in 13 plays, with Clements carrying 12 times for 56 yards on the drive. Cummings connected on a 26-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 17-16 lead with 10:19 remaining.
"Even at that range, a field goal is not a given," Ferragamo said. "He's been struggling lately, in games and practice. He missed four extra points [in a 58-55 playoff win] against Arundel [two weeks ago] and he missed one last week. But in that situation we had to go for the field goal. It was fourth and 8 and I didn't think we would get the first down against their defense."
Donnell was sacked the first time he dropped back to pass, and was intercepted on his first attempt, but the Pumas' defense forced the Patriots to punt on each of their last three possessions. Smith returned to the game with 6:41 remaining and guided the Pumas to midfield. But on fourth and 17 he connected with Thomas Tabbs for only 12 yards.
Wise got the ball back at its 28-yard line with 1:28 remaining and no time-outs. Smith completed only one of three passes for 13 yards and was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Trevon Butler gained 1 yard on a reverse, but the Pumas were unable to run another play, and their most successful season ended with a heartbreaking one-point defeat.
"Overall I thought the kids fought hard all the way to the end," Parrish said. "Old Mill had two good backs, and even with Josh out, Jason was able to hurt us. He gets overlooked a lot because of Josh, but he ran the ball well against us. I felt the momentum shift right after DeAndre got hurt. Much of our offense is predicated on him. Not having him out there really limited what we could do offensively."