It was a classic performance, one that best summed up their season. On a cold and blustery afternoon, Upper Marlboro, Md.’s Henry A. Wise Pumas showed the kind of mettle typical of champions.
It was appropriate, considering that Wise is headed back to their second consecutive championship game. Wise snuck past Annapolis’ Broadneck Bruins 14-7 on Nov. 27 in the 4A semifinal state playoff game, advancing them to the Class 4A state title game on Dec. 3. Wise (12-1) will square off against Frederick County’s undefeated Urbana (12-0) at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium for a second chance at a state championship.
Wise lost 17-16 last year to Old Mill in the state final, but it was an experience that coach DaLawn Parrish is hoping his club can transform into a title this time around. “I think that experience last year was great for these kids,” Parrish said after the game.
After a lackluster offensive showing in the first half, it didn’t seem like Wise would even get a chance to use that experience. Wise quarterback DeAndre Smith was held without a completion for the entire day and the Wise running attack was ineffective throughout the first two quarters.
A five-yard interception return from defensive end Victor Tabbs put Wise’s only points of the half on the scoreboard early in the second quarter, part of a mistake-filled half for Broadneck, which finished the opening two periods with three holding calls and a slew of missed opportunities. Broadneck (10-3) finally responded however, driving 50 yards with 1:23 left in the second quarter to take a 7-6 lead after quarterback James Mullis’ 10-yard scoring run.
With the wind picking up in the second half, both offenses focused on ground attacks to try to generate points, but only one offense possessed star running back Uriah Bethea. Wise’s Bethea picked up the slack in the final two quarters, finishing with 147 rushing yards while ripping off a series of first down-gaining runs that helped spark Wise to their only offensive touchdown of the day. Bethea gained 41 yards on Wise’s drive late in the third quarter before reserve running back Jamal Jones exploded for a 25-yard run to put the Pumas up 14-7 with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
“Power running, that’s all we do,” Bethea said.
After the Wise defense continued to force punt after punt in the second half, the junior running back added a few more power runs late in the game that helped Wise run out the clock and move them into their biggest challenge of the season.
“Next week in practice it’s going to be about intensity,” Bethea said. “We’re going to come out in practice and really play hard, really challenge each other and get ready for next week’s game.”
While Urbana will enter the state title game undefeated, Wise will enter with a streak of its own, having won 12 straight games after suffering its only loss of the year, a 21-14 setback to Suitland in the season opener. But Wise has forgotten about that game and will enter their title appearance armed with a stout defense, a star running back and last year’s failed title memories.
“Hopefully with last year’s experience, we won’t be overwhelmed with . It is what it is, it’ll be another week of practice and we’ll see where we go with it,” Parrish added.