Onlookers expecting a close, defensive battle between Quince Orchard and Dr. Henry Wise High School in the 4A State Championship on Friday evening at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore got more than anticipated.
In a game where points and first downs came at a premium, Wise (14-0) capped an undefeated season by edging Quince Orchard, 12-7, for its first football state championship. Quince Orchard (12-2) had also suffered a narrow setback in last year's 4A state title game.
The Pumas and Cougars arrived with similar recent pasts, with both knowing what it was like to walk off the field at Ravens' Stadium having suffered one-point setbacks to Old Mill. Wise had dropped a 17-16 decision to Old Mill in the 2009 title game, while Quince Orchard was upended, 36-35 by Old Mill in last year's 4A title tilt. While both teams were perhaps glad to know Old Mill was not on the opposing sidelines.
Quince Orchard led 7-6 until late in the fourth quarter when Wise put together its best drive of the second half. The Pumas went 80 yards in nine plays and reclaimed the lead when quarterback Isaiah Black connected with tight end Micah Till on a 23-yard scoring strike in the back left corner of the end zone for a 12-7 lead. But the Pumas could not celebrate too soon.
Quince Orchard mounted a drive primarily through the air and reached the Pumas' 25-yard line with 35 seconds remaining. On third down, quarterback Matt Choi attempted to connect with Malcolm Brown in the end zone, but Pumas' cornerback Joseph Shelton intercepted the pass at his own one-yard-line with 30 seconds remaining to preserve the narrow victory.
"We won it with our defense," said Wise coach DaLawn Parrish.
"When Joseph made that interception, I felt such relief. Those last two times we were here, those losses [to Old Mill and Urbana] were excruciating. When Isaiah threw the ball to Micah, I knew he was going to come down with the ball. He's a big target and he's got huge hands. We had to start throwing the ball to get their linebackers out of the box. They made some great adjustments and we could not run the ball, so we had to throw."
Late in the second quarter, with Wise knocking on the door, Powell fumbled inside the Cougars' two-yard-line and Quince Orchard's Brad Walker recovered in the end zone for a touchback. Bolstered by the momentum shift, Quince Orchard went 80 yards in nine plays and the Cougars claimed the lead when D'Andre Johnson plowed forward from one yard out. Johnson had shifted the field position with a 40-yard burst up the middle when the Cougars were near midfield.
Wise opened the scoring by going 43 yards in five plays and found the end zone when Powell went off right tackle from three yards out for a 6-0 lead. Powell opened the drive with a 24-yard run and after three short runs from Franklin Porter it was Powell who provided the Pumas with their first points.
"Well, I mean I'm very, very upset, very frustrated," said Quince Orchard senior linebacker Marcus Newby, a University of Nebraska recruit. "We were both very ohysical teama and their kid scored. [Till] is a big guy and he came down with the ball. We were stopping their run game and they went to their passing game. It worked at some points in the game and it worked on that last play. I felt like our defense played physical, played fast. It came down to one play and they executed and won the game."