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4A state title preview: Titans battle in Baltimore

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Photo by Daniel Kucin. Isaiah Black threw for two touchdowns in the 4A semi-final against Meade High School.

Photo by Daniel Kucin. Isaiah Black threw for two touchdowns in the 4A semi-final against Meade High School.

Published on: Friday, November 30, 2012

By Brandy L. Simms

The Henry A. Wise High School football program is no stranger to M&T Bank Stadium.

The Pumas have made the trip to Baltimore to play for a Class 4A state championship twice before and have come up empty each time. Friday’s appearance will mark Wise’s third title shot in the last four years.

In 2009, Wise suffered a 17-16 loss to Old Mill in the championship game. The following year, the Pumas were shut out by Urbana 6-0 in a defensive battle.

In fact, Friday’s matchup will boast the past two state runners-up when Wise (13-0) kicks off against Quince Orchard (12-1). The Cougars are back in the state final one year after suffering a 36-35 overtime loss to Old Mill.

“It means a lot for the kids; it means a lot for the program,” Quince Orchard head coach Dave Mencarini said. “It means a lot for the seniors. My heart aches for those guys who have been through this, and now they get another opportunity. They deserve another opportunity.”

Quince Orchard boasts one of the state’s stingiest defenses and features three Division I prospects in linebacker Marcus Newby (Nebraska) along with defensive linemen Kieran Gregory (Richmond) and Andrew Ankrah (James Madison).

In the state semifinal victory over Westminster, the Cougars’ defense shut down an offense that entered the game averaging 45 points per contest. The Owls only scored 19 points against Quince Orchard.

“Our defensive coordinator, Coach (John) Kelley, he designed a formation, and it worked through the game,” Newby said.

Quince Orchard senior quarterback Matt Choi outshined Westminster’s prolific senior quarterback Deryk Kern, who set a new state record for touchdown passes in a single season. Kern completed 25-of-46 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns against the Cougars.

Meanwhile, Choi, a converted wide receiver, accounted for all three Quince Orchard touchdowns in the Cougars’ victory. He finished with 123 yards rushing on 26 carries including two scores and completed 11-of-25 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.

“He put the team on his back,” said Gregory, also a tight end, “and just kept running the ball hard.”

Choi’s coaches and teammates are not alone in their praise of the talented senior signal-caller. Wise head coach DaLawn Parrish said he has also been impressed by Choi’s leadership qualities on the field.

“Those leadership skills are outstanding,” said Parrish, “and he’s very mobile. He’s accurate on the run.”

The Wise defense is also among the state’s best units, yielding just 43 points in 13 games with standouts such as Old Dominion commits Franklin Porter and Jai Franklin leading the way along with Division I prospect Antonio Harris.

The Pumas are just one win shy of making school history by bringing a state championship back to Upper Marlboro. Parrish admitted that a 4A state title would be a “great accomplishment” for his football program.

“Only one teams wins,” said Parrish, “hopefully, we can be that team.”

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