UPPER MARLBORO – Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr.’s Dennis Stokes dreamt of this moment, but never thought it would happen so soon.
With less than 27 seconds remaining and a pressuring Calvert Hall offense looking to get into field goal range, the junior cornerback kept an eye on quarterback Mike Campbell as he tracked his receiver. As Campbell heaved his pass down field, Stokes quickly jumped, outstretching his arms past his opponent and caught the ball for a game-clinching interception.
“I wasn’t originally supposed to start, but (Head Coach DaLawn Parrish) put me in the game, gave me a chance and I just took advantage of it,” Stokes said. “It was incredible. I have never been a part of this in my entire life. I’ve never been a part of a big game like this.”
Stokes’ interception did more than just hand Wise a 15-13 win over Calvert Hall. In a game where their high-powered offense was limited to one touchdown, the Pumas were able to notch their 30th consecutive victory – a streak that dates back to 2014.
“If you see the ball, you go for the ball,” Parrish said. “We knew they were going to throw the ball deep and all you have to do is be in your zone. He made a big pick last week (vs. Surrattsville) early in the game, but this one is better because it happened late.”
The state and county champions (2-0) are not used to getting into dog fights, but the Cardinals (2-1) from Baltimore were up for the task. Having already played two games this season, some Wise players felt as if they had a chip on their shoulders as they competed against one of the top-tier programs from northern Maryland.
Junior John Oliver quickly stunned the visitors with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the game. Moments later, a fumble recovery inside the redzone gave Puma fans a familiar feeling of early victory.
Wide receiver AJ Lytton muscled his way nine yards for his second touchdown of the season, putting the Pumas up 15-7 at halftime. Despite struggling in the first half, Oliver managed to run for 82 yards on 20 carries, including a 20-yard rush late in the fourth quarter. Everything was in place for a Puma win.
However, offensive struggles forced the home team to punt four times. The unit was also called for eight of the team’s 10 penalties. Wise had no answers to Calvert Hall’s run-heavy offense. Then, early in the second quarter, Campbell launched a darting pass to a running Chris Cooper for an 81-yard touchdown.
Sophomore running back Sean Tucker frustrated the Pumas’ defense, running for 148 yards, including an 89-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. A failed two-point conversion meant a Cardinals field goal would be enough to win the game.
“We were working on our run game and working on all our plays and assignments,” Tucker said about the Cardinals’ preparation. “I was just looking and reading, doing what I do, and my (offensive line) got the blocks for me and I ran and got through it.”
Wise’s defense withstood Calvert Hill’s rally, causing two turnovers on downs before Stokes’ interception. Senior Jahbari Gray ended the Cardinals’ second to last drive with a rumbling sack on Campbell. After Stokes’ interception, he was smothered by his teammates who felt the weight of playing a high-stakes game and possibly losing removed from their shoulders.
“Words cannot explain how I feel about this game because it really means a lot,” Lytton said. “Public verse private school and we really wanted to see who really won this (region) and it was public. It was Wise.”
For Parrish, the game was excellent in gathering more information on his team. Adjustments on the run defense and limiting the amount of penalties will be important as the team looks to continue to build off its two-year success to win a third-straight state championship.
“It was fun seeing somebody trying to turn the tables on us and play big boy football and we were able to respond,” Parrish said. “They are not a bad team, I think they were ranked 11th in the state, but it is what it is.”
Dr. Henry Wise Jr. 8 7 0 0 - 15
Calvert Hall 0 7 6 0 - 13
W – John Oliver 90-yard kickoff return TD
CH – Mike Campbell 81-yard TD pass to Chris Cooper
W – Quinton Williams 9-yard TD pass to AJ Lytton
CH – Sean Tucker 89-yard TD run