Upper Marlboro, MD -- “We don't worry about when it's going to happen, we just worry about when we're going to do it.”
That's what coach DeLawn Parrish told his 13-0 Pumas after they defeated the two-time defending 4A champs, Northwest Jaguars, 37-15.
Since taking over as Wise head coach in 2006, this will be coach Parrish fourth trip to the 4A State Championship.
“We're just a representation of our coach,” John Daka said about their record-breaking defense. “He's tenacious, feisty, just a tough guy.” Daka is a primary reason why the Pumas are 12-0 and haven't allowed more than 17 points in a game this season. The senior defensive end finished with two sacks, bringing his season total up to 27.
The star hybrid defensive end, also spoke about his fractured forearm he suffered in the 4A South regional finals against Eleanor Roosevelt – doctors telling him not to play in the 4A semi-finals – but a club like cast on his left forearm allowed him to help his team advance to the State Finals, saying after the game “I'm good right now”.
Daka wasn't the only that played through some adversity, C.J Rainey put up 205 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries against the Jaguars defense, but showed discomfort after some of his best runs.
“I was tired some plays, I got a few bumps and bruises,” Rainey said. “I just knew I had to fight through it. I kinda got up slow, but I knew I [had] to get up.”
And after each run, that's exactly what he did. He didn't have many big runs, his largest being 27 yards on his final carry of the game, to set up the Pumas final touchdown with 55 seconds remaining. What he did have was effective gains that resulted into many third and short situations. All of his runs were gashes through the middle, and it took multiple defenders to bring him down.
Northwest troubles started early, trailing 16-0 at the start of the 2nd quarter, Wise successful on both 2-point conversions. After Rainey scored his first touchdown to give the Pumas a two possession lead, Martin Foray took the ensuing kickoff back 92 yards, putting the Jags right back in the game, 16-8.
Pumas would score on the ensuing possession, once again putting the pressure on Northwest offense to keep up. The Jags had a few opportunities to make big plays down the field but receiver Reggie Anderson and quarterback Mark Pierce could not connect on three big passes that would have put the Jags in Pumas' territory.
Mark Pierce lost his first playoff game in his final game as Northwest Jaguar. The 5'11 quarterback finishes with a 10-1 record and two state titles under his belt but this lost will surely sting.
The Cougars would find the endzone one more time, going 77 yards on four plays, cutting the lead to 15-30 with 11 minutes remaining in the game, Anderson gaining 57 of those yards on 1 play.
It look the Cougars were set to make a comeback but the all-world Puma defense put a halt to their potential scoring drive.
After stopping the Pumas on 4th & 1 midway through the fourth, the Jags started their drive at their own 36-yard line. On 1st & 10, after converting a 4th & 4, Pierce attempted to connect with Anderson – son of former NFL fullback Ritchie Anderson – on deep in-route but the ball sailed on him and right into future Hokie, Myles Wolfork.
Wolfork is also the son of a former NFL player, Kevin Wolfork, who played with the Washington Redskins. Wolfork is a big cornerback that likes contact but can also make things happen on the offensive end, finishing with 6 catches 86 yards and two touchdowns.
The Pumas will get ready to face coach Parrish former high school, Howard Lions, who will make their first trip to the state championship since 1974.
Howard has very good defense, with an even better offense, but I'm not sure if they will be able to put up many points on the Pumas. The Pumas have the best defensive unit I've seen all season, and you know what they say, Defense wins championships.