High School

DaLawn Parrish and Wise football reclaim Maryland state title

DaLawn Parrish and Wise football reclaim Maryland state title

It’s been 379 days since Wise lost to Quince Orchard in their 2018 state semifinal matchup. It’s been 9,096 hours since the Pumas' 48-game win streak was snapped and 545,760 minutes since the then-four-time champion became nothing more than a contender.

That time has passed. Wise is Wise, again.

The Pumas defeated Northwest 35-21 to reclaim the Maryland 4A state championship Friday night. The victory ended a nightmare for head coach DaLawn Parrish that he’d been living in for over a year. Asked how often he’d thought about getting back to this moment, he replied, “just about every day."

From 2015-17, the Pumas experienced so much success that at times Parrish felt his adversaries, as well as some of his supposed supporters, were anxiously waiting to witness Wise’s downfall.

“A lot of times we talk about ‘us against the world,'” Parrish said. “I think back to that QO game and I did feel like everybody wanted us to lose. Even though we had all these people behind us, I felt like half of them was cheering for QO—it was like we weren’t being supported. When I was coming up, everybody wanted to see a dynasty, now it feels like everybody wants to see the underdog win."

Parrish and the Pumas set out to use that loss as a teaching tool for the student athletes, both on and off the field.

“We used it as motivation. It drove me, it drove these young men, it drove my coaches.

"This is bigger than X’s and O’s, it’s about surrounding [these student athletes] with good people. We help them to understand what failure looks like, what it is to continue to try and we teach them that although somedays things don’t go their way, they have to keep pushing forward."

The life lesson was on full display in the state championship game. Friday night was a tale of two halves. During the first, the Jags looked like the better team at times. Northwest quarterback Jordan Morse connected with wide receiver Kaden Prather down the right sideline for a 79-yard score in the first quarter and Ryan Beach zig-zagged 69 yards on a screen pass to even the match seconds before intermission.

The vaunted Wise defense that had only allowed two opponents to score in double figures all season had given up two touchdowns in just two quarters. Asked if anything the Jags did in the first half surprised him and his staff, a jovial Parrish responded, “It surprised me that one of my people blew a coverage,” with a smile. “And I will be honest, [Beach] was quicker than I thought he was. The film doesn’t do him justice."

The Pumas' defense entered the third frame with a renewed energy. It stymied the Jags rushing attack and applied relentless pressure to Morse, registering six sacks on the night.

“I knew that if we got them in 10-personnel, they’d be in trouble because they haven’t seen speed like ours," Parrish said. "A lot of what they do is screens and short passes, so if we could get pressure [on their quarterback], I thought we could blow the game open sooner or later."

After yielding a long completion in the first quarter, Jalil Farooq proved to be a difference maker for Wise. He blanketed Prather in the second half, getting his hands on multiple passes. His third-quarter interception swung the momentum in the Puma’s favor.

“Jalil played a helluva game," teammate Dorian Strong said. “His endless pass break-ups and the pick was key for us."

Farooq would capitalize on his forced turnover moments later, when he ran a reverse in from eight yards out and gave Wise a 28-14 lead.

The Pumas' main source of consistency throughout the evening was sophomore quarterback Jayden Sauray. When the game was in the balance, Sauray delivered. He threw second-half touchdowns to Strong and Keith Boddie Jr. to match his two first-half touchdown runs. The young QB showed skill and leadership beyond his years.

“The way he played with poise was outstanding,” Parrish said. “He doesn’t get rattled much. To be a 15-year old young man and have that kind of poise and confidence is unheard of. To stay the course and remain steady the way he does, just shows who he is and what’s to come [from him] will be outstanding."

The title is the Puma’s fourth in five years and the program’s fifth this decade. However, there is little reason to expect Parrish to celebrate for too long; he’s already planning his next steps,

“We just won this championship and my mind is working on next year," Parrish said. "Who do we have to replace? Who’s coming up from junior varsity? I’m thinking about my seniors and trying to get them in college. My mind is looking outward and I haven’t had a chance to take this all in. It’s like it never stops."

Such is life when you’ve built a dynasty. Wise is Wise, again.

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St. John's athletic director out and source says football coach considering exit

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Matt Seal

St. John's athletic director out and source says football coach considering exit

Athletic director Brian Griffin has left St. John’s and accepted the position of Director of Football and IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla).

On Griffins’ watch, the Cadets excelled in myriad athletic endeavors, becoming the region’s powerhouse in multiple sports.

“St. John’s is grateful for Brian Griffin’s leadership, passion, dedication and commitment to our students and the school community,” said Jeff Mancabelli, St. John’s president in a statement. 

“During the past six years, our student-athletes earned 29 WCAC championships, but more importantly, they learned important life lessons and what it means to support one another,”

According to those who worked with him, Griffin was dedicated to the development of the total student-athlete; investing in their lives both on and off of the playing fields.

“Under his leadership, St. John’s elevated its athletic programs to the highest standards,” said Mancabelli. “Building a foundation of support services and creating a culture of excellence that emphasized personal responsibility and what it means to be a part of a team.”

The St. John’s football program endured a grueling schedule last season. Seven of their opponents finished the year ranked nationally. They traveled as far as Texas and hosted the likes of Mater Dei (Ca) and IMG in consecutive weekends—at one point dropping four games in a row.

Griffin and head coach Joe Casamento received outside criticism for undertaking such a daunting task. According to sources, Casamento is considering stepping away from his position as coach of the Cadets, but Mancabelli insists Griffin’s move had little to do with football.

“This difficult career decision was truly about family,” said Mancabelli. “After being apart for the last two school years, Griff will be reunited with his family at IMG Academy, where his youngest child, Erin, is an eighth-grader. We wish him well as he moves on to the next chapter.”

Prior to his tenure at St. John’s, Griffin was a vice president at IMG. He could not be reached for comment but posted to Twitter:

“I am so excited to be back with my family @IMGA! I have nothing but love for St. John’s and the amazing student-athletes, coaches and community that have built such a strong ‘culture of excellence’.
 

DeMatha 4-star LB Jaishawn Barham transfers to St. Frances

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Chad Ricardo/NBC Sports Washington

DeMatha 4-star LB Jaishawn Barham transfers to St. Frances

Jaishawn Barham, a 4-star student athlete on 247Sports.com, is leaving DeMatha Catholic and transferring to St. Frances Academy.

Barham, currently ranked as the country’s No. 2 outside linebacker in the class of ‘22, played a significant role for the Stags’ stingy defense in 2019. Despite pitching four shutouts though, DeMatha finished the season 7-4 and was eliminated by St. John’s in the WCAC semifinals.

With the disappointing season likely to lead to another reshuffling of the Stags staff, Barham’s family thought it best they find a new home.

“The reason for leaving is heavily based on the stability and infrastructure [of the program],” said Barham’s dad, Anthony Nelson. “In the two years he’s been at DeMatha, the coaching staff turned over twice and they are still scrambling to find that stability.”

Contrarily, St. Frances has been a model of consistency in recent years. In the last 3 seasons, the Panthers have amassed a record of 34-1. Coach Biff Poggi’s squad has grown into a perennial powerhouse, playing a true national schedule and placing student athletes in positions to earn scholarship opportunities from top-tier universities across the country. The strength of the Panthers’ foundation is one reason Nelson believes Barham will thrive there.

“As a coach and dad -- knowing the potential he has to play at the next level -- my two biggest   targets when selecting a program to transfer to was coaching and competition,” Nelson said. “Personally, I know the position coaches at St. Frances, and I know that the level of competition there will help him reach another level within himself.”

Nelson insists there are no hard feelings toward the Stags, that they have “nothing but love for DeMatha and the opportunities they gave Jaishawn.” He views this as an opportunity for Barham to grow both as a student athlete and a young man.

“In today’s world of sports where the athlete is taking a greater roll in controlling their own destiny -- as a brand and not just a worker -- he will be charged with making critical decisions for himself and his brand,” Nelson said. “This will be a major teaching tool for years to come.”

Barham presently holds 15 scholarship offers, including those from Ohio State, Penn State and Maryland.