High School

WCAC Football Semifinal: St. John's beats DeMatha

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Chad Ricardo

WCAC Football Semifinal: St. John's beats DeMatha

Four consecutive losses have a way of wearing on the psyche of a team. In those moments, character is defined and leadership is needed to right the ship. St. John’s is using the adversity it faced earlier in the season to get better, and their growth was on full display during their 34-20 semifinal victory on Saturday over the Stags.

“The journey is so much more important than arriving at the summit,” said coach Joe Casamento. “Everything we’ve been through has made us tougher. It’s made us tighter [as a team]”.

The Cadets defense stuffed the run and suffocated DeMatha receivers.

Their offense controlled the time of possession and moved the ball at will. St. John’s appeared determined to take advantage of opportunities in the passing game, getting the ball to Rakim Jarrett early and often and when senior quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava dropped a 26-yard dime into the hands of a diving Caleb Coombs, it gave the Cadets a 10-0 lead in the first. 

“We knew they played man coverage with one-high safety so we just tried to take advantage of their defense,” said Rakim Jarrett. “Caleb made a great catch and Sol-Jay placed the ball where it needed to be”.

St. John’s continued its dominance to start the second. Maiava spread the ball around to multiple receivers, marching the cadets down the field. Antwain “Baby Bus” Littleton’s 6-yard touchdown run pushed the Cadets lead to 17-0.

Late in the second, DeMatha’s freshman quarterback Cameron Edge ignited the Stags comeback. A pass interference call against the Cadets extended DeMathas drive and with seconds remaining in the half, the Stags went play-action and Edge found Sieh Bangura for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 17-7.

The Stags drew closer in the third, following a goal-line stand, Marshawn Lloyd ran off-tackle 82 yards for a score, trimming the Cadets lead to 17-14. After Littleton and Lloyd exchanged touchdown runs, the Cadets once comfortable lead was cut to 24-20 early in the fourth.

St. John’s did not panic. The Cadets did not flinch. Their seniors have been through the fire this season, and they were determined to see the Cadets through. 

“The more you get tested, the more you have to deal with losses, the more important your time together becomes,” said coach Casamento. “ I have so much respect for our seniors. I appreciate how much they’ve grown”.

Each time the Stags fought back into contention, St. John’s answered. When their backs were against the wall, their upperclassman made plays.

Led by Maiava, St.John’s methodically moved the ball down the field. Sol-Jay found Littleton out of the backfield for a key first down and capped the drive with a 12-yard keeper, beating Cozziah Izzard to the edge and finding the end zone for a 31-20 lead.

Trailing by two scores and the clock winding down, DeMatha faced a 4th and 20, Cameron Edge was immediately pressured and sacked by senior captains Mekhail Sherman and Taizse Johnson. The two embraced and jogged to the sideline in unison.

With the victory, the Cadets advance to the WCAC championship game vs. Good Counsel. It will be the third title game their senior class will have participated in and they will have a chance to win their second title.

DaLawn Parrish and Wise football reclaim Maryland state title

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Photo by Chad Ricardo

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.

MORE HIGH SCHOOL NEWS:

Top 20 DMV boys basketball: PVI, DeMatha lead rankings

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Top 20 DMV boys basketball: PVI, DeMatha lead rankings

Week 2 began with a Virginia rivalry matchup between PVI and Bishop J. O'Connell. Behind Duke commit Jeremy Roach, PVI defeated O'Connell, in a sold-out playoff environment gym.

In other notable matchups, Good Counsel upsetting Gonzaga 59-56 - Bez Mbeng led Good Counsel with 14 points.  Antoine Jacks and Dylan Williamson both contributed 12 points. And Eleanor Roosevelt defeated South River 73-61, and in an out-of-county matchup. In an IAC vs MAC non-conference game between St. Andrews and Georgetown Prep, St. Andrew's took the 89-52 victory. Dylan Edwards led St. Andrews with 15 points. Here's this week's top 25:

1. PVI 

2. DeMatha 

3. Gonzaga 

4. Saint Stephen's Saint Agnes 

5. St. John's 

6. Rock Creek

7. Bullis  

8. Archbishop Carroll

9.  Coolidge

10. Good Counsel

11. Riverdale Baptist 

12.  Bishop McNamara 

13. Thurgood Marshall

14. St. Andrew’s

15. Bishop O’Connell 

16. Georgetown Prep

17. St. Mary's Ryken

18. Wise

19. Wilson 

20. Eleanor Roosevelt 

 

Click here for the Top 20 girls' rankings.