Since Wise opened in 2006, DaLawn Parrish has spent his late summer days stomping around the practice fields behind the building, molding playoff teams with his often high-decibel, persistently insatiable desire for perfection.
You could hear his voice slashing through the Upper Marlboro air once again Wednesday morning at the Pumas’ first practice of 2014: with a Gatorade towel draped over his head and a black Wise bucket hat pulled low over it, Parrish arrived for his ninth season as Pumas’ coach in midseason frenzy.
A lineman’s stance was too tall, and Parrish let him know it. A blocker moved a bit too far, and he and his teammates heard about that, too. A running back dashed into the wrong hole, and Parrish was beside himself. When you’re Wise, coming off a “down” year and first-round playoff exit, easing into things isn’t an option.
“It’s Day One. We’ve looked better,” Parrish said afterward. “But we’re moving a lot of people around. So they have to get comfortable, but we have to figure out what they can and can’t do.”
Anchors of Wise’s 2012 state title run such as Micah Till (North Carolina State), Marcus Allen (Penn State), and quarterback Isaiah Black (St. Anselm’s College) are gone, but reloading is as much a constant for Wise football as Parrish’s bucket hat and Timberland boots.
Enter Myles Wolfolk, a junior defensive back who transferred from Largo midway through the 2013-14 school year and brings offers from places such as Boston College, Clemson, and Illinois with him to the Pumas this season.
“A lot of players coming back just know the program in and out,” Wolfolk said. “If something new comes at us, we’ll be prepared. Everyone can know what’s going on.”
Wolfolk aside, most players plugging in at new places come from within Wise. Last year’s junior varsity quarterback, sophomore Jabari Laws, was under center for seven-on-seven leagues this summer and took first-team snaps last week. While Wise is known as a run-first, run-second, run-always type of team, Parrish said Laws brings natural throwing instincts that make diversifying the offense a more enticing possibility than in previous years.
“He’s played QB all his life, so when he throws the ball, he understands ball placement,” Parrish said. “We’ve typically had athletes playing quarterback. We had to teach them, when you throw the ball up, put it here. Because he’s been doing it his whole life, he understands all the nuances of the throws.”
Senior Davel Carr, who carried just 10 times last season, will earn more carries from the backfield. Asked about Carr, his classmate,wide receiver Nate Hampton Jr. ,couldn’t help but smile: “he’s a real good back.”
Hampton leads a group of returning receivers who combined for two of the team’s 11 receiving touchdowns in 2013. But while seniors caught most of the passes that finished Puma drives last season, Hampton, Juwan Hatton and quarterback-turned-receiver Kyle Hill look ready to fill the void.
The Pumas’ offensive and defensive lines will be formidable, too. Senior Obadiah Bennett anchors what he calls “an extremely hard-working” offensive line, one that has as much size as any in Prince George’s 4A. James Madison commit Trevor Brown will provide pressure from his spot at defensive end with a 6-5, 250-pound frame and basketball-honed agility.
So, as usual, Parrish’s team has the pieces for a deep playoff run. He says he’s still finding where they fit, but he’s not exactly one to sit back and let them fall into place. He’ll be chasing perfect around the Wise practice field all the way until Sept. 6, when his Pumas head north to face their most prominent out-of-region opponent yet, St. Peter’s Prep of Jersey City, N.J.
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