BALTIMORE — Led by a dominant defense and a physical rushing attack Wise bullied its way back into Friday’s Maryland 4A final at M&T Bank Stadium with the singular goal of winning an elusive state title.
But trailing returning finalist Quince Orchard late in the fourth quarter, the Pumas had no choice but to scrap their ground game and take to the air.
Isaiah Black threw a go-ahead 24-yard touchdown pass to Micah Till with 2 minutes 14 seconds left and Wise’s defense held off a furious late drive to capture its first Maryland 4A championship with a gritty 12-7 victory.
“We practiced it all week,” Black said of the fade pass to his 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior tight end. “I told him, ‘How would you feel if that play was the game winner?’ He was like, ‘Man, let’s just do it.’ ”
The third-ranked Pumas (14-0) entered Friday’s final two years after falling to Urbana, 6-0, in the 2010 final. They lost to Old Mill 17-16 the year before. No. 6 Quince Orchard (12-2) had dealt with its own disappointment in the 4A title game, and the Cougars returned to the scene of their heartbreaking 36-35 overtime loss to Old Mill in last year’s final determined to reverse their fortune.
Quince Orchard came close on Friday night in a back-and-forth game with a heavy defensive accent, but Black and the Pumas came up clutch in the game’s final stanza.
Black — who had thrown only 16 passes combined in three previous playoff games — did not attempt a pass in the first half as the Pumas stuck to their run-heavy offensive script. But the junior took over at just the right time.
After Quince Orchard pushed a 29-yard field goal attempt wide right with just under six minutes remaining, Black led Wise on a 10-play, 80-yard drive.
Black engineered the drive with a series of completions and runs and he surprised the Cougars with a lofted deep ball to Till in the left corner of the end zone for the winning score.
“The call from upstairs was like, you got to force it to Micah,” said Black, who completed 6 of 12 second-half pass attemps for 104 yards.
Quince Orchard (12-2) drove to the Wise 25-yard line on a frantic final drive. But after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty backed the Cougars up, Wise junior Joseph Shelton intercepted Matt Choi at the goal line with 30 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
“The only thing I can think about is coming back here a second year in a row, and to be able to play 28 games with this group of people,” Quince Orchard running back Tyrell Williams said.
The Cougars controlled the game in the second half with Williams (182 yards rushing) leading the way while their defense locked up Wise running back Chase Powell (127 yards), who ran wild in the first half.
After Powell gave Wise a 6-0 early on a four-yard touchdown run to cap the Pumas’ opening possession, the Cougars forced a fumble at their own goal line early in the second quarter to avoid falling further behind. After recovering the fumble in its own end zone, Quince Orchard responded with a 10-play, 80-yard drivecapped by D’Andre Johnson’s one-yard touchdown run with just over a minute left in the first half for a 7-6 lead.
It was the first close game of the season for Wise, which had won each of its previous 13 games by at least 21 points. Moreover, it was the school’s first state championship in just its seventh year of existence, with the winning play coming from childhood friends in Black and Till.
“You could see it in their faces,” Wise Coach DaLawn Parrish said. “They refused to lose.”