Anthony Wright emerged as a star running back for those early Wise teams and remembers the Pumas’ meteoric ascent from a team of ultra-talented, competitively wary former opponents to one highly talented, well-coached and disciplined team.
“A lot of us were coming from different areas,” Wright said. “At first I remember practicing at Douglass, everyone was just trying to see each other’s skills and assets and stuff like that.”
The Pumas went 2-8 that first season, improved to 5-5 in 2007 and then went 9-4 in 2008. By 2009, they were in the state title game.
Wise’s massive enrollment and new facilities played a role in the team’s near-immediate success. But Douglass, founded in 1934 and with an enrollment of approximately 1,200, proves big and new are not essential for the success of the region.
A seemingly more important factor is coaching staff stability. Parrish, the 2012 All-Met Coach of the Year, is the only coach in Wise history. His counterpart at Douglass, J.C. Pinkney, is in his 12th year as coach of the Eagles.
They’ve never gone against each other as head coaches. While the encounter will be a new one for Pinkney and Parrish, their players will find the experience much more familiar.
After all, not long ago many of them were struggling to stand under the weight of their pads on quiet middle school fields, preparing for the time they would be together in louder, brighter, high school stadiums.
“We’ve known each other since middle school, elementary school. We’re basically neighbors,” Penn State-bound Wise defensive back Marcus Allen said. “We’re going to have a good game. We all play well with each other, and we’re cool, but once we get on the field, there’s no friends.”