The first two times Wise played Eleanor Roosevelt in football, the outcomes were what anyone would have expected given that the former was a brand-new school and the latter was an established regional power. Wise, which opened its doors in 2006, dropped its first two contests to Roosevelt by a combined 74 points.
But then, in 2008, one of the most intense and fastest-growing rivalries in Prince George’s County 4A football was born. Not when Wise defeated Roosevelt, 14-6, in double overtime in the first round of the playoffs — although that certainly didn’t hurt the narrative — but a few weeks before that, when Roosevelt erased Wise’s 22-point third-quarter advantage to claw out a 24-22 regular season win on its home field.
“Roosevelt, in our mind at one point, was and still is one of the top teams in Prince George’s County and in our state,” Wise Coach DaLawn Parrish said. “We look forward to the opportunity to play them every year, and we felt like we could never accomplish anything until we were able to beat those guys.”
The tough loss to Roosevelt during the 2008 regular season let Parrish know his team was close. Then the Pumas knocked off Roosevelt in the postseason and went on to play in the state semifinals. Wise defeated the Raiders four times in the following two seasons — only once by more than eight points — before Roosevelt snapped the skid with a 23-22 victory at home in 2011.
These days, Roosevelt Coach Tom Green said his team does not distinguish much among preparing to face Wise, Suitland and Flowers — which, along with Roosevelt, recently have served as the 4A South Region’s perennial lead horses — with one exception.
“With Wise, our coaches practice better that week,” Green said. “They’re more focused that week, and I think it rubs off on the kids.”
Last season, despite losing its starting quarterback to injury in the first quarter, Roosevelt led for most of the game until Wise orchestrated a late rally. The Pumas scored 16 unanswered points to take a two-point lead with roughly one minute remaining in the fourth quarter.
But Roosevelt marched straight down the field and kicked a 25-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired. Roosevelt went undefeated during the regular season, and the loss to the Raiders stood as the only blemish on Wise’s regular-season record.
Green said Roosevelt graduated 22 starters from that 2011 squad, but the Raiders return senior James Warren, who plays a multitude of roles on offense, and senior running back Wayne Cummings. Wise will be anchored on offense by senior lineman Antonio Harris (6-4, 310) and on defense by senior outside linebacker Frank Porter (6-0, 190).
Both teams expect their Sept. 15 matchup at Wise to serve as an important litmus test.
“It’s a measuring stick,” Parrish said. “Where are you at? How good are you? You feel like if you beat those guys, you’re where you need to be. If it’s close, you’re where you need to be. So everybody’s intensity level goes up.”