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Wise's big chance at title turns into a bad break

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 5, 2009

BALTIMORE -- As Wise players and coaches trudged off the field and headed toward the M&T Bank Stadium locker room Friday night, senior defensive end Rahsaan Moore said the scene felt surreal.

Dominant all season, the sixth-ranked Pumas seemed to have everything in their favor for much of the Maryland 4A championship game. They had a comfortable lead and Josh Furman, Old Mill's touted running back, was injured and watching from the sideline. The Upper Marlboro school's first state title was within reach.

But then quarterback DeAndre Smith, who rushed for two first-half touchdowns, injured his left ankle. While he tried to return in the final minutes, ninth-ranked Old Mill (12-2) turned the game's momentum and rallied for a 17-16 win.

"I didn't think it was happening," said Moore, a key part of a defense that set a state record with eight consecutive shutouts during the regular season. "We had been working since the end of last season to get to this point. We thought we had it. But we came out in the second half and things changed."

Smith's 47-yard touchdown sprint to the right -- two plays after Old Mill took an early lead -- put Wise in front, 8-7. His eight-yard keeper up the middle made it 16-7 at halftime.

"It was our game to lose," Coach DaLawn Parrish said. "We get the ball back [to start the second half], go down and score and we can break their back."

Instead, though, it was Wise (12-2) that suffered a bad break. On the second snap of the second half, Smith sprained his left ankle. It was the same play-call that resulted in Smith's earlier touchdown runs. This time, however, he unsuccessfully tried to stiff-arm a defender and rolled over his ankle while being tackled.

"It was hard to walk," said Smith, who returned with a limp for the final six minutes but was unable to help Wise mount any offense. "It was hard to jog."

Wise still led 16-7 at the time, but without its quarterback, its offense was vulnerable against a defense that overloaded against the run. The Pumas tallied just 34 yards of total offense and two first downs after Smith was injured.

"DeAndre is the key to our offense," said Moore, who rushed for two-point conversions following each of Smith's touchdown runs. "He goes down and a lot goes away. I felt the momentum shift. You could tell, the crowd, they smelled fresh meat in the game and started getting louder."

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