It was not the best day for Douglass linebacker Jerrell Wedge or his defensive teammates. After allowing only 37 points in their first 11 games, the Eagles surrendered 30 points to C.H. Flowers in their Maryland 4A South Region final Saturday. Fortunately for Wedge and his teammates, the Douglass offense showed up in a 45-30 victory.
Then again, just being on the field was something of an accomplishment for Wedge, given that he had a cast on his left hand to protect a broken thumb.
Wedge injured the thumb in the regular season finale against Laurel but did not tell anyone about it. In the following week's playoff opener against Suitland, Wedge tried to tackle running back Monty Clayton on the first defensive play of the game, but he felt so much pain that he had to come out for a few moments.
"That's when I broke it, I think," Wedge said. "It hurt, but I still played. [The pain] was bad. It made you want to cry."
"I couldn't believe he could mask something like that," Douglass Coach J. C. Pinkney said. "He knew we would take him out of the game, that's why he didn't tell us. Going into the Suitland game, we didn't know it was that bad. That's when we knew he had to get some medical attention."
After the game, Wedge had X-rays taken, which revealed the break. The first doctor to see Wedge would not clear him to play, so Wedge consulted a second doctor, who did permit him to play.
With a hard cast protected by plenty of padding, Wedge -- who has a team-leading 124 tackles -- was back on the field against C.H. Flowers.
"It's tough for him to wrap and use his fingers, which is a difficult position to have a linebacker in, especially somebody used to making tackles," Pinkney said. "Playing with one arm, it was kind of tough, but he's a tough kid."
Douglass (12-0) will host Sherwood (11-1) in a Maryland 4A semifinal on Saturday. The Eagles are in the state semifinals for the second consecutive season, but Pinkney feels his team has yet to make its mark.
"The season has been a long grind for everybody still playing," Pinkney said. "Camp was forever and the season was pushed back an extra week. It wears on the kids. The most determined team is going to be the team that comes out on top, and I told my guys we haven't accomplished anything special. We've won a regional title before. We've been undefeated before. We haven't done anything exceptionally special. We need to win a state title in order for this team to be defined as special.
"You're knocking on the door again. Are you going to knock it down or keep the barrier up?"
Little Big Man
William Little might be one of the best defenders on Gwynn Park's roster. The senior, however, played very little defense during the regular season because there simply was no need to wear him out. The Yellow Jackets (12-0) rarely were threatened and have plenty of other players capable of doing the job, so Coach Danny Hayes preferred to limit Little to offense, where he is a running back.
"You didn't see William Little a lot on defense this year, but now you're seeing him more on defense," Hayes said. "To tell you the truth, he could be the best defensive player I have other than [linebacker] Phil Higgins."
Little is making his impact felt. He blocked a punt, forced two fumbles, sacked the quarterback twice and made seven tackles in Gwynn Park's 26-6 victory over Lackey on Saturday in the Maryland 3A South Region final. Just for good measure, Little also rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
"You really don't have to say anything to William -- he knows exactly what day it is and exactly what he needs to do," Hayes said. "He's just a special kid. We didn't play him on defense much this season, but now we're starting to play him more and he's loving it. We're loaded at that position. We've been playing him [mostly] on offense to try to keep him fresh and focused on running, but wherever he is needed, he'll play. That's the way he is."
Linebacker Adrian McLeod and wide receiver Bobby Shannon have gotten much of the attention as Potomac marches toward a third consecutive Maryland 2A title appearance . But it is a player who left the school before last season, only to rejoin the team this fall, who might be making the biggest impact.
Running back Antonial Coles rushed for a game-high 104 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries in the Wolverines' 12-0 victory over Atholton on Friday and he is the player many opposing coaches believe is the difference maker for Potomac. Entering tomorrow's Maryland 2A semifinal at Joppatowne, Coles has rushed for 1,181 yards and 17 touchdowns.
It is quite a turn from last season, which Coles began at Eleanor Roosevelt. But he transferred back to Potomac after he and other transfers were held out of Raiders' games due to questions about their eligibility.
"He was a big help for us last year when he came back," Potomac Coach Eric Knight said.
When Coles returned, Knight said the team held a meeting to determine whether he would be allowed to rejoin .
"The players said, 'Yeah, as long as he's coming back the next year, as long as he's committed to our program,' " Knight said. "That's what they told him: You have to be committed to here."
Coles backed up Titan Trabue during last season's Maryland 2A title run, and this season he has shouldered much of the offensive load while also playing outside linebacker.
"He plays smart and understands leverage," Forestville Coach Charles Harley said. "He's physical and aggressive, and he's smart also. Once he realizes where the ball is going, he gets there real quick."