In this week’s notebook we cover Wise, George Mason, Woodgrove, Dominion, Bullis, Landon, Lackey and Damascus.
THE SNAP COUNT: WISE’S OFFENSE IS JUST AS EXPLOSIVE THIS YEAR AS IT HAS EVER BEEN, EVEN AGAINST BETTER COMPETITION. WONDER WHY? CHECK OUT THE PUMAS’ QUARTERBACK.
The Pumas skated to a Maryland 4A state championship in 2016, never scoring fewer than 35 points a game. Through six games in 2016, they averaged 44.6 points per contest. This season, Wise is on the same track against better competition.
The offense is averaging 40.6 points per game so far, a number dragged down by a 15-13 win against Baltimore’s Calvert Hall.
That consistency is remarkable given what the Pumas lost heading into the 2017 season. Quarterback Jabari Laws, around whom Coach DaLawn Parrish and offensive coordinator Steve Rapp designed this high-octane offense, is off playing college football for Army.
Laws won All-Met offensive player of the year his senior season, and was a gifted passer and slippery runner. Parrish liked to let Laws work outside the pocket where he could extend plays with his legs to let receivers get open, or take off downfield. But at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, Laws was not lethal from inside the pocket.
To replace him, Parrish wooed Quinton Williams away from Good Counsel. Williams, at 6-4, 185 pounds, is a pure passer who can stand in the pocket and deliver the ball downfield. He’s thrown 15 touchdowns to one interception through six games and is completing almost 65 percent of his passes.
He has also transformed the Pumas’ quick-strike, big-play offense into one that can march down the field and grind out possessions. Against Calvert Hall, Parrish put the game in his hands. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 126 yards and a score, and rushed eight times for 33 yards.
“He allows us to get to every part of the field,” Parrish said. “That makes us much more explosive, because you can’t take away anything.”
It makes Wise that much more dangerous — and that much more of a favorite — these next two weeks against Oxon Hill and Eleanor Roosevelt, two rivals and two of the top teams in Prince George’s County. Both will have to defend a Pumas offense that looks the same, but attacks the field in a new way.
Here are some of the other top high school football stories from around the D.C. area:
» GEORGE MASON IS TURNING HEADS — INCLUDING THOSE OF ITS OWN FANS
After his football team started 5-0, George Mason Coach Adam Amerine started receiving congratulatory texts and emails. That’s just how long it had been.
“Yeah, I’d say people were surprised,” Amerine said. “There were people that had been working at the school for 20 or 30 years saying they couldn’t remember a 5-0 team.”
The Mustangs are now 5-1, after a 22-21 loss to Strasburg (Shenandoah County) last week. Close losses like that are a bit easier to stomach when they’re the first of the year. Last season, the team started 2-0, only to lose eight straight to end the year. Amerine, then the defensive coordinator, took over the head coaching job in the offseason and aimed to implement a new culture.
“I wanted to take what we had been doing and run it slightly different,” he said. “I needed the players to buy into that and they have, especially the seniors.”
Amerine decided not to change was the Mustangs long-held, run-first mentality. This year’s offense has been led by a talented tandem of running backs, junior Jack Felgar and senior Finn Roou.
This weekend, the Mustangs will take their running backs and hot start up the road to Marshall, also 5-1, and face a team that, despite the proximity, they rarely come across.
“We just don’t play each other in football — I can’t remember ever playing them,” Amerine said. “It will be an interesting game.”
» WOODGROVE, DOMINION CLASH TO DECIDE DULLES DISTRICT
Woodgrove compiled a 19-1 record over the past two regular seasons, but only faced Loudoun County opponents who were also in Virginia Class 4. This fall, the Wolverines challenged themselves with games against Class 5 foes Broad Run and Tuscarora. While Woodgrove (4-2) lost both those contests, the Wolverines are better off from the experiences, players say.
“We’ve gotten better by playing against better athletes. Playing those games helps us prepare for the playoffs by showing us what we need to work on,” junior wide receiver Ben Castellano said. “If you only play teams you know you’ll beat, you’re not going to get any better.”
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Castellano has caught 52 passes for 680 yards and seven touchdowns so far this season. On Friday night, Woodgrove hosts Dominion (4-2) in a game that will most likely decide the Dulles District regular season champion. The last time the Titans visited Purcellville, they ended Woodgrove’s undefeated season with a 30-23 victory in last November’s Virginia 4A West semifinals.
Like Woodgrove, Dominion has learned from facing a bigger school. The Titans lost 42-10 at Class 6 South Lakes in September.
“That loss was a great eye-opener. If you miss an assignment, you’re going to pay for it,” Dominion Coach Karl Buckwalter said. “Woodgrove is a very, very good team that is really physical, but in that win last year we learned that the Titans can get physical as well.”
» BULLIS OR LANDON? ONE TEAM IS ABOUT TO GET ITS FIRST LOSS IN THE IAC
In the past two weeks, Bullis has spoiled the undefeated aspirations of both Quince Orchard and St. Mary’s Ryken. The Bulldogs travel to Bethesda on Saturday with a plan to do it again against Landon, the only other undefeated team remaining in the IAC.
Defending the Bulldogs (5-0) is no easy task. They have a knack for wearing down opponents, as workhorse back Eric McKan (23 carries, 116 yards and four touchdowns versus St. Mary’s Ryken) plows between the tackles. They pepper in end-around runs, getting the ball into electric playmaker Bryson Shaw’s hands, where it often ends up on the inevitable home-run play through the air.
— Dan Roth (@ByDanRoth) October 10, 2017
While Bullis has played a pair of competitive, hard-fought battles, Landon (5-0) has blown past lighter competition by a combined 80-0 score. Landon coach Paul Padalino was tight-lipped about the Bears’ game plan for slowing Bullis, but he has no doubt they’ll be mentally ready for the IAC clash.
“It’s our first IAC contest,” Padalino said. “I am not worried about our guys being ready.”
Padalino said the Bears’ offensive and defensive fronts have been playing particularly well of late, and he’s also encouraged by the number of skill players having an impact on games.
“We have a bunch of guys that can beat you a bunch of different ways,” he said.
» LACKEY WATCHES THE ‘LOWLIGHT’ REEL
For Lackey, Saturday morning is as much about rest as it is about reliving the thrill of the previous night. As the Chargers rolled to a 5-0 start, players giddily anticipated the highlight clips Coach John Lush compiled and presented in the film room every weekend.
But after Lackey’s 26-14 loss to La Plata, Lush didn’t put together a highlight tape. Instead he cut together 25 of the team’s worst plays against La Plata. “Lowlights,” he called them. Players didn’t know what to make of the reel.
“They were really confused,” Lush said.
Lackey fumbled the ball 11 times Friday, five of which were lost. Despite leading 7-6 at halftime, by that point the team had coughed up the ball three times. They fumbled twice more on each of their first two second-half possessions, and eventually the Warriors capitalized on the mistakes.
“Sometimes you have to lose ’til you wake up,” Lush said.
Lush estimates his team had turned the ball over three times leading into the game, including two scrimmages. But he had noticed a lack of focus simmering for some time, even as the wins kept piling up.
With a high-profile matchup against Chopticon (5-1) on Friday, Lackey pushed itself to give more effort in practice this week. If a play normally called for a 10-yard gain, this week it called for 15 yards. If a play normally called for a 20-yard gain, this week it called for 25 yards.
» DAMASCUS STAYING DIALED IN DURING HISTORIC WIN STREAK
Damascus knows every game can’t have the same implications as the state championship showdowns it has won the last two years. But that doesn’t mean the Swarmin’ Hornets ever ease their intensity, coach Eric Wallich said.
That’s the mind-set the team has promoted entering this week’s home game against Watkins Mills. While No. 3 Damascus’ last four regular-season opponents combine for a 13-14 record, the players won’t relent.
“We never want our opponents to dictate our work ethic or the way we want to compete,” Wallich said. “It’s just kind of a culture mentality that we’ve had for a long time.”
That stretch has included Damascus’ current 34-game winning streak, a run that’s taught the current seniors to learn the importance of that workmanlike approach.
So while the Swarmin’ Hornets have dominated this season — scoring at least 41 points a game and shutting out opponents in their last three outings — veteran leadership from Michael Jurgens, Jordan Funk, Matt Betterelli and Ben Lokos has shined.
“Those guys really don’t let anything slip, and if players are starting to slack, they usually are getting pretty vocal,” Wallich said, “Letting them know that’s not how we do things.”
» Monday notebook: Freshman QB Caleb Williams has Gonzaga in WCAC title mix
When does a really consistent football program become a local dynasty? Maybe one way to measure is how long it’s sat atop The Washington Post’s high school football rankings. Consider the Wise Pumas: