When Wise Coach DaLawn Parrish heard in June about a football player who had moved from Buffalo to Upper Marlboro, he searched the teenager’s name on Google.

The same video of Nikolas McMillan appeared over and over. In November 2019, he leaped over a pair of defenders to catch the game-winning touchdown pass for Canisius High in New York’s Catholic state championship game. Parrish needed only a few seconds to watch the viral highlight and recognize a new star had arrived at the Prince George’s County power.

Quince Orchard Coach John Kelley had a similar realization this year. There was video online of Jalen Huskey starring in Middletown High’s 2019 state championship game win, but Kelley noticed the defensive back’s poise and confidence when he practiced in pads with the Montgomery County program for the first time in March. Despite Huskey’s lack of familiarity with his new teammates, he pounced on the opportunity to defend the Cougars’ Division I-bound stars.

Across Maryland this fall, experience has been thin after the coronavirus pandemic prompted a cancellation of the 2020 season. But Wise and Quince Orchard, which will meet for the Maryland 4A championship Friday night in Annapolis, each added a transfer who has starred in the postseason. McMillan and Huskey, after uprooting their lives and leaving friends during an uncertain period, have been crucial to their teams’ undefeated seasons and could line up against each other at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

“My family has been down here for years,” said McMillan, who had lived in Buffalo his whole life and is committed to attend the University at Buffalo next year. “They’ve been telling me: ‘Wise is good; they win states.’ I already knew what I was expecting, but when I came down here, it was better.”

Prince George’s County prohibited games and practices this spring, but New York conducted a season. A year after his game-winning catch as a sophomore, McMillan had three touchdowns in May in a league championship victory.

McMillan wanted tougher competition in his senior season, so the wide receiver moved in with his aunt, Felicia, in Upper Marlboro. McMillan felt isolated early in the summer because Wise (12-0) couldn’t practice, so he rarely left his house other than to train at Planet Fitness or run around his neighborhood.

Typically shy, McMillan began joking with teammates when practice began in August, spending mornings and afternoons on the field and then bowling and eating out in their downtime. McMillan learned hand signals and adapted to a faster offense while starting at defensive back for the first time.

McMillan had played with childhood friends for years, so he used Wise’s season opener in September to learn how his new teammates got motivated and stayed composed before taking the field.

“When I first moved down here, I’m not going to lie, it was rough,” McMillan said. “But I had to do what was best for me. Leaving my friends back home was tough, but I was focused on myself.”

On the opposite sideline Friday will be Huskey. In Middletown’s Maryland 2A championship game victory two years ago, Huskey caught a 65-yard touchdown pass in the opening minutes and intercepted two passes.

Nerves consumed Huskey when he exited the bus pregame and peeked at Navy’s stadium, which seats 34,000. About two hours before kickoff, he sat on the cold concrete at the end of the stadium tunnel, watched an earlier game and took deep breaths.

“It made me realize it’s just a game at the end of the day,” said Huskey, a senior who has scholarship offers from multiple Division I programs. “It might have bigger consequences, you could say, but it’s just a football game. I’ve played football all my life, so it’s nothing too crazy.”

In the summer of 2020, Huskey said, his father, William, moved from Middletown to Gaithersburg. Huskey enrolled at Quince Orchard (13-0) in August 2020, but school felt identical because Montgomery County conducted virtual learning. Secluded from his new classmates and uncertain when he would suit up for the Cougars, Huskey trained with friends from Middletown.

Huskey was anxious about securing a prominent role on one of the state’s top teams. After Middletown’s championship, Huskey’s Montgomery County peers downplayed the accomplishment by half-joking, “You couldn’t beat QO, though.”

But Huskey impressed his teammates in practice and validated himself in the county’s three-game season, particularly when he shut down Sherwood’s star receiver and when he returned an interception for a touchdown against Richard Montgomery.

“I like [the challenge],” Huskey said. “It builds character, and it shows you if you really want it or not. It showed me that I really love this game and that not much is going to stop me from reaching my dreams.”

McMillan has six touchdowns in four postseason games; Huskey blocked an extra-point attempt in last week’s semifinal that was the difference in a 14-13 win over Northwest. Both expect when they arrive at Navy the jitters they had in previous years won’t return.

“I kind of know how to turn it up a notch,” McMillan said. “Everyone’s going to be watching this game because we’re going to be one of the few games on, so I just know I got to put on a show.”

Huskey, Quince Orchard’s top cornerback, will aim to prevent that.

“I want to feel it so bad again,” Huskey said about the joy of winning a championship. “This school is kind of a ‘state championship or the season wasn’t really worth it’ type of school. I love that. I feed off the pressure. I’ll do whatever it takes to win.”

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