ANNAPOLIS, MD - DECEMBER 1: The Wise Puma players and coaches celebrate after winning the Maryland High School 4A State Championship Football Game between the Quince Orchard Cougars and the Wise Pumas at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Friday, December 1, 2017. The Wise Pumas defeated the Quince Orchard Cougars 38-20 to win their third state title in a row. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Safety A.J. Lytton and the rest of the Wise Pumas were certain of two things when the season started: They wanted a third straight Maryland 4A title and their opponent when they reached the championship game was likely to be Quince Orchard, the same team they routed for the 2016 title.

By Friday night at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, there were the Pumas, a win away from their goal. And there were the Cougars, who had waited 357 days to avenge their 35-point loss last year.

“We knew who we were going to play,” Lytton said after Wise rallied for 25 points in the fourth quarter for a 38-20 win.

Lytton almost single-handedly turned the game around, ending a crucial fourth-quarter Quince Orchard drive with an interception and then, on the next play, taking a pitch on a double-reverse and weaving 39 yards for a touchdown that put the game out of reach.

“Ever since I got here,” quarterback Quinton Williams said, “everyone’s been preaching about that third ring.”

Williams transferred from Good Counsel over the summer. His first day, offensive coordinator Steve Rapp sat him down and gave him the state of the program.

“We’ve won two state championships,” Rapp said. “We’ve won 28 games in a row. By the end of the season, it’ll be 42 games.”

The Pumas withstood three red-zone turnovers and Quince Orchard’s steady rushing attack. They survived Bonner’s magic tricks from the pocket and out into the open field. They survived 14 games in 2017 as the favorite that lurked over Maryland public school football.

Coach DaLawn Parrish called the win, “completing the mission.”

Some opponents approached the Pumas as the Goliath just outside the Beltway. Others called them, “average,” and tried to taunt Wise into overzealous revenge.

None of it worked.

“Whoever steps in front of us,” running back John Oliver said, “that’s who we play.”

Before Friday in Annapolis, no team had won three consecutive Maryland 4A football titles. Now Wise (14-0) has, and its winning streak — still running — is third-longest in state history.

Quince Orchard (12-2) led to open the fourth quarter, and the Pumas drove inside the Cougars 5-yard line. Williams crambled and looked toward the back of the end zone, but lost sight of a defensive back in the front of his receiver.

The Cougars’ interception gave Quince Orchard the momentum it so craved against Wise for 12 months. But the Pumas’ defense forced the Cougars to punt, and Williams responded with a long drive that set up Wise back inside the Cougars 20. Oliver then broke a tackle with a stiff from the 12 and turned the corner for a score.

It forced Quince Orchard’s offense into desperation. Lytton, on the very next play from scrimmage, dropped deep into coverage.

The ball found him — and shortly thereafter, Wise was celebrating a third straight title.