The script for Saturday night’s Prince George’s Pigskin Classic matchup between No. 13 Douglass and No. 6 Wise had all the elements of a storybook high school showdown: on-field star power, neighborhood rivals, small school against a giant and even a catchy title — “the Battle of Upper Marlboro.”
It promised drama, and the game delivered. In a hard-hitting battle full of momentum swings, the Pumas rallied for a 20-14 win after trailing by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter at a packed Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex.
A hero emerged late in the fourth quarter of a tie game in the form of Wise senior Joe Shelton, who stripped the Douglass quarterback and returned the fumble 25 yards for the game-winning score with 57 seconds remaining.
“We work on that drill all practice, that strip drill, and I used it in the game and scored,” Shelton said. “. . . I’d been trying to strip it the whole game.”
Wise Coach DaLawn Parrish called it “a tale of two halves.” The Pumas survived a turnover-riddled first half. In the second half, it was Douglass that made the miscues.
After fumbling away its first drive, Douglass scored on its second and third, jumping out to a 14-0 lead while Wise (1-0) seemed unnerved by three-first half turnovers and the ineffectiveness of its trademark running game.
Then the script flipped. The Eagles fumbled in the red zone, and Wise recovered. But running back Adam Gillis Jr. fumbled at the goal line, and Douglass recovered.
“I felt like I let my team down. I felt like all my hopes and dreams as far as my team getting this ‘W’ were over,” Gillis said. “But my team kept me up. They didn’t let me fall down.”
Gillis scored Wise’s first touchdown just two plays after his fumble. The Eagles had fumbled it right back to the Pumas at their own 5, and Gillis then went in from the 1.
“Kids are going to turn the ball over, but it’s the desire, the want,” Parrish said. “He knew what mistake he made. All we had to do was get the ball back.”
Eagles Coach J.C. Pinkney emphasized the tough-luck loss represented just one game but acknowledged his team can take pride in having given the Pumas their closest regular season game since October 2011.
“With Upper Marlboro schools, it’s been back and forth ever since we scheduled the game,” he said. “Everybody’s excited. The communities were excited, so of course it means more than just a regular game. But we have to treat it as such.”