4A South final: No. 10 Suitland at No. 3 Wise, Sat., 1 p.m.
As a blocking back and change-of-pace rusher, senior Frank Porter found a comfortable niche in Wise’s explosive offense this season. But when the Pumas (11-0) meet Suitland (10-1) on Saturday in Upper Marlboro seeking their fourth Maryland 4A South title in five seasons, the Old Dominion recruit can expect a heavy workload and a more visible role in the attack.
Since leading rusher Chase Powell went down with a high ankle sprain in the regular season finale against Bladensburg, Porter and junior Antwan Benjamin have picked up the slack. Powell, a dangerous home-run threat in the run game, remains out, but Porter believes Wise can win with a physical, grind-it-out style, too.
“I run hard, straight at you,” said Porter, who reached the 100-yard rushing mark each of the past two weeks. “I’m going to make you tackle me, you know what I’m saying? I’m not shifty like Chase. I like to bring pain to the defense.”
Make no mistake, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Porter has been an important part of the Pumas throughout their unbeaten run, playing as many snaps as he’s able on offense, defense and special teams. He plans to play either outside linebacker or safety at the next level, and he has 41 tackles with three sacks and a forced fumble this season.
Instead of opening lanes for Powell (1,358 rushing yards, 26 touchdowns) on offense, Porter will now be counted on to make more plays with the ball in his hands for Wise, which averages more than 40 points per game. Porter had not carried the ball more than eight times in any game this season before rushing 15 times for 100 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 28-7 win over Eleanor Roosevelt, even though he did not practice in the days leading up to the game because of his own ankle injury.
“He’s going to play until he can’t play no more,” Coach DaLawn Parrish said. “That’s the type of player he is.”
Benjamin has seen the biggest spike in playing time since Powell’s injury. The 5-foot-7, 165-pound back had only garnered 15 carries all year before the season finale, but he has combined for 26 carries for 121 yards and three scores over the past two weeks.
Parrish said the team hasn’t changed much of its play-calling without Powell, and the coach’s “next man-up” philosophy will be put to the test against Suitland in the teams’ first meeting of the season. The Rams have made 11 consecutive playoff appearances but haven’t won a region title since 2007.
“I look at it as an opportunity,” Porter said. “People say we can’t succeed without Chase. He’s a great player, but we know one player don’t make our team.”
2A South final: No. 12 Gwynn Park at No. 15 Douglass, Sat., 1 p.m.
Gwynn Park blitzed Douglass, 39-16, on Sept. 15 in Brandywine to avoid a 1-2 start that would have put the Yellow Jackets’ postseason hopes in jeopardy less than a month into the season. Neither team has lost since, and the Eagles enter Saturday’s rivalry rematch in Upper Marlboro, knowing they’ll need a newfound intensity to match the raised stakes.
“Watching that game, we didn’t play like a desperate team,” Coach J.C. Pinkney said. “We played like a team that had a ‘Get out of jail free’ card.
“We played against a team with their back up against the wall. They have a very good coaching staff and a good program. Them jokers were ready to play, and they whooped our [behinds].”
Gwynn Park (10-1) has only continued building momentum since its blowout win over Douglass (10-1), in which the home team scored the game’s first 27 points.
The No. 12 Yellow Jackets gave up three touchdowns in their season-opening win over Potomac (Md.) but have ceded just five in the past 11 games. They trailed top-seeded McDonough early last week but closed the game with three unanswered touchdowns — two by senior Joseph Hayman — in an 18-7 victory.
Meantime, No. 15 Douglass — which fell in the Maryland 2A state final last fall — needed a last-minute full-field drive and last-second 26-yard field goal by senior Paul Harris at to beat Patuxent, 29-27, last week.
The Eagles have history on their side. The last time the teams met twice in a season, they ended up splitting the games. In 2009, Gwynn Park won the regular season matchup, 35-14, only to fall in the region final, 8-0.
Senior linebacker Matt Paul is the only current Douglass player on varsity that season, but the Eagles have plenty of memories from that blowout loss two months ago to provide the necessary motivation for the second round this time.
“We were just going over there to play football,” said Harris, a Tennessee commit. “We thought we could, I guess, run over them like we were doing to everybody else. It was an eye-opener for us. I think everybody’s focused now. We’re ready .”