By Mark F. Gray
After licking their wounds for an entire year following the loss in the semifinals of the 2018 Maryland State Secondary Schools 4A Playoffs, Henry A. Wise high school completed the perfect season with a championship performance for the ages in Annapolis.
Behind another superb defensive effort, the Pumas avenged last year’s devastating loss to Quince Orchard with a 35-14 win over Northwest in a matchup of perennial state powerhouse programs. Wise and Northwest have combined to win eight state championships over the last nine years.
The victory was the Pumas fourth state title in five years, which now gives them five in the 14 year history of the program. However, this was the first time these teams met in the playoffs since Wise beat the Jaguars in the 4-A state semifinals on their way to the first state title in 2015.
Wise has been the standard bearer in Prince George’s County, but has also established itself as one of the great programs in state history. Their dominance in the County is unquestioned, where they haven’t lost a game in five years. After 2018, when their 43-game win streak came to an end versus Calvert Hall of Baltimore, the season ultimately came to a crashing halt in the state playoffs and there was the perception of vulnerability.
However, Wise left no doubt this season as to who was the best team in the state. The Pumas defeated the opposition by an average of more than 44 points during this postseason run. They finished the season with seven shutouts and when the offense became sluggish late in the year, Wise grinded away with a defense that was championship stingy.
But with the championship hanging in the balance, the Wise offense found its rhythm behind quarterback Jayden Sauray. Sauray rose to the level of the moment in guiding his team to victory by deftly managing the team’s offense until it was time to make plays that define champions. He accounted for their two first half touchdowns on runs of one and 10 yards.
Northwest, who played with a swagger from a tradition which has recently added to it’s trophy case, tested Wise and played them close early. The game was tied at 14-14 in the third quarter when Sauray made two big plays that would ultimately define their season.
He broke the tie by connecting on a 42 yard touchdown pass with Dorian Strong early in the third quarter. Sauray later added a 27-yard scoring strike to Keith Boddie, Jr. to blow the game open. The Pumas put the exclamation point on their return to the championship when Jalil Farooq scored an 8-yard TD run.
Wise finished the season 15-0 and restored order to the notion of who is the best team in the state. The Pumas have not only established themselves amongst Maryland’s elite programs they have positively impacted the perception of Prince George’s County high school football. It is a school with resources and it’s communities are home to some of the state’s best youth league football programs so they figure to remain viable contenders for years to come.