Despite yet another 100-yard rushing game for Howard junior Devin Dawkins, it wasn’t nearly enough in a 42-7 loss to Henry A. Wise in the 4A state semifinals on Friday night.
It marks the third straight year the Lions (12-1) have lost to the Pumas in the state semifinals or further. They suffered a 48-0 defeat in the same position last season and lost, 55-6, in the 2015 state championship game.
“Wise is the man,” first-year coach Ross Hannon said. “We want a shot to be the man, and so you’ve got to beat the man, and we have just not done that.”
A year after Wise quarterback Jabari Laws torched the Lions for six total touchdowns, senior running back John Oliver ran for four scores Friday night, weaving and powering his way through the defense. On just 15 carries, Oliver ran for 133 yards and scored touchdowns from one, five, 15 and 57 yards out.
Wise, which has now won 41 straight games, will face Quince Orchard in the 4A championship.
“The offense performed good today,” said Dawkins, who missed last year’s game against Wise with a broken collarbone. “The bad part was the defense. We weren’t making enough tackles and wrapping up, so they had big plays on us.”
Hannon, who served as Howard’s secondary coach last season, said the team’s effort and mindset Friday night was no different than in its blowout defeat to Wise a year ago. However, he knew his offense would have an added spark in this year’s matchup with the return of Dawkins.
Dawkins delivered with a 117-yard rushing performance on 25 carries, leading Hannon to label the junior as one of the state’s best running backs after the game. He also had one reception — a shovel pass on Howard’s second possession — he ran for 29 yards and into Wise territory. On the next play, senior Robby Porter hit a wide open Robert Agbai down the seam for a 37-yard touchdown to tie the game at seven.
Just like that, Howard had scored more points in one quarter than they did in the previous two games against Wise combined.
“They went motion to unbalanced [line], putting a tight end at the tackle position, throwing the ball down the middle, that was pretty sweet,” Pumas coach DaLawn Parrish said. “That was something they hadn’t shown on film, so obviously the coaches did their homework, came up with something creative and did something very positive.”
Parrish said the Pumas talked all week about how Dawkins would make plays in the run game using his vision to cut back and find holes. But as long as his players stayed discipline, Parrish knew they’d be able to stop Howard from turning that production into points.
That’s exactly what happened.
With Dawkins leading the Lions inside the Wise 35-yard line in the second quarter, the Pumas forced Porter into two incompletions and sacked him on the next play to take over on downs. Then, as they did all game, the Pumas drove easily down the field and went up 27-7 on Oliver’s 15-yard touchdown run.
After allowing another score to start the second half, Howard got the ball inside the 10 yard line. But on third down, Porter fumbled after a blindside hit. Christopher Rhodes picked the ball up, and with no one in front of him, scampered into the end zone for an 83-yard touchdown, putting the Lions in a 40-7 hole.
Junior quarterback Quinton Williams followed that up by rushing in the two-point conversion to start a running clock.
“What they do offensively helps them athletically in their county,” Parrish said. “But once you go against my team, my team was way more athletic today, then eventually they were going to break.”
Wise (13-0) — 21 6 15 0 — 42
Howard (12-1) — 7 0 0 0 — 7
Wise: Quinton Williams 24-yard pass to Anthony Lytton, Jr., Kevin Martinez kick good [7-0].
Ho: Robby Porter 37-yard pass to Robert Agbai, Michael Peter kick good [7-7].
Wise: John Oliver 57-yard run, Kevin Martinez kick good [14-7].
Wise: Oliver 5-yard run, Kevin Martinez kick good [21-7].
Wise: Oliver 15-yard run, 2-point pass failed [27-7].
Wise: Oliver 1-yard run, Kevin Martinez kick good [34-7].
Wise: Christopher Rhodes 83-yard fumble return, 2-point run good [42-7].