Old Mill's chances to win its first state title might have appeared to go down in the first quarter Friday night when star running back Josh Furman suffered a knee injury, leaving Jason Clements to take over the workhorse role.
Clements, who had been overshadowed by Furman despite rushing for more than 1,100 yards this season, eagerly shouldered the bulk of the rushing load. The senior carried the ball 40 times for 164 yards and one touchdown to lead the Patriots to their first state championship, 17-16, over Wise in the Class 4A final before an announced 8,534 at M&T; Bank Stadium.
"When Josh got hurt, I thought: 'It's my turn now, and I've got to step up. I've got to fill his shoes.' And I felt that I did that tonight," Clements said. "I didn't let anything bring me down."
Clements gained nearly all the yardage on a 60-yard drive that led to Brad Cummings' second game-winning field goal in three weeks - a 26-yard kick with 10:19 left.
Old Mills' defense then took over, slamming the door on Wise's bid for its first state title with three critical plays - A.J. Butler's interception with 8:22 left, a tackle by Marquel Pratt short of a first down on fourth-and-17 with about three minutes to go, and Joe McCargo's sack with 41 seconds remaining.
Old Mill coach Damian Ferragamo said he wasn't happy with the defensive performance in the first half, but he credited defensive coordinator Joe Viola with straightening things out at the break.
"Out of control," Ferragamo said of the second-half defense. "The first half we weren't playing the kind of football we played, and we said we had to play to win the football game. We weren't running to the football. ... They came out [in the second half] and they played inspired football right from the first drive, and we're little. We maybe have a starter [who's] 200 pounds, and that's after he eats dinner."
In winning Anne Arundel County's first state crown in 15 years, the Patriots (12-2) came up with the big defensive effort in a game that featured the highly touted Pumas defense. Wise (12-2) shut out 10 opponents this fall and came into the game having allowed just 29 points.
Furman had been counting on shredding that defense, but Clements and quarterback Joe Thorton (6-for-10 for 72 yards and one touchdown) did it instead.
On his fifth run of the game, Furman, who had rushed for 615 yards and eight touchdowns in the past two games, went down with an injury to his left knee. Clements then gave the Patriots an early lead after running on all six plays of a 30-yard drive. He capped it with a 4-yard touchdown run off a pitch from Thorton.
That lead, however, would last just 48 seconds as the Pumas' DeAndre Smith scored back-to-back touchdowns and Rahsaan Moore added conversion runs for a 16-7 Wise lead.
OM 7 7 0 3 - 17 W 8 8 0 0 - 16
OM-Clements 4 run (Cummings kick)
W-Smith 47 run (Moore run)
W-Smith 8 run (Moore run)
OM-Hicks 38 pass from Thorton (Cummings kick)
OM-FG 26 Cummings