Commentary

Can defense win the Wise a championship?

Updated: December 1, 2009, 10:41 AM ET
By Mike Loveday | ESPN RISE

THE TEAMS: No. 1 Wise vs. No. 3 Old Mill

GAME DETAILS: Friday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore, Md.)

Playoff Coverage

MDVarsity.com covers all four classifications from the pre-snap to the post game press conference for the 2009 maryland high school playoffs.

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Wise defeated Eleanor Roosevelt 6-0 in region semifinals; defeated C.H. Flowers 26-0 in region final; defeated Thomas Johnson 24-8 in state semifinals.

Old Mill defeated North Point 24-0 in the region semifinals; defeated Arundel 58-55 in the region final; defeated Sherwood 20-13 in the state semifinals.

RECORD IN FINALS:

Wise: First appearance
Old Mill: First appearance

POSITION BREAKDOWN:

Passing Game Advantage: Wise

Do not expect many passes to be thrown in this game, probably enough to keep the defense honest, but what passes are thrown could make the difference. Both quarterbacks have thrown a similar amount of passes this season, but Wise's DeAndre' Smith has only one interception while Old Mill's Joe Thornton has thrown six interceptions. Wise's defense forces quarterbacks into bad decisions, which could be trouble for Old Mill.

Running Game Advantage: Old Mill

Old Mill's Josh Furman has rushed for 762 yards and 10 touchdowns in three playoff games. If that is not enough, Jason Clements has 1,144 yards rushing this season and was the starter last season. Fullback Randy Spann is committed to Liberty and is the heart of the running game according to head coach Damien Ferragamo. Wise uses multiple running backs, with three having more than 400 rushing yards this season. Jabril Baldwin is coming off a 132-yard performance in the semifinals.

Defense Advantage: Wise

The Pumas have 10 shutouts this season, including a MPSSAA record eight straight. If not for a late Thomas Johnson touchdown in the fourth quarter last week, Wise would have tied the state record with 11 shutouts in a season. Wise has five future Division I players on defense: Titus Till (Maryland), Rahsaan Moore (Maryland), Charles Owens (Old Dominion), Trevon Butler (Old Dominion) and Anthony McDaniel (Richmond). McDaniel leads the team with 12 sacks and Till has three interceptions this season.

Special Teams Advantage: Push

Wise has yet to attempt a field goal this season while Old Mill's Brad Cummings has eight. Old Mill has the advantage in the kicking game, but Wise has three players with at least one touchdown on kickoff and punt returns. Deontre Johnson, Trevon Butler and Howard Cook are game breakers in the return game. Rodney McMillian and Victor Cantorna handle the extra points for Wise, converting 11 PATs this season.

Coaching Advantage: Wise

Wise head coach DaLawn Parrish has not been at the helm long, four years, but has led the team to back-to-back state semifinal appearances and its first state title game. Old Mill's Damien Ferragamo has been head coach at Old Mill since 2006 and has been in the playoffs every year, but this is the first time the Patriots advanced past the region final. Former Oxon Hill head coach Kevin Wolfol has been Wise's defensive coordinator this season and seems to have made an impact.

OUR TAKE

If the old adage is correct and defense wins championships, Wise can clear a spot for the state title trophy. Ten shutouts, including two shutouts of Eleanor Roosevelt and a playoff shutout of C.H. Flowers two weeks ago is impressive. Furman is a stud at running back, but Wise got a sample of a future Division I workhorse last week with Thomas Johnson's Nick Forbes (committed to California) and held him to 74 yards and no touchdowns.

Mike Loveday covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com. Mike can be reached at Michael.Loveday@espn.com