Sporting events don't get much uglier than a heavyweight boxing match, but the football game between Eleanor Roosevelt and Wise came awfully close. This slugfest between two top 10 powerhouses was riddled with penalties, turnovers, missed reads, dropped passes and questionable play calling,
But amid the bedlam, the No. 4 Wise Pumas pounded their way to a 6-0 road victory over the No. 9 Roosevelt Raiders on Friday afternoon. Wise running back Rahsaan Moore grinded for 38 yards on eight carries and scored the game's only touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter.
"As far as how we battled to the end, I'm proud of that," said Wise coach DaLawn Parrish, whose team is now 4-0. "We found a way to win. We faced adversity and we kept fighting until we won. But it was a sloppy win."
The numbers certainly wouldn't indicate a sloppy performance. Wise dominated the time of possession, controlled the line of scrimmage and ran almost 20 more offensive plays than the Raiders. They outgained the Roosevelt 275 yards to 147. They started drives in Roosevelt territory on four separate occasions.
Ironically, Wise's only touchdown came on their worst field position of the game - their own 20. Pumas quarterback DeAndre Smith, who threw just five passes all game, opened up the third quarter firing. Roosevelt's defense keyed in on receiver Trevon Butler -- who caught a 39-yard pass in the first half -- leaving safety-receiver Titus Till in single coverage in the slot. Till (6-3, 190) had several inches on cornerback Neal McDonald and was able to use his size to his advantage. Smith found Till down the seam and completed a 50-yard strike, the longest play of the game.
"I saw the ball and DeAndre Smith put it right in my hands," Till said. "I felt good, the crowd was pumping. I took a deep breath and felt like I could go right back again."
After the long pass play, the Pumas running game, led by Deontre Johnson (22 carries for 95 yards) and Moore, took over. With the ball at the Roosevelt 6, Moore negotiated the narrow space between the tackles and plowed into the end zone. Wise failed the two-point conversion, but the 6-0 lead mine as well have been 21-0 with the way the Pumas' defense was playing.
"I'm always pleased with the defense," Parris said. "We've been doing that for four years now. We score on defense, we gang tackle, we make plays."
Indeed, Wise's defense dominated from start to finish. Defensive tackle Anthony McDaniel, who recorded a sack, lived in the backfield. Moore and Charles Owens brought constant pressure and tracked down the running backs when they tried to speed around end. The Raiders can score a ton, but they never even got close to a field goal on Friday.
"Roosevelt averages 40 points a game and we held them to zero," Parrish said. "Great effort."
The Pumas got a major boost in their secondary when the Maryland-bound Till returned to the lineup. He missed the first three weeks with a broken scapula, which he suffered during August two-a-days.
"After the injury the doctor said, 'Did you get hit by a bus because that's a very hard bone to break?'" Till said. "I said, 'No, I didn't get hit by a bus, but I do hit like a bus.'"
Till broke into a wide grin, obviously pleased to be back on the field. He was in on seemingly every tackle, sneaking up to the line of scrimmage and flying to the ball carrier coming through the hole.
"It feels great to be back," Till said. "That first game against Suitland I felt like a caged animal. I worked as hard as I could to get where I'm at right now and show everybody what I can do."
Wise's defense played inspired, but the offense sputtered like a dying car. The Pumas fumbled four times, three of them by running back Jabril Baldwin. To make matters worse, Wise committed eight penalties for 60 yards, several of them coming in critical situations.
On Wise's first drive, they had the ball at midfield. Three plays later, Roosevelt's Ryan Stevens stripped Baldwin. On the Pumas next possession, an illegal procedure penalty ruined fantastic field position. Finally, on Wises' final drive before the half, they took the ball inside Roosevelt's 5-yard line. But then Baldwin fumbled again, keeping the game scoreless.
Wise took the lead in the third quarter, but they had several chances to add on. Late in the third, a holding penalty wiped out a big play. Then, in the fourth quarter, Baldwin fumbled for the final time after Wise took over on the Roosevelt 45.
"I was not pleased with my team's effort," Parrish said. "We turned the ball over too many times and it was unforced turnovers. It would be one thing if Roosevelt was creating turnovers, but they weren't. We were just dropping the ball in crucial situations.
"We were inside the 20 twice and didn't come home with any points," he continued. "We had a holding penalty, a delay of game, a turnover. Sloppy."
The only consolation? Roosevelt was worse. The Raiders couldn't get a push on Wise's stellar defensive line. Roosevelt tried to pound the middle with big fullback Cody Acker. He was stuffed. They tried to run stretch plays to star speedster Richard Aiyegoro, who wears black eye strips that read "playmaker." He wasn't a playmaker on Friday, gaining just 14 yards rushing on five carries. They tried to run their quarterback, Shawn Petty, on options. He managed a team high 38 yards on 14 carries. But Petty squandered Roosevelt's only foray into Wise territory by fumbling (a call that Roosevelt disputed).
Thus, Roosevelt relied on their punter. In hindsight, they should have went for every fourth down. Their kicker, Ryan Quigley, had a long day; he drew the ire of the coaching staff for shanking punts and giving Wise outstanding field position.
But the Roosevelt defense, combined with Wise's mistake-prone offense, kept the game close. Raiders coach Tom Green knew the score could have been much worse. He appreciated his team's effort.
"Our kids played hard," Green said. "Everyone in the area picked us to lose and we had a chance to win. We've definitely got some things we've got to tweak, but it's no big deal. We'll correct it. We'll be OK."
Roosevelt gave Wise a brief scare with 22 seconds left in the game. Petty, staring on his own 8-yard line, fired a 22-yard strike followed by a 19-yard bullet. The Raiders tried to set up one last Hail Mary, but the Pumas defense dropped Petty before he could get off a throw.
Petty completed 7-of-10 passes for 91 yards. Smith, his counterpart, was 3-for-5 for 92 yards.
"Their kids played hard and our kids played hard," Green said. "Emotionally, it was a tough game. But we'll play them again."
Before Roosevelt and Wise start thinking about the inevitable playoff rematch, they have regular season games to play. Roosevelt travels to DuVal next Saturday, while Wise puts their perfect record on the line at High Point next Friday night.