The Broadneck High School football team has reached the Class 4A state title game on only one occasion, but through the first half of Saturday’s state semifinal at Henry Wise,  it looked as though the Bruins were about to make a second trip to the finals. But the senior-laden and No. 3 Bruins were unable to match the Pumas’ power running game in the second half, falling, 14-7, on a cool, sunny, windy day in Upper Marlboro.

Broadneck (10-3) had reached the state semifinals by posting road victories at Old Mill and Arundel, avenging previous losses to those squads in the East Region playoffs. The Bruins started the game in fine fashion on Saturday, but two turnovers would eventually prove their undoing.

Senior quarterback James Mullis, a Stevenson University recruit for lacrosse, fumbled at the Pumas’ 15-yard line ending one drive and then his intended pass for Ryan Terribile was intercepted by Wise defensive end Victor Tabbs and returned five yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

“We knew it was going to be a close, physical game,” Mullis said. “We started with a good drive but then we couldn’t punch it in. On the next drive I tried to throw that screen and their defender made a nice play on the ball.

“That was big, but we came right back and scored before halftime and we were up 7-6. I thought we were in good shape. But again during the second half we couldn’t get anything going and their guys made the plays. We have 36 seniors on this team who fought through a lot of adversity and played hard just to get here.”

Wise (12-1) earned its second consecutive trip to the 4A finals at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Friday evening, the Pumas will face undefeated Urbana (12-0), which defeated Gaithersburg, 37-6, Friday evening in the other 4A semifinal.

Wise reached last year’s state title game by beating Thomas Johnson before falling 17-16 to Old Mill.

Saturday’s contest started well for Broadneck which moved the ball effectively on its first two possessions and reached the Pumas’ red
zone late in the first quarter with a chance to claim the early lead, but Mullis fumbled on a keeper after reaching the Wise 15-yard line where Rayshaud Shields recovered. That turnover cost the Bruins a chance to get on the board and the next one proved even more costly.

Broadneck started the second quarter deep in its own territory following a long punt by DeAndre Smith and the Bruins were further set back by a holding penalty. Facing third and 14 from his own 10-yard line, Mullis attempted to hit Ryan Terribile on a screen pass, but senior defensive end Victor Tabbs made a juggling interception and returned the ball two yards for a touchdown to give the hosts a 6-0 lead after the two-point run attempt failed.

Broadneck countered late in the first half by marching 49 yards in nine plays and found the end zone when Mullis scored from 10 yards out on a keeper. Adam Greene added the extra point to give the visitors a 7-6 lead at the intermission. Mullis completed a 15-yard pass to Trae Byes on that drive, his only completion of the afternoon.

On each of their first two drives of the second half, the Bruins crossed midfield primarily on quick-hitters from senior running back Grant Harris and keepers by Mullis. But each time the Bruins got to the Pumas’ 40, they were halted by penalties and forced to punt. 

Late in the third quarter the Wise ground game came to life. Bethea carried four times for 36 yards and then Jamal Jones went off left tackle and escaped the last potential Bruins’ tackler and scampered 23 yards for a touchdown. Bethea then added the two-point conversion to give the Pumas a 14-7 lead with 2:30 left in the third following the seven-play, 79-yard drive.

“At halftime coach [Parrish] kept telling us to be patient,” Jones said. “Uriah had some really good runs in the second half and I got a chance and just took it in. Our o-line did a great job. They just kept wearing out their defense and we finally got some running lanes. We had a lot more holes in the second half.”

Having squandered one good scoring chance early and then yielding the first touchdown on a turnover and finally surrendering the lead on Jones’ run, Broadneck had its back against the wall during much of the fourth quarter. The Bruins were never able to get past midfield in the fourth quarter and their defense, which had held the Pumas’ ground game in check through the first half, was unable to prevent Bethea from gaining two key first downs in the last two minutes.

“I thought we played really well in the first half,” said Broadneck coach Jeff Herrick. “We did a good job stopping their main back [Bethea]. He’s a 1,500-yard back, so you know he’s going to keep getting the ball. In the second half, they started getting holes on their off tackle runs.

“When that happens you’re in trouble. I’m not sure what they did. I won’t know until I look at the film, but these guys battled all season. I’m losing 34 seniors and they all played well for me.”

Wise also had two chances to put Broadneck away in the fourth quarter. Kevin Staton connected with Ryan Smith for 47 yards on a halfback option to reach the Bruins’ 13-yard-line, but the Broadneck defense stiffened and kept Wise from getting a first down. Wise then started its next drive in Broadneck territory and Uriah Bethea ran for 36 yards on first down to set up a first and goal at the Bruins’ seven. But on the next play, Broadneck’s Damian Cromwell intercepted a pass by Wise quarterback DeAndre Smith.

The Broadneck defense may have kept the team’s slim hopes alive, but the Bruins’ offense was unable to generate anything against a stiff Wise defense. After crossing midfield twice in the third quarter, Broadneck did not have a single snap outside of its own 25-yard line in the fourth quarter and the Bruins managed only one first down and netted only 19 yards of offense in the final 12 minutes.