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Wise Football has Pipeline to West Virginia

Three former players ready to begin practice next month at Division II Shepherd.

De'Ontre Johnson, Andre Makell and Trevon Butler did not plan on all of them attending a Division II school in West Virginia.

But that is what happened. The trio of Wise High School graduates will be redshirt freshmen this season for the football team at Shepherd, a Division II power that has recruited heavily in the Washington, D.C., area for several years.

Johnson, who went to James Madison Middle School in Upper Marlboro, played two years of varsity football at Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School.

After high school he looked at Salisbury, Morgan State, Bowie State, West Virginia Wesleyan and Towson before accepting a partial athletic scholarship to Shepherd, in the panhandle of West Virginia.

"They have a good football program and I like the small campus," Johnson told Patch on Monday.

A sports marketing major, Johnson said he was the first of the three to commit to Shepherd. "I got the offer first from Shepherd," said Johnson, who added that Butler, then Makell decided to attend the school.

Johnson is a 5-foot-9 outside linebacker, Butler is a 6-foot wide receiver and Makell is a 5-10 defensive back.

For good measure the pre-season roster includes William McKenzie (Frederick Douglass), a redshirt freshman wide receiver this year, who like the Wise trio, is a resident of Upper Marlboro.

"The atmosphere is good. It is a small school and I like the atmosphere," McKenzie told Patch on Tuesday.

He also looked into attending William and Mary in Virginia and Monmouth in New Jersey before deciding on Shepherd. A former student at James Madison Middle, he also ran track and played basketball at Douglass. McKenzie said he hopes to see action on special teams and at wideout this season for Shepherd.

Johnson began playing youth football with the Marlboro Mustangs when he was about 7. He went to elementary school at Patuxent in Upper Marlboro and then played running back and linebacker at Wise High.

Did he consider trying to play offense in college? "I like defense more. I like to hit people," said Johnson, who believes he has a good chance of playing this season.

Last year, Shepherd won its first nine games and ended the season 12-2 overall after a 29-17 loss in its last game, to No. 21 Delta State in the Division II national semifinals in Mississippi.

This year, Shepherd will open the season at home Sept. 3 against Shippensburg (PA) University.

The Rams will also play Bowie State this season, at home on Oct. 29 against the Bulldogs in West Virginia. "Our team is still young. We have to keep working hard," Johnson said.

The Rams are slated to begin practice Aug. 13, he said.

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