With his young men huddled tightly around him in a now nearly vacant stadium, a visibly emotional Eric Wallich shook his head and placed his face in his hands. As the Swarmin’ Hornets head coach struggled to find words, many of his student-athletes echoed cries of encouragement, “We love you, coach”.
Wallich took a deep breath, pulled his winter hat down over his ears and meekly said, “I just love y’all man. Thank you,” At the sound of his words his team roared with applause, jumping to their feet to embrace their leader.
Damascus dominated Linganore by a final score of 38-0 Thursday night en route to capturing their fourth state championship in the last five years. For Damascus, this one was special.
The Swarmin’ Hornets endured a tumultuous 2018: not only did they lose to Oakdale in the playoffs, their program also fought against allegations of wrongdoings. The victory Thursday night was about more than just winning the 3A state title, it was a moment of redemption for Wallich and the entire DMass family,
If the Swarmin’ Hornets set out to send a message, they did so loud and clear. Clemson-commit Bryan Bresee capped off a first-quarter Damascus drive with a rushing touchdown. When Michael O’Neil connected with Isiah Bell in the 2nd for a 17-0 lead, the final outcome was all but decided.
“After losing to Oakdale last year, we just had the urgency to come back,” said O’Neil. “We had to rebound form our loss last year. Everyone worked great in the offseason and this was our goal all along, to come here, play tough and win”.
With seconds remaining before the half, O’Neil found Malek Sabri open in the flats for his second touchdown pass. He then opened the third quarter with a touchdown run, extending the DMass lead to 31-0.
“He’s been great all year,” said Wallich. “He’s a three-year starter for us. We haven’t traditionally been a throwing team, but he’s gotten better and better each week and he saved his best football for the end of the year”.
Damascus’ defense smothered Linganore. DMass forced multiple turnovers consistently setting their offense up on short fields, while the Lancers struggled to move the ball at all.
“Our defense has been lights out all year, and tonight was no exception,” said Wallich, “We were able to stop their running game, which they rely heavily upon so we thought they’d have to try some trick plays and I thought our defense did a great job as they have all year long. They’ve been a dominant defense, probably the best I’ve ever coached."
That defense was anchored by Bresee, who despite playing with a broken hand was a force to be reckoned with and consistent presence in the Linganore backfield,
“He’s the most dominant player I’ve ever seen and I’ve been coaching 20-something years," said Wallich. “He’s incredible and it was just amazing watching him every day in practice and now I can’t wait to watch what happens in his future. I’m just fortunate that I got to coach him."
Thursday night's results were a long time coming for Damascus. The hunger to erase the disappointment of 2018 had been omnipresent all season long but instead of allowing it to drag them down, Damascus used it to get back to the top,
“[It started] in the offseason workouts,” said Bresee. “You could tell everyone was pushing each other. Everyone was holding each other accountable. The whole team was just a really tight-knit group and everybody had each others back and I think that's why we were so special”.