High School

Damascus Defeats Linganore for MPSSAA 3A Championship

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Chad Ricardo

Damascus Defeats Linganore for MPSSAA 3A Championship

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”.
 

Kevin Durant MLK Classic aims to provide athletes unique experience

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Chad Ricardo/NBC Sports Washington

Kevin Durant MLK Classic aims to provide athletes unique experience

Maryland native Kevin Durant aims to bring culture to the basketball court with the Kevin Durant MLK Classic.

More than a traditional basketball tournament, the classic hopes to provide student athletes with a unique community engagement and education experience in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Top high schools from the DMV and beyond will compete on the court Saturday and Monday at The St. James in Springfield, Va., while spending Sunday touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” address in 1963. The schedule allows for student athletes to walk away with more than participation trophies.

“Most basketball events you leave with ‘W’s’ and ‘L’s,’ but we wanted them to leave with more than that,” said Durant’s father and event organizer, Wayne Pratt. “When you think about Dr. King, you think about access, you think about legacy, you think about his fight for equality. These things have always been important to Kevin, and we wanted to make sure the students could take some of these principles with them.”

Durant starred locally at National Christian Academy and Montrose Christian before becoming the first freshman to be named Naismith College Player of the Year at the University of Texas. As a professional in the NBA, he has won an MVP award and is a two-time champion. According to Pratt, doors were opened for Durant as a youth and he hopes to do the same.

“It took a village for Kevin to get to where he is. So many people have given to him and he just wants to give back in any way he can,” said Pratt. “He started off with The Durant Center, and then he built courts all over the world and now he wants to do an event for the kids here at home that also pays homage to one of the greatest African-Americans that ever lived.”

The MLK weekend event will see teams traveling from as far as Canada to compete with local talent from Archbishop Carroll, Bullis, Wilson and Rock Creek Christian Academy.

Gonzaga QB Caleb Williams commits to play in 2021 All-American Bowl

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Chad Ricardo/NBC Sports Washington

Gonzaga QB Caleb Williams commits to play in 2021 All-American Bowl

Gonzaga quarterback Caleb Williams has committed to play in the 2021 All-American Bowl.

Williams, a 5-star recruit, is largely considered the No. 1 ranked dual-threat QB in the nation. The 2018-19 Gatorade State Player of the Year (D.C.) is no stranger to big games. He led Gonzaga to the WCAC championship game as a freshman before helping the Eagles win the title as a sophomore. He’s had his eyes set on testing his talents in the bowl for some time now.

“I’ve always watched the game,” said Williams. “I always saw people like Trevor [Lawrence]. I always watched the highlights -- like Adrian Peterson being there -- so being able to join that family means a lot.”

Williams and his father attended the lead-up to the 2020 All-American Bowl earlier this month, where he had the opportunity to meet current and future participants. While there, he witnessed fellow DMV 5-star standout Bryan Bresee be honored as the national defensive student athlete of the year. Williams and others in his class then took in the game and all of its festivities from field-level. With the option of committing to play in any of the major all-star events, Williams chose the All-American Bowl because he feels participants were able to separate themselves from the competition.

“I chose the All-American Bowl because NBC and Adidas provided a stellar experience when I showed up.” said Williams. “Both sides were real professional, and I want to be a part of that.”

Williams was chosen for the game by the All-American Bowl selection committee and 247Sports. Only 100 of the top student athletes nationally will have such an opportunity. But for Williams, playing in the game has a meaning that stretches far past the white lines that outline even the largest of stadiums. He hopes his accomplishments affect more than just the game -- he wants to help the next wave of student athletes here at home.

“I believe success opens up doors for others and that’s really all I’m here for,” said Williams. “I’m here to have a successful career and open up doors for other kids in the DMV, because we don’t get as much credit as we really should.”

The twenty-first edition of the All-American Bowl will be played on January 2, 2021 in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.