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”.
 

Two of Maryland's finest - Wise and Northwest - clash in the Maryland 4A Championship

Two of Maryland's finest - Wise and Northwest - clash in the Maryland 4A Championship

Wise and Northwest enter Friday’s championship game as two of the most successful Maryland public schools in recent years. They’ve combined to win six of the last seven Maryland 4A championships and on Friday they will meet to determine who wins the last of the decade.

In 2019 the Jags and Pumas successfully navigated through the 4A division, and although they’ve reached the same point, they’ve taken vastly different paths to get here.

Like a shiny new sports car, Wise (13-0) has zoomed past their competition, winning by an average margin of 42 points per game. Not only did they cruise through the regular season, but the Pumas have pounced on their last two playoff opponents, notching victories of 35-6 and 44-0, respectively. Wise is undefeated and for the most part unchallenged, which has caused some to question if Northwest (12-1) is the more battle-tested of the two teams,

“I don’t buy into that,” Wise coach Dalawn Parrish said. “We prepare situationally in practice. If you make your practice hellacious enough then your kids will be prepared for certain situations. We play the same teams we play every year. [Northwest] play teams from Montgomery County, we play teams from [Prince George].”

To the Pumas' credit, their strength schedule, or lack thereof did not seem to hinder them in previous campaigns. They’d won the Maryland state championship three years in a row before seeing that streak snapped last season. They’ve used that defeat as a driving force to get back to this point.

“Last year we lost to Quince Orchard in the semi-finals and that hurt— that hurt us bad,” Parrish said. “Our kids set out on a mission to make sure they’d never feel that way again. They committed to one another over the summer — working out, lifting weights, running and being together. This team has turned into a true family and they’re committed to sacrificing themselves to win”.

If the Pumas are an untouched two-seater, the Jags are more akin to an armored truck. At times they’ve been beaten, bruised and even fallen under attack, but through it all, they’ve been seemingly indestructible. They’ve had their share of blowouts, but they’ve also won close games, they’ve won with their defense, they’ve even tasted defeat, only to come back and exact revenge. The Jags have proven to be a team who can find a way to win no matter the situation, a quality Mike Neubeiser attributes to Northwest’s leadership and his student-athletes' commitment to the program.

“The kids really in with a new level of dedication this summer,” Neubiser, “We added two new coaches, Chris Samuels on offense and Bucky Clipper on defense. Together we developed a really sound system and the kids have been willing to work hard to win”.

Few outside of the Jags locker room expected Northwest to defeat Quince Orchard last week and potentially even less have picked them versus Wise. The slights don’t bother the Jags though, in fact they’ve used the them as gas for their championship run.

“Its motivation for our kids,” Neubeiser said. “For anyone to say, ‘you're not as good as the opponent’, it kind of motivates you—makes you want to prove that you are. Being the underdog again this week, where everyone says Wise is the ‘unbeatable team’ is motivating in itself. Not too many people are counting on us to win and I think that helps fuel the fire”.

If Wise is the favorite, they’ve gotten here by placing the goals of the team over any individual accolades. Despite having top-end recruits such as Jalil Farooq and Dorian Strong, the Pumas pride themselves on their ability to spread the ball around,

“We don’t have anybody with 1,000 rushing yards. We don’t have anybody with 1,000 receiving yards," Parrish said. “But what we do have is a collective of 2,200 rushing yards and a collective of 1,800 receiving yards. We are committed to sacrificing ourselves in order to achieve the goal of winning a championship.”

Northwest knows they don’t want to get into a shootout with the Pumas. Their plan for coming away victorious rests on their defense's ability to slow the Pumas attack.

“They are absolutely loaded [on offense],” Neubeiser said. “They do like to throw the ball around, but to beat them, you have to stop the run game. For us its about being fundamentally sound. Trying to get a rush and trying to get the quarterback a little uncomfortable. We have to establish the run ourselves to keep their offense off the field.”

The flash of the Pumas versus the grit of the Jags— two great programs with two very different styles. On Friday night, only one will walk away as the Maryland 4A champion.

MORE HIGH SCHOOL NEWS:

DMV Girls basketball Top 20 rankings: Riverdale, New Hope lead list

DMV Girls basketball Top 20 rankings: Riverdale, New Hope lead list

With the emergence of Riverdale Baptist Crusaders taking down the top team in the country New Hope Academy, Riverdale has earned the top spot of this week’s NBC Sports Washington High School basketball rankings.

Their trio of guards Elizabeth Martino, Kayla Ivey, and Synia Johnson have outscored teams with their fast-pace scoring ability.

Last week at the Cobra United Tip-Off, the McNamara Lady Mustangs beat St. Vincent Pallotti and lost to Hamilton Heights (TN). Bishop Ireton defeated St. John’s (NY), Kennedy Clifton led the charge with 22 points followed by Reniya Jones' 13 points, but their team was defeated by Hamilton Heights (TN). In the Sidwell Friends home opener, the Quakers took down St. Andrews with Kiki Rice scoring a career-high 37 points 

Here is the inaugural NBC Sports Washington Top 20 for DMV women's basketball: 

1.     Riverdale

2.     New Hope Academy

3.     McNamara

4.     St. John’s

5.     Sidwell Friends

6.     Bishop Ireton

7.     St. Vincent Pallotti

8.     Edison

9.     Maret

10.  Georgetown Visitation

11.  PVI

12.  National Christian Academy

13.  CH Flowers

14.  Bishop J. O’Connell 

15.  St. James

16.  Good Counsel

17.  Frederick Douglass

18.  River Hill

19.  Howard

20.  Sandy Springs