By Eva Paspalis
DAMASCUS — It took 17 years for a Maryland high-school football team to break the all-time winning streak record set by the Urbana Hawks back in 2001.
Friday, during Senior Night and the final regular season home game of the season, the Damascus Swarmin’ Hornets dethroned Urbana to take their place in the history books by setting a new state record of 51 consecutive wins.
Fittingly, the Hornets’ 51st win came against their archrivals, the Seneca Valley Screamin’ Eagles (1-8), by a score of 21-6 in a game marred by multiple Damascus penalties and punctuated by a heavy, driving rain.
Damascus also owns the longest-winning streak in the nation after beating the Walter Johnson Wildcats last week. The Hornets sit one game ahead of a Minnesota team called the Caledonia Warriors.
“I’m super-happy about it but kind of just relieved that it’s over,” said Damascus head coach Eric Wallich about his team’s history-making win. “It was a pretty ugly game: the weather, the way we played, everything about it. You take it and you soak it in later.”
Wallich said he tried to keep his players from focusing solely on the streak.
“We had to get through some pretty good teams before we could even start thinking about it,” he said. “I really tried to guard our team from talking about it because that’s not the goal. That’s part of our journey along the way.”
The injury-riddled Hornets were missing several key players when they took the field against the Eagles. Starting running back TD Ayo-Durojaiye didn’t play for the second week in a row after suffering an ankle injury against Watkins Mill. Defensive lineman Bryan Bresee also didn’t suit up, and starting quarterback Michael O’Neil didn’t see action until the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, sophomore running back Chris Shaw and senior Dontay Roland led the charge in Ayo-Durojaiye’s absence. Shaw evaded a tackle and stumbled into the end zone for a 12-yard score in the second quarter. Roland took advantage of the extra 15 yards from a roughing-the-passer call on Seneca Valley and burst loose for the remaining 48 yards to paydirt in the fourth quarter.
However, the game wasn’t the usual high-scoring, dominant affair that has become Damascus’ trademark.
The Eagles defense held the Hornets three times on fourth down in the first half alone. Seneca Valley quarterback Don Coleman read the Damascus defense and escaped for long runs on several occasions. In fact, Coleman spared his team from a shutout when he earned Seneca Valley’s only score of the evening from 20 yards out. Two Damascus penalties were called on a pair of two-point conversion attempts before a fumble on the third attempt kept the Eagles from adding the extra points on the board.
In addition to the heavy rain falling on the field, yellow penalty flags flew on a regular basis, usually called on the Hornets. For the second week in a row, Damascus lost huge chunks of yardage to silly penalties.
“I think just the youth and inexperience of some of these players…I think kids are trying to be aggressive, but they’re not doing it in a smart way,” said Wallich. “There’s a difference between blocking your guy hard and being aggressive away from the play. This is something that we’ve been talking about all season, but we’ve been making the same mistakes.”
These mistakes will have to be rectified before the playoffs if the Hornets hope to contend for their ultimate goal: their fourth state championship in a row.
Next week, Damascus will close out the regular season against the Wootton Patriots, and the Eagles are set to face the Wheaton Knights.
Due to the deteriorating conditions at the end of the game, Seneca Valley coaches and players were unavailable for comment.