By Brandy L. Simms
DAMASCUS – Perfection.
In the history of Damascus High School football, only two head coaches have guided the Swarmin’ Hornets to a perfect season.
During the 2005 campaign, the late Dan Makosy led the program to a 14-0 record that culminated with a 4A state championship.
Eric Wallich, who took over the Damascus football program in 2008, has guided the Swarmin’ Hornets to a perfect 14-0 record in each of the past three seasons.
Wallich, who played at Damascus for the late Al Thomas, is the football program’s most successful head coach. He’s won more games at Damascus than anyone including Thomas, a coaching legend.
“I think we can beat anybody,” said Wallich, “but we have to clean up a lot of things.”
Damascus, who hosts Oakdale this weekend in the 2A West Region Final, is just three wins away from capturing the program’s fourth consecutive state championship.
“This team is so young,” said Wallich, “there’s literally only like two seniors starting right now on this team. There’s a lot more mistakes than the last couple of teams but there’s a lot of talent too.”
Damascus currently holds the national record for the most consecutive wins and recently set the state’s all-time winning streak record, surpassing Urbana who held the mark from 1998-2001.
“I think it’s awesome and it’s great for the state of Maryland,” said first-year Bethesda-Chevy Chase head coach Ben Minturn, a former Damascus defensive back who played on two state championship football teams during his tenure as a Swarmin’ Hornet. “I hope they keep rolling.”
Minturn, who played collegiately at Shepherd, has tried to instill the Damascus culture of championship football at Bethesda-Chevy Chase.
“We’re trying to keep the same culture or start to develop the culture that we had there and it starts with getting them young and having kids play four years at least in high school and then working through the youth program once we get something established here,” said Minturn, who guided Bethesda-Chevy Chase to a 1-9 record this year.
The last time Damascus lost a game was in 2014 when the Swarmin’ Hornets suffered a 35-21 setback to Franklin in the Maryland 3A state championship game.
Damascus held a 14-point halftime advantage but squandered the lead in the second half as Franklin scored five unanswered touchdowns en route to the championship.
Damascus senior TD Ayo-Durojaiye, a freshman at the time, was a junior varsity standout who was brought up to varsity that season and started at running back and outside linebacker against Franklin.
“I remember that being the most competitive game ever,” said Ayo-Durojaiye. “Came down to who made the least amount of mistakes and who wanted it more.”
The following year, Damascus returned to the state championship game and defeated Dundalk at M&T Bank Stadium, 55-14.
University of Maryland running back Jake Funk, a two-time All-Sentinel Player of the Year, scored seven touchdowns against Dundalk.
Former All-Sentinel Player of the Year Markus Vinson has also been part of the Damascus winning streak. He helped lead the Swarmin’ Hornets to a pair of state championships before migrating to the University of Richmond.
Damascus clinched the program’s 53rd consecutive win last week with a victory over Century. The Swarmin’ Hornets dominated the game with an outstanding performance from Ayo-Durojaiye who rushed for 161 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Damascus quarterback Michael O’Neil and running back Chris Shaw were also instrumental in the win. Defensively, the Swarmin’ Hornets received strong performances from junior defensive end Bryan Bresee and sophomore defensive tackle Ryan Linthicum.
“Nothing surprised us,” said Century head coach Todd Edmondson. “We watched film and we knew what they were going to do. We tried to put together a game plan and let them try to stop it. All hats off to them. They’ve been building this thing for years.”
Ayo-Durojaiye, a highly-regarded college prospect, has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and scored 22 touchdowns for the Swarmin’ Hornets this season.
In the regular season finale, Damascus was led by their starters who guided the Swarmin’ Hornets to a 56-8 win over Wootton.
“They got a good running back in TD Ayo-Durojaiye and Bryan Bresee is a force,” said Wootton senior quarterback Noelly Miller, who earned All-Sentinel honors at wide receiver last season. “They’re just really well-coached.”
Wallich’s coaching staff includes assistants Bucky Clipper, Gregg Frazier, Jimmy Westbrooks, Rich Noland, Kevin Tehaan, Bill Burns and Connor Frazier.
Damascus has outscored its opponents 431-84 this season and dominated in all phases of the game.
“We’re trying to bring more balance since we’ve always been such a run-oriented team,” said Wallich. “We’re trying to leave no stone unturned; special teams, defense, offense.”
Damascus public address announcer Mark Schnurr and his spotter, Troy Wentzlaff, have watched history in the making. The pair has worked the Damascus home football games together during the consecutive win streak and enjoyed a bird’s-eye view from the press box.
Both agreed that the close-knit Damascus community including the Damascus Sports Association youth football league has played a big part in the varsity football program’s success on the gridiron.
“They’ve been playing together for 10-12 years,” said Schnurr. “They all know each other. They all care about each other. Great families. They’re disciplined. They’re tough. They have a lot of heart and they’re successful and they all want to be just as successful as the guys in front of them and they dream about it when they’re little kids.”