ROCKVILLE – The Damascus High School football program will have to forfeit the first game of the season after it held an illegal offseason practice last month.
According to a letter sent by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Athletic Director Jeffrey K. Sullivan, which was obtained by The Sentinel, returning players and coaches participated in an out-of-season practice on May 19.
“The practice occurred during a restricted period, in which there are parameters in place regarding the number of returning players and the ability of coaches to coach teams outside the confines of the official season,” Sullivan wrote in the letter.
Under Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) rules, teams are not allowed to practice “beyond the parameters of the sports season,” which begins on the first day of practice and ends at the state championships. The minimum penalty for any violation is a forfeit, as well as possible sanctions against the players and coaches involved.
According to MPSSAA spokesman Sam Foley, local school systems conduct investigations when violations are reported and determine whether are not they occurred. Following an investigation by MCPS, both the Swarmin’ Hornets varsity and junior varsity teams will have to forfeit their first game of the season against Rockville High School as punishment.
The forfeit will count as a loss, which would be the first regular season loss for the Damascus varsity team since they lost to Quince Orchard High School in 2013. As of press time, no sanctions against individual players and coaches have been announced.
“We monitor all schools to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” MCPS Public Information Officer Derek Turner said. “Damascus is under probationary oversight, so we’ll keep an eye on that. We don’t anticipate another practice of that nature at this time.”
A meeting was held on June 12 at Damascus High School to inform players of the violations in person, Turner said. Varsity football coach Eric Wallich could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts by The Sentinel to contact him, and the new athletic director, Clifford Elgin, said he could not answer any questions until he officially takes over the position on July 1.
While the MPSSAA does not have a list of illegal practices that have occurred in the past, Foley said the last team punished was the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute’s boys basketball team, which forfeited the first game of the 2018-2019 season after holding an illegal practice last summer.
This is just the latest incident for a program that is still reeling from an Oct. 31 incident in which four JV players were allegedly sexually assaulted by their teammates in the locker room. The four players faced charges of first-degree rape, attempting to commit rape and conspiracy to commit rape. After initially being charged as adults, the cases of all four suspects have been moved to juvenile court.
MCPS investigated the incident for nearly two months, and found that coaches were not present during the period of 2:50 and 3:15 p.m., when the players were allegedly sodomized with a broomstick. Principal Casey Crouse resigned on May 7, and Athletic Director Joe Doody and JV Football Coach Vince Colbert were relieved of their positions on May 14.
Elgin moved from Clarksburg High School to become the new athletic director, while Julius West Middle School principal intern Kevin Yates served as interim principal for the remainder of the 2018-2019 academic year. A new JV football coach has not been announced.
The program will also have probationary oversight for the entire 2019-2020 school year, which means it may be monitored more closely than other schools, Turner said.