Damascus refocuses after 53-win streak ends, Hornets are primed for comeback season
DAMASCUS – A historic run came to an end for the Damascus Swarmin’ Hornets last season, a record streak that had eyes from all over on the small school in northern Montgomery County to see how far they would take it.
High school football fans had their answer in the playoffs: the 53-win streak was snapped by Oakdale High School in the 2018 2A regional final, the ending hopes of a fourth consecutive championship.
Before then, Damascus did not taste defeat since their loss against Franklin High School in the 2014 3A State Championships.
To the players, however, the streak was just an anomaly, a neat side effect of their continued dominance. The focus of the team was on the next team to beat, and the unlucky side pitted against them.
“It wasn’t a weight off us. Everyone else was hyping up the streak. There wasn’t any weight lifted off us,” said senior outside linebacker Timothy Furgeson.
The program has become synonymous with success, a county juggernaut that has proven itself to be a humbling reminder to teams in the state that they crossed paths against whom they were supreme.
The scoreboard at a Damascus game last season routinely featured numbers that one would typically be find on a game of Madden put on the lowest difficulty setting: 46-0 against Clarksburg, 47-0 against Poolesville, 56-8 against Wootton and so forth.
The last Montgomery County team to beat Damascus? Quince Orchard, in 2013.
This year, however, it does not look like Damascus has reached its peak and is now going on the decline. If anything, this Damascus side looks to be as strong if not stronger.
Damascus’ strength mimics the old adage “the best offense is a strong defense,” a saying that the school has followed to a religious degree. This defense kept teams to single digits in four games and shut out teams twice in last year’s regular season. The highest regular-season score last year from any team that faced them was 14 points, an achievement earned by Watkins Mill High School and Sherwood High School. Only Oakdale in the postseason was able to achieve more points against the former champions.
The defense’s poster boy is senior lineman Bryan Bresee, a Clemson University commit and No. 1 on multiple rankings, including the ESPN 300 Top Defensive Tackles list.
At 6-foot-5 and 280-pounds, Bresee is one of the largest members of the defense and institutes an opposing presence against county teams. Senior wide receiver Preston Murray pointed out Bresee as one of the key members of the defense that will make it remain the powerhouse it is.
“I feel like our defense this year, it’s going to be the best it’s been,” said Murray.
Junior center Ryan Linthicum is returning to Damascus’ defense, a strong player who placed tenth in ESPN’s 300 Top Maryland recruits of 2021 and has received interest from programs such as LSU, Clemson and Florida State. Meanwhile, his teammate, Furgeson is committed to play for Villanova.
The defense is packed with veteran leadership and seniors coming out for their last year and one more shot for a title run with this storied team.
“I definitely think we can have the best defense in the state,” said Furgeson.
The secret to this defense is up for debate. Some will say it’s the play style, or the coaches or the strong football culture in the area that has fostered a generation of great players, among other reasons. Senior middle linebacker Aiden Beall answers it simply: it is effort.
“It’s just hard work, we have to be there for each other and make each other better, there’s no day wasted. It’s just hard work and dedication,” said Beall.
As one of the returning veterans and a four-year varsity player, Beall has become one of the leaders of the defensive line. He describes himself as the quarterback of the defense, encouraging his teammates on the line and ensuring they adhere to the plays.
Offensively, the team is looking for its next breakthrough player, a gamechanger who is ready to supplement the strong defense. Last year it was star running back TD Ayo-Durojaiye, who is now at Villanova. Ayo-Durojaiye had 989 rushing yards and 139 receiving yards in his final season.
“We might incorporate more throwing, hopefully for me because I’m a receiver,” said Murray. He spent his sophomore year injured, coming back his junior year to play a part in the Damascus offense that scored with abandon and was frequently targeted last year by quarterback Diego Mendez.
After having such an extended stint at the top of the Maryland and Montgomery County football ranks, Damascus was bound to fall eventually.
There is no question that Damascus will come back to terrify football programs this season, as history has shown that Damascus at its worst is still one of the best.
“I’m trying to pass down the tradition of Damascus being successful and being a great team, passing down leadership and hoping the younger kids follow that,” said Beall.
Damascus will have to forfeit the first game of the year after it held an illegal offseason practice in May. For the first time since 2016, they will face 2018 4A State Champions Quince Orchard on Sept. 13.