ROCKVILLE – Before the Damascus High School football team took on Magruder High School on Sept. 20, the Swarmin’ Hornets were facing the possibility of starting the season 0-3 as they traveled to Rockville to play against a Colonels side who earned two wins to open the year.
However, Damascus showed that they still have the firepower to dominate an opponent as their defense punished Magruder’s offensive line while their offense ran through every hole they could exploit. The Swarmin’ Hornets earned a key road win, defeating Magruder 48-7 for their first win of the season.
“That’s one of the toughest teams to prepare for because you can’t double team one of the best players in the country cause you got five other ones that are right up there with him,” said Magruder Head Coach Ray Fowle. “You got to do what you can do, and you got to execute what you can execute.”
For Damascus, the win was a wake-up call to their remaining teams on their schedule. The high-scoring team of yesteryear was still here; their defense still as effective as ever. After forfeiting their first game and losing to reigning state champs Quince Orchard, Damascus had to get back into the groove of things.
It did not take long at all for Damascus to show their dominance against Magruder. In the first three minutes, Damascus running back Chris Shaw ran the ball for 34 yards for a touchdown. Moments later, Shaw returned a punt to double the score, then followed it up with another touchdown; this one just a short rush into the end zone.
In a single quarter, Shaw scored 18 points, cementing his performance as one of the integral parts of the Damascus offense that night. Kicker Junior Baires went 3-for-3 on extra-point attempts in the first quarter as well.
“I always like to say thank you to my line. I have one of the best lines in the league that I can ask for,” said Shaw. “Big bodies on the line that help me get the yards that I need, the touchdowns that I need.”
The offensive and defensive line was the focal point of Damascus. Magruder quarterback Jordan Peterwas was flummoxed by a mobile defense, which passed by his offensive line and forced him to backpedal and risk losing yardage, while Magruder’s defense had trouble bringing down some of Damascus’ players.
“Our chemistry’s been building really good after our big loss last year. We came together this year and decided we all have to be leaders; we all have to work,” said linebacker Ryan Linthicum.
Wide receiver Preston Murray broke Shaw’s consecutive scoring streak in the game with a touchdown of his own when he caught a pass from quarterback Michael O’Neil steps away from the endzone and walked in for the score.
Hope was not lost for Magruder, even with a 28-point lead staring them in the face. They drove from their own 40 to inside Damascus’ 10-yard line, in one of their clearest shots at scoring. But they were stopped at the nine-yard line and turned it over on downs.
Shaw scored his final touchdown in the third quarter, evading Magruder defenders and rushing for over 50 yards to score.
O’Neil was subbed off for veteran quarterback Diego Mendez after a second-quarter performance that saw him turn over the ball on downs because of four straight incomplete passes.
“Chris, he can always run the ball; he can always find an open hole. He’s quick, can cut really good, just an all-around really good player,” said O’Neil.
The defense even got some points as well, as linebacker Dillon Dunathan intercepted a pass by Peterwas and ran it home for six points in the third quarter.
Numi Ayo-Durojaiye scored the last touchdown for Damascus in the fourth quarter, a straightforward pass that reached him in the end zone.
Magruder running back Jeremiah Baxter scored their sole touchdown of the game, and in style with a 84-yard run. Followed by a successful extra-point kick, it saw Magruder put up a parting shot before the game ended.
Fowle and his team knew they were not going up against an easy team; they had the mentality of doing the best that they could against a program that many in the county have accepted as one of the best.
After the loss, Fowle advised his Magruder players to not let the loss loom over them moving forward.
Damascus will look to continue their winning ways as they take on Einstein High School while Magruder travels to face Rockville High School. Both games take place on Sept. 27.