DAMASCUS – Brian Bresee is considered to be one of the top defensive linemen in the nation. But when the Damascus High School football team faced a fourth-and-four against Franklin High School on Nov. 22 with a little over a minute remaining, the Swarmin’ Hornets decided it was time to have some fun, so they called Bresee’s number on offense, allowing him to show off his athleticism.
On the following play, the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Bresee rumbled through the heart of the Indians’ defense, breaking a tackle attempt and dragging several Franklin defenders on his way to a 24-yard touchdown that sealed the 30-13 win in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 3A state quarterfinals. The senior was quickly mobbed by his teammates after he scored the game-clinching touchdown.
“I told our coach I’d get four yards,” Bresee said while laughing. “I don’t even know what happened; I just kept running.”
That final touchdown was the perfect exclamation point for what was a thrilling contest between two of the elite 3A programs in the state.
Damascus (10-2) started strong and attacked Franklin in a variety of ways. In the first half, their offense relied on a powerful ground game and the strength of their big offensive line. This included a nine-play drive that began on their 7-yard line and ended with a touchdown by running back Chris Shaw.
They also put big-play capability on display as well in the second half; on the very first play after halftime, Shaw needed just one play to rush 82 yards untouched to the end zone for his second touchdown of the game.
“I give kudos to our o-line; they worked their ass off this whole week (in practice),” Damascus quarterback Michael O’Neil said. “They did their job, they knew their assignments and they knew who to block. Tonight was all about the offensive line and the running backs.”
The Swarmin’ Hornets defense also came up with big plays as well. Bresee made his share of plays and disrupted the Franklin offense throughout, but other guys stepped up as well.
Early in the second quarter, as Franklin drove down the field down by two points after a safety, Damascus forced a fumble at the 7-yard line. Their defensive backs finished with two interceptions, one of which was returned 80 yards for a touchdown by senior Austin Ambush.
“I feel like we came out flat,” said Franklin senior receiver Mekai Felton. “We didn’t make the plays we needed to and weren’t executing.”
“We had a great week of practice and we really prepared for this game,” said Bresee. “We knew Franklin was a great team, and I think everyone was really on point with everything we had to do in practice and it really showed out here tonight.”
Trailing 23-0 late in the third quarter, Franklin finally woke up as defensive back Deon Houston stepped in front of an O’Neil pass for interaction and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown to put the Indians on the board.
“Overall I think the defense did a solid job, but we had too many busted plays,” Houston said. “They had a lot of third-down conversions and we just let them hold onto the ball too long; we can’t allow that.”
In the fourth quarter, with the clock on their side, Damascus was content to sit on their lead and run the clock out, but the Indians defense stepped up and made plays to get the ball back.
They put together a last-ditch effort on offense to get the game back in their favor with a long drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Alex Jones, cutting the Swarmin’ Hornets’ lead to 10.
However, their defense could not stand the pressure from the Swamin’ Hornets offense, leading to the final touchdown run to Bresee.
“Damascus is a strong football team,” said Franklin Head Coach, Anthony Burgos. “I thought it was a hard-fought game and our guys were really resilient; we just made too many mistakes and Damascus capitalized on the mistakes.”
With their win, the Swarmin’ Hornets will hit the road for their next playoff game to take on Huntingtown on Nov. 29 in the state semifinals.
Despite the large margin of victory, Damascus players said still believe there are areas for improvement that need to be done traveling down to face the Hurricanes.
“We just need to keep improving,” said O’Neil. “We’ve got a 24-hour Rule: We can celebrate tonight but tomorrow we reset our minds for next week and who we play.”
As for the Indians, who came in as the defending 3A champs, their shot at a second consecutive title comes up short, but it also leaves them with reflections on the good things they accomplished on the season, and a chance to reflect on the legacy left behind by the senior class.
“I think this senior class will be remembered for their explosiveness and speed,” said Burgos. “They showed they could play with anybody, any speed.”
“We can’t say we weren’t that team,” said Houston. “We played the best, and we were the best. We gave our all every game and never gave up.”