HUNTINGTOWN – After a one-year hiatus, the Damascus High School football team returns to the state championship game.
Undefeated Huntingtown High School hosted Damascus on Nov. 29 in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) Class 3A State Semifinals. With a standing-room-only crowd in attendance to see who would move forward to play in the big game, the Swarmin’ Hornets sealed the deal with a road victory, 21-14.
The Hurricanes might have had the home field advantage and the better record, but Damascus’ status as a perennial powerhouse meant it could not be counted out. Despite losing starting quarterback Trent Connolly before the half due to an injury, Huntingtown hung tough, and the score remained tied for most of the game.
Damascus wide receiver Brendan Hess registered 18 yards on the evening, but eight of those yards were of the utmost importance to the Swarmin’ Hornets. Quarterback Michael O’Neil connected with Hess late in the fourth quarter for a touchdown that broke the stalemate and gave Damascus the lead for the final time.
O’Neil went 10 for 13 for 125 yards and two touchdowns and running back Chris Shaw added two touchdowns of his own. The Swarmin’ Hornets leaned heavily on Shaw and the junior delivered with 20 carries for 81 yards and four receptions for 63 yards. Shaw showcased his versatility with one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown, including a screen pass reception that turned into a 59-yard score.
Huntingtown answered back immediately after a 42-yard kickoff return by running back Noah Kuntz. Connolly’s 3-yard quarterback sneak gave the game its first tie.
Later, the Hurricanes fumbled on a punt return, giving the visitors the ball back. Seven plays later, Shaw barreled past the goal line for the 1-yard touchdown.
Huntingtown responded again as Connolly linked up with North Carolina State recruit Anthony Smith for a 95-yard score.
The game remained tied for a quarter and a half as Kuntz replaced Connolly behind center, and both offenses faltered. The Hurricanes struggled to get past midfield in the second half, and the Damascus defense continued to push Huntingtown backward. Swarmin’ Hornets defensive tackle Michael Harris earned a sack and a tackle for a loss; Clemson commit Bryan Bresee also added a tackle for a loss.
The Swarmin’ Hornets recovered two of their own fumbles on the game-winning drive before O’Neil’s go-ahead pass to Hess in the end zone. Damascus will face Linganore High School in the final on Dec. 6 in Annapolis.