Damascus football players huddled on their muddy field one final time Friday night, a lot of people holding back tears as a team captain yelled over the Oakdale students chanting "This is our house." For the first time in 54 games, the Swarmin 'Hornets walked off the field in defeat, and – not surprisingly – they were not quite sure how to react.
The 24-7 loss to Oakdale in the Maryland 2A West final ended No. 4 Damascus's season at 11-1 and also halted a 53-game winning streak, believed to be the nation's longest. A stunning run of three straight state titles had come to an end.
"It hurts," Coach Eric Wallich said. "But the seniors have something they can be proud of."
Damascus's reign was built on a dominant offensive line and a mistake-free football. Friday night against the Bears (11-0), who shut down the Hornets' rushing game after the first quarter and outplayed them much of the contest.
Two miscues led directly to Oakdale points. In the second quarter, a snap sailed over the Damascus punter's head. The Bears then scored on the ensuing possession. A few minutes later, the Hornets fumbled on their own 9-yard line. Oakdale turned that turnover into a touchdown.
The Bears sealed the victory with an interception. Oakdale 's students erupted in a night in the past four years, there was a ring of truth to the taunt.
Damascus players spent the six minutes comforting each other on the sideline as tears welled. 53 seconds remaining, when the game started to hit the field.
Damascus's previous loss came against Franklin in the 2014 Maryland 3A championship. Urbana in the 2013 Maryland 3A playoffs.
"The streak was never meant to be a streak," Wallich said. "It just happened."
Bryan Bresee, the top of recruit in the Class of 2020, according to 247Sports, is the majority of Damascus's starters.
"It's a team for the future," he said.
The loss ended a season that also included an ugly off-field controversy.
This month, five teens on the school's junior varsity football team were charged with rape. Wallich declined to comment on the allegations. Damascus Principal Casey Crouse wrote in a letter this month that the incident did not involve varsity players.