Damascus avenges loss to Quince Orchard

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Throughout an otherwise undefeated regular season last year, the Damascus High School Hornets had one blemish on their record. While they survived tough tests and close calls on the road at Clarksburg (13- 12) and Seneca Valley (16-14), they fell at home to the Quince Orchard High School Cougars, 7-6.

On Friday night, at the raucous Cougar Dome in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the big little brother got its revenge.

Damascus is the smallest school in Maryland to play at the 3A level, but has consistently put together a strong program. With an enrollment of just more than 1,200, they have nevertheless developed a healthy rivalry with Quince Orchard, which enrolls more than 50 percent more students. The rivalry has blossomed over the years, with Damascus winning six of the first 11 matchups heading into Friday night.

“Damascus can say they’re the little dog, but they’re really not,” said Quince Orchard Athletic Director George Awkard. “It’s always been a good game. I don’t think there’s ever been a bad game between us.”

That trend would continue this season.

With loud contingents fans on both ends, the Red Army Quince Orchard’s student section provided a distinct home-field crowd advantage.

“The atmosphere in this building is tremendous,” said Awkard. “I can’t think of too many places else you’d want to be.”

Both teams kept the ball largely on the ground in the first half. A blocked Quince Orchard field goal kept the halftime score from being a perfect inverse of last year’s final, as the teams hit the locker room with Damascus ahead, 7- 3.

The key score in the game came in the opening drive of the second half. Damascus used their running game to power down the field, then opened up their offense for the first time. Putting the ball up top in earnest for the first time, senior receiver/cornerback Jalen Christian came down with it on the other end. When the dust had settled, the South Carolina commit was in the end zone, 34 yards later.

A couple of missed extra points kept Damascus from putting the game on ice — something they may have to improve moving forward, given their propensity for close-fought games. Despite controlling much of the action, the Hornets saw their 19-3 lead cut to 19-11 on a touchdown and two-point conversion with just under six minutes to play. They needed a late interception to seal Quince Orchard’s fate, and their revenge.

For Christian, it was his last chance as a senior to come out on the right side of the rivalry. This time, his Hornets weathered the noise to remain undefeated.

“Playing here, it’s a crazy atmosphere, said Christian. “We practiced all week, where the guys talked loud, because [we knew] it’s not going to be quiet on Friday.”

Damascus made the loudest statement, though, reclaiming rivalry bragging rights.

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