Damascus football rolls past Glenelg to advance to 2A state final

Tim Schwartz
Contact ReporterHoward County Times sports

Junior TD Ayo-Durojaiye accounted for 145 yards and three touchdowns on nine touches and host Damascus racked up 427 yards of offense in the first three quarters to beat Glenelg, 42-7, on Friday night in a 2A state semifinal to advance to the state championship game for the fourth straight season.

The two-time defending 3A state champion Hornets (13-0) scored 21 points on their first 13 plays and led 28-7 at the half to extend their winning streak to 41 games. They will play either Gwynn Park or Harford Tech next week at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in the their 14th trip to the state final, where they are 9-4 in all-time.

“It’s congratulations to the guys on getting [back to the state championship game] but that’s not what our goal was. Our goal is to win it,” said Damascus coach Eric Wallich. “They have a chance to do something no Damascus team has ever done, which is win three in a row. They’re looking forward to the challenge.”

The Gladiators (8-4) managed only 75 yards of offense in their fifth trip to the state semifinals and third in the last four years. They fell to 0-5 in the round all-time, and in their last three appearances have been outscored 105-14, including a 33-0 loss at Damascus in 2014.

“When you get to this round you’re playing the cream of the crop and I think when we’ve been to this round we’ve played some pretty good football teams,” said Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer. “I’m proud of what we do at Glenelg, we just play with what we’ve got and do it to the best of our ability.”

Damascus jumped out to a big lead early and never looked back. It went 72 yards on five plays and scored on a 2-yard run by senior quarterback John Allan Ferguson (10-for-16 passing, 145 yards) to start the game, and the Hornets defense strip-sacked Gladiators quarterback Tyler Reiff on their second offensive play to force a turnover.

Senior tight end Matt Betterelli scored on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Ferguson on the next play to extend the lead to 14-0 after 3 minutes, 5 seconds of game action.

A Glenelg punt set up Damascus at its own 33, and Ayo-Durojaiye, who had accounted for 48 yards on the first scoring drive, broke loose and ran over several defenders for a 25-yard touchdown run to cap a seven-play, 67-yard drive to make it 21-0.

“We were hoping to make a couple stops because we knew it was going to be tough sledding on offense and they did a tremendous job up front and they created big holes,” Schaffer said. “... There wasn’t really much we could’ve done differently. Our kids played hard, they just ran into a better football team.”

The quick start was also critical for the Hornets, who were coming off an emotional 7-3 victory over last year’s 2A state champions and previously undefeated Walkersville in the 2A West regional championship game last week.

A video circulating online showed that Damascus had 12 players on the field for its only score of the game, but Wallich said neither he nor his coaching staff was distracted by the outside noise.

“Honestly, we put that game behind us real quick,” he said. “We never look behind us, we only look forward, and as soon as we got to Saturday of last week everything was on Glenelg and I was proud of the kids for being focused all week for that.”

Down by three scores, the Gladiators strung together their best drive of the game. Kyle Dry sparked the five-play, 61-yard scoring drive with a 29-yard run to the Hornets’ 27, and a roughing the passer penalty on Damascus on 3rd-and-4 kept the Glenelg drive alive.

Reiff completed his only pass of the night to Tyler Nalls for a 10-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter to cut the deficit to 21-7, but the Hornets once again drove right down the field to answer.

They went 52 yards on nine plays, and Ayo-Durojaiye scored his second touchdown of the game on a 9-yard run to push the advantage back to 21 at 28-7.

A 38-yard field goal attempt by sophomore kicker Junior Baires hit the crossbar as time expired in the first half, but Damascus scored twice more in the third quarter to pad the lead.

Ayo-Durojaiye got free up the middle and outran the Glenelg defense for a 65-yard touchdown run on their first play of the third quarter, and senior Jevani Christian capped another one-play drive with a 42-yard touchdown run late in the third to start the running clock.

Glenelg junior running back Wande Owens was held to 31 yards rushing on 14 carries, but nothing worked offensively. The Gladiators turned it over twice and went three-and-out seven times.

“We knew what we were getting in to,” Schaffer said. “Our kids played hard, that’s just a better football team and we knew that coming in everything had to go perfect, and it didn’t. There’s a reason they have won 40 in a row, and it’s a great place to come play. This is how high school football should be. I wish everyone took notes from Damascus because they are a first-class operation from the players to the coaches to the community. It’s a great experience for our kids.

“It’s really impressive that a small town like Damascus can produce such great football teams year in and year out.”

After barely earning the final playoff spot in the 2A South regional playoffs, the Gladiators upset top-seeded River Hill, 14-6, and then beat Thomas Stone, 27-18, to win a regional title that few thought could happen. Though the season came to another abrupt end in blowout fashion, Schaffer said he was proud of his kids for battling through a season riddled by injuries and set backs.

“I’m really proud of this group of kids,” Schaffer said. “We went through a lot of adversity and lost a lot of players and played without a lot of kids this year. I think a lot of people counted us out a long time ago and it’s a testament to these kids how they stuck together.”

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