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Glenelg football gears up for Damascus in 3A state semifinal

Glenelg's Brent Richardson and Damascus' Kyle Funk will square off in the 3A state semifinal Friday night at Damascus at 7 p.m.
Glenelg's Brent Richardson and Damascus' Kyle Funk will square off in the 3A state semifinal Friday night at Damascus at 7 p.m.

The Glenelg football team is headed into hostile territory on Friday night.

In their first state semifinal game since 2000, the Gladiators are tasked with traveling to Damascus, known as one of the most raucous high school stadiums in Maryland, to play the undefeated Swarmin' Hornets, who have made the playoffs a state-record 19 years in a row with seven state titles.

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"It's good to get to the next step but we also know that what's ahead of us is a tremendous challenge for us and we're going to have to play our best possible game," said Glenelg eighth-year coach Butch Schaffer. "They're great in every facet of the game: a tremendous line, unbelievable skill kids, and we're going to have our hands full for certain."

Damascus, led by junior running back Jake Funk on offense and senior Ari Cacopardo on defense, has outscored the opposition 435 to 97 this season.

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"(Funk) is as good as any back we've seen. He's an extremely physical runner, great speed, he's the real deal, the total package," Schaffer said. "They have a tremendous offensive line and great skill kids around him as well. There's no weakness at all."

Damascus has had a few close calls this season, including a 14-13 win over 2013 state finalist Linganore last week in the regional championship. If the Lancers had converted a last-minute two-point conversion, they would be in the state semifinals rather than the Swarmin' Hornets.

Seventh-year head coach Eric Wallich is preparing for an equally tough test on Friday night.

"They're awesome. They certainly have a tough, hard-nosed offensive line and defensive line, and (David Robbins) who has committed to Florida State is amazing. He's as good as any high school lineman I've seen in quite awhile," he said. "(Brent Richardson) is as good as any back I've seen this year so we have quite a big challenge to get through."

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It's no secret that the Glenelg offense is unpredictable, with shifty Richardson and senior Jack Hogan — who runs more traditional offensive sets — alternating as signal caller.

"It seems like no matter what they're doing, you've got to worry about them just pounding you. They can spread out and still run the ball or condense it all and run it, so its just trying to make sure that you adjust properly," Wallich said. "It's kind of a short week, it's kind of a crazy week with the holidays and the snow coming, so there's not a lot of time. But our kids are working as hard as they can with film study and our coaches are doing the same, but it will be difficult."

Schaffer is never one to speak carelessly, but he did hint that the Gladiators might still have a few new plays in their playbook available to deploy on Friday night.

"Our offensive line has done a tremendous job each and every week. We do what's going to work for us on that particular week. If we have to spread it out then we'll spread it out, and if we have to pound it, then we'll pound it," he said. "We're just trying to take advantage of our kids' abilities and do what works for us. We're not trying to emulate anyone else ... I hope (Damascus) has to prepare for a lot. We run a lot more than people have seen, and we'll see if we have to bring some of it out."

Of course, the Glenelg defense — which held River Hill to only six points last week in the regional championship — will have its own hands full with playmaker Jake Funk and company.

"Jake Funk is our workhorse, we run a lot of things through him … he's as good as about anybody who's out there," Wallich said. "La'Kye Alston and Jalen Christian are good receivers. You can't totally load up to stop Jake Funk because we have the other weapons. We have a quarterback (Derek Gibson) who protects the ball and doesn't make bad decisions, and he's also a good runner."

The last Howard County team to visit Damascus, Wilde Lake, defeated the Swarmin' Hornets in the 2010 state semifinals and went on to win the state championship.

"That's always on our mind, so we're trying to avenge that," Wallich said.

But Schaffer isn't thinking about what another Howard County team did four years ago. He's just trying to get his own team to the state championship game, Thursday Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium, against the winner of Thomas Stone and Franklin.

"It's a great experience for the kids. It's a tremendous opportunity to play such a storied program like Damascus at their place," he said. "We've always talked about playing after Thanksgiving ... We're looking forward to a great challenge. It's been fun, but our kids are going to show up to play."

BY THE NUMBERS

Coaches
G: Butch Schaffer, eighth season (56-30, .651)
D: Eric Wallich, seventh season (66-14, .825)

Roster breakdown
G: 46. 16 seniors, 18 juniors, 10 sophomores, 2 freshmen (DB Garrett Mills and LB Chase Miller).
D: 47. 18 seniors, 21 juniors, 6 sophomores, 2 freshmen (LB Ben Locos and TE Jordan Funk).

2014 point differential
G: 348-121 (0 shutouts)
D: 435-100 (2 shutouts)

Leading passer
G: #17 Jack Hogan (34/72, 47.2 PCT, 476 YDS, 3 TD, 3 INT)
D: #12 Derek Gibson (67/117, 57.3 PCT, 819 YDS, 15 TD, 2 INT)

Leading rushers

Glenelg
#5 Trey Davis (190 ATT, 1,238 YDS, 6.5 AVG, 8 TD)
#2 Brent Richardson (106, 1,057, 6.6, 20)
#32 Andy Mayhew (53, 346, 6.5, 4)

Damascus
#34 Jake Funk (180 ATT, 1,454 YDS, 8.1 AVG, 29 TD)
#2 Jalen Christian (50, 437, 8.7, 2)
#13 Derek Gibson (46, 277, 6.0, 3)

Leading receivers

Glenelg
#2 Brent Richardson (13 REC, 178 YDS, 13.7 AVG, 3 TD)

Damascus
#2 Jalen Christian (19 REC, 276 YDS, 14.5 AVG, 5 TD)
#12 La'Kye Alston (15, 169, 11.3, 2)
#4 Alec Magas (10, 141, 14.1, 2)

Leading punter

G: #10 Brett Wasson (14 PNT, 511 YDS, 36.5 AVG)

D: NA

Leading tacklers

Glenelg

#44 Sam Hulett, 98

#22 Matt Baxter, 64

#27 Chris Lipp, 63

#2 Brent Richardson, 36

Damascus
#11 Ari Cacopardo, 63
#5 Daquan Grimes, 60
#6 John Fischer, 57
#34 Jake Funk, 52

Leading sacks

Glenelg
#35 Deshawn Monroe, 5

Damascus

#11 Ari Cacopardo, 14.5

#42 Jacob Bradshaw, 6

Interceptions

Glenelg
#2 Brent Richardson, 2
#22 Matt Baxter, 2

Damascus
#34 Jake Funk, 2
#8 Maurice Gaines, 2

Playoff appearances
G: 14 (5-13), 1977, 1985, 1992, 2000-2006, 2009, 2011, 2013-2014
D: 24 (37-16), 1981, 1987, 1989-1990, 1992-1993, 1996, 1998-2014

State championships
G: 0
D: 7 (1981, 1992-1993, 1996, 2003, 2005, 2007)

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