Damascus seeks revenge against Urbana, which knocked Hornets out of playoffs a year ago


Coach Eric Wallich and Damascus get a rematch with Urbana, which knocked the Swarmin’ Hornets out of last season’s 3A playoffs. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
November 14, 2013

Jake Funk was a freshman, watching from the sideline when Damascus hosted Urbana in the 3A West region semifinal a year ago.

The Swarmin’ Hornets were the region’s top seed after going undefeated in the regular season. But Urbana shocked Damascus, 24-23, in overtime..

Funk was a freshman, called up from the junior varsity team for the postseason. He didn’t participate in the playoff game but felt every bit a part of the loss.

“I saw what it was like to lose a game like that when we were favored to win,” Funk said. “I saw all of our seniors and the sadness that came with that game.”

Damascus will get another shot at Urbana in a similar situation. The second-seeded Swarmin’ Hornets (9-1) will host third-seeded Urbana (8-2) Friday in the region semifinal. Funk, a sophomore running back and safety, won’t be relegated to the sideline this time. He’ll be a key contributor on both sides of the ball.

Host B.J. Koubaroulis previews the first round Maryland 4A playoff match up between No. 5 Suitland and C.H. Flowers. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

Junior receiver and defensive back Jalen Christian was a part of last year’s game and admitted the Swarmin’ Hornets may have overlooked the Hawks.

“Last year, we came into the playoffs and we didn’t expect Urbana to do that to us,” Christian said. “This year, we’re definitely more focused. We definitely want revenge and we’re giving it all we have in practice.”

Damascus Coach Eric Wallich said his players have been “laser-focused” this week with the rematch on the horizon. Wallich said Urbana’s offense should provide a tough challenge for the Damascus defense, which has given up an average of only nine points per game. The Hawks will once again feature running back Raekwon Gray, who ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns against the Swarmin’ Hornets in last year’s game.

“They probably have the best back in the state of Maryland, or right up there,” Wallich said. “I haven’t seen them all but he’s probably the best one I’ve seen this year.”

Funk and the Swarmin’ Hornets understand the opportunity in front of them. In a sense, they couldn’t have imagined a better scenario to begin the postseason.

“In life you don’t get too many second chances,” Funk said. “This is a big second chance for us.”

Tough task for Poolesville

Poolesville faces a tall order in the 2A West region semifnal, traveling to meet undefeated, two-time defending champion Middletown.

But that’s not how Coach Will Gant is looking at this game.

“We’ve reminded our kids about how good of a season we’ve had and how capable we are,” Gant said. “I told them to let’s go out and play the game of our lives.”

Gant led the Falcons (7-3) to their second consecutive playoff appearance in just his third year coaching the team.

He’s looking for a strong performance from running back Charles Lyles, who finished the regular season with 1,549 yards and 13 touchdowns. Poolesville’s past two opponents, Boonsboro and Rockville, designed their defenses to stop Lyles. Gant assumes Middletown (10-0) will do the same, meaning his offense will need to generate offensive production elsewhere.

“Part of being a smaller school and under the radar, so to speak, some teams may have overlooked [Lyles] or what we can do with him,” Gant said. “Middletown’s not going to do that.”

Gant said this could open an opportunity for backup running back Trey Willis to earn more reps and for quarterback Steven Morningstar to spread the ball around in the passing game.

Gant’s hoping Poolesville to put itself in a good position late in the ballgame.

“High school football can be crazy,” he said. “Sometimes the ball bounces a funny way. If we can go out and play the best game we can, you never know what can happen.”

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