Both teams, traditional powerhouses in Montgomery County, have played the 2013 season with unusually young teams. The Swarmin’ Hornets (6-1, 4-0 Montgomery 3A) have leaned heavily on sophomore running back Jake Funk in the running game. The Screaming Eagles (5-2, 4-0) start freshman running back Adrian Feliz-Platt and have rotated in fellow freshman Darius Golston, marking the first time they’ve used a freshman running back since Bryan Blessing in the early 1990s.
It’s a bit of a change for two juggernaut programs that are used to a lot more senior leadership experience year in and year out.
“It is kind of weird for Damascus and Seneca to both be so young and have some of the same issues,” Damascus Coach Eric Wallich said. “But that’s the way it happens sometimes. I’m glad it is, because if they were as powerful as they typically have been, we may not have a chance.”
Each team’s youth will be counted upon in a game where much is at stake. Since 2007, the teams have split their six head-to-head matchups, with each home team winning in the past four seasons. Last year, Damascus squeaked out a 14-13 thriller at home in a late-season battle of then-undefeated teams. Seneca Valley hosts Friday’s installment.
In addition, a Montgomery 3A regular season title could hinge on this game. Both teams have one league game left after this Friday, with Damascus playing Wheaton and Seneca Valley facing Einstein on Nov. 1. Damascus would clinch the title with a win, since it would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with both Einstein and Seneca Valley.
The contest also has significant playoff implications. Heading into Friday’s game, Damascus is in third place in the Maryland 3A West with a 9.06 point average. Seneca Valley ranks fifth with a 6.57 average, but could gain ground with a win Friday.
Seneca Valley has run more spread principles this year instead of the power run to compensate for its youth while only 12 of 37 varsity players listed on the Damascus roster are seniors. But the game has not lost its appeal.
“Our two schools love to play each other,” Seneca Valley Coach Fred Kim said. “It’s a big game. The kids seem to be more focused this week. I’m sure it’s the same over at Damascus, guys are very excited to play each other.”
When Einstein and Blair square off Friday, a new trophy will be on the line: the Downcounty Consortium Cup.
The Titans and Blazers, along with neighboring Kennedy, Wheaton and Northwood, implemented a cup format this offseason, since the five schools are connected in the Downcounty Consortium. The idea of an in-season round robin tournament for a trophy was initially posed by Einstein Coach Jermaine Howell, which quickly gained approval from the other coaches and athletics directors.
“We found a way to connect with these guys in the offseason, and all our coaches and ADs agreed,” Howell said. “I think that all the parts of the county have their things established. I thought it would be good for us down here.”
Of the five schools, only Einstein (4-2) and Blair (3-4) are unbeaten against the other Downcounty Consortium teams, meaning Friday’s contest will decide who takes home the inaugural trophy.
Howell said the trophy might wind up on site to be presented to the game’s winner.
“Most of [the participating schools’ players] went to the same middle schools,” Howell said. “It’s when they go to high school that they get separated. It makes for a fun competition when you play against kids you went to middle school [with], and you have an opportunity to compete against them in a cup format.”
Whitman (4-3) and Clarksburg (4-3) will hope to keep their postseason hopes alive this Friday. The Vikings take on Walter Johnson (1-6) while the Coyotes travel to Northwest (6-1). Clarksburg enters Week 8 in fourth place in the Maryland 4A West with a point average of 5.86. Whitman (5.71) is one spot behind in fifth. Wootton (3-4), which hosts Richard Montgomery, is not out of contention yet with a point average of 4.43.