A year-long mission that started the moment Damascus walked off the field against Suitland last season ends in the same place that has played host to one of the Swarmin' Hornets' proudest victories and one of their most stinging defeats.
The winding road that began with summer two-a-days leads to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, where top-ranked Damascus will play in its third straight 4A title game, tomorrow night against No. 4 Sherwood.
Damascus won the title in 2003, but fell to Suitland in last season's final, 14-7. Running back Kyle Hogan, who rushed for 200 yards in Friday's 48-13 win over Old Mill, said the Hornets know what it's like to win in the final and what it's like to lose in one. Having seen both sides, Damascus's 13-0 season has been buoyed by the chance to vindicate the disappointment of last season.
"They started last January. They ran all summer long and believe me they think about [last year's title game] all year long," Damascus Coach Dan Makosy said. "These guys are well focused. We run 14 hills at the end of every practice because that's how many games they want to win and we do 14 jumping jacks at the beginning. Everything is geared around the 14 of everything to get back to [M&T Bank] Stadium."
In forging the state's latest dynasty, the Hornets have handled every hurdle thrown their way this season, and done so by simply imposing their will over opponents. It is the second time they will face Sherwood (12-1) this season; Damascus won, 25-7, on Oct. 21, a game in which the Hornets clearly established themselves as the class of Montgomery County.
The Hornets jumped out to a 12-0 lead in that game and never looked back, picking off quarterback Deontay Twyman three times and limiting him to his worst statistical performance of the season.
Having served under Sherwood Coach Al Thomas as an assistant at Damascus, Makosy knows better than to expect this game to unfold the same way, especially in light of Sherwood's victory over previously undefeated Douglass on Saturday.
"At this point, they've got 13 games under their belt," Makosy said. "They've experienced all types of games and all types of teams. They're a better team than they were the last time. At this point in the season, everybody is ready to play."
Damascus reached the state final on the strength of its dominant offensive line and highly productive backfield of Steven Anderson and Hogan. With that, there is little doubt that Damascus will try to win in the same fashion in which it got to the state final.
Time and again, the Hornets will hand the ball off to Anderson and Hogan -- who rushed for more than 1,000 yards apiece this season -- attempting to control possession and chew up clock while keeping the ball away from one of the area's most dynamic offenses.
"Twyman's the type of quarterback that can give you nightmares," Makosy said.
But a victory over Twyman and his high-powered offense would give the Hornets their dream season.
"Our goal in the beginning of the season was to go 14-0," Hogan said. "We're 13-0 right now. If we get that one win, we've hit our goal."