It started ugly and looked as if it could only get worse for Old Mill on Friday night.
The Patriots went backwards on their first possession in the 4A state semifinal football game and then, three plays into Damascus's first drive, Swarmin' Hornets running back Kyle Hogan took the ball for a 30-yard touchdown.
Within 12 minutes, No. 1 Damascus had a 20-0 lead and Hogan had 112 yards on the ground.
But Old Mill fought back, and it was no surprise that it was on the legs of senior running back Ryan Callahan.
An icy field didn't suit the shifty back, but Callahan did well on occasion. On Old Mill's first drive of the second quarter, Callahan ran left, got hit in the backfield more than once, bounced off the defenders and broke down the right sideline for 41 yards. Soon after, he scored on a 2-yard run to make it 20-7. After Damascus answered with a 31-yard touchdown pass, Callahan hit another hole made by his offensive line, breaking up the middle for a 35-yard score and the state's career touchdown record.
With that, the Patriots were within 14 points, and a goal-line stand seconds before halftime gave them a boost going into intermission.
But the second half provided few, if any, highlights for the Patriots, as Damascus finished with a 48-13 win at home.
"Our boys hung in there tough," said Old Mill Coach Mike Marcus. "We knew we were coming into a very good football team and it showed, but I'm proud of our kids. I'm proud they didn't quit and at the end they came after it. It was a great year for our kids and our school."
The clear difference was Damascus's running game, which totaled 383 yards. Hogan piled up 200 yards, a career high, on 14 rushes and scored three touchdowns; Damascus's other 1,000-yard rusher, Steven Anderson, finished with 102 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries.
Tommy Cosgrove had eight carries in the fourth quarter and rushed for 70 yards and one touchdown. Damascus did not punt, and scored on every drive but one.
"They're big, they're strong and they're powerful, and we knew that going in," Marcus said, adding that the Damascus running game acted as the best defense against Callahan, keeping him off the field. "That's the way [they've] always been. They just pound people. That's what they're all about."
"They were big and powerful and it was hard to stop the run," said senior middle linebacker Andrew Hall. "Those big boys weigh 200 pounds. They were just powerful boys."
Callahan capped his high school career with a solid performance against one of the toughest defenses in the state. He finished with 136 yards on 20 carries, and praise from the Damascus coaching staff.
"He's everything I expected him to be," said Damascus Coach Dan Makosy. "He's a great kid. I talked to him after the game. And he's a hard runner. He carries his 160 pounds like a 189-pound back. He was as good as anyone we faced. All the hype on him is true."
With more than 5,000 career rushing yards and 87 career touchdowns, Callahan will be greatly missed at Old Mill next year, and so will Steve Holmes's speed and hands at the wide receiver position.
But returning to follow perhaps the best team Old Mill has ever had should be a solid group of juniors, including quarterback Kelian Stevens, lineman Kenny McDonald and defensive back Malcolm Green.
"I know they're going to be a smart team," Holmes said of next year's squad. "They're not a very big team but they'll be very athletic and fast."
Said Hall, "Being a senior, I appreciated what the younger players did for me to make this season good." Next season, "I think we're going to be all right."