Having carved a reputation as one of the metropolitan area's top high school wide receivers as a junior, it was likely Greg Emery was going to spend much of his senior season at Damascus as a decoy.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder encountered various defenses designed to stop him, but none of the plans could successfully neutralize the years Emery has spent playing catch with friend Matt Byrne, the Damascus quarterback.

Emery and Byrne are the two main reasons the Swarmin' Hornets are 10-1 and will be playing J.M. Bennett (9-2) in a Maryland Class 2A semifinal football game Friday at 7:30 at Wicomico County Stadium in Salisbury.

Emery finished the regular season tied for fourth in the area with 51 catches. He averaged 16.5 yards per catch and had seven touchdowns. Byrne was 10th in the area with 1,311 yards passing (842 to Emery). He completed 61.5 percent of his passes and had one of the area's best ratios with 10 touchdown passes to four interceptions.

"Most teams did double-cover me, but Coach {Al} Thomas puts me out wide, lets them double-cover me and then we will use our running game with our 10 against their nine," said Emery, who had 47 catches last season.

Double coverage did not make things impossible, only more of a challenge.

"Matt and I know each other so well that we can just look at each other, see where the defense is and Matt finds me," said Emery.

When Damascus needs a big play, often the only meaningful thing said in the huddle is the number on which the ball will be snapped. The rest is a freelance enterprise between Byrne and Emery.

"It is almost like a gym class play. Greg runs downfield and Matt finds him somehow," said Thomas, who won five state championships in 14 seasons at Seneca Valley before moving to Damascus three years ago.

Emery and Byrne have spent their summers, and still spend free time, working on patterns and honing their thoughts into one.

"Some coaches think they have defensive backs who can cover {Emery} one-on-one," said Byrne, 5-10 and 170 pounds. "By the time they figure out they can't, Greg has four or five catches. . . . But I think Bennett will try to gang up on him."

J.M. Bennett already has seen the combo in action. In a first-round playoff game last season, Emery had eight catches as Damascus won, 35-14, and went on to the title game, which it lost to Allegany, 20-14.

"We never looked at the Damascus tape until this week," said J.M. Bennett Coach John Usilton, whose team was outscored 21-0 in the second half of that game. "We filed it away and didn't want to see it. But we start 10 seniors on defense, and I am sure they remember it well."

Usilton said he had too many new starters to expect to be in the playoffs for a ninth straight season. Damascus also thought it might not make the playoffs because of a weak schedule that included two winless teams and two teams that won only once. Because opponents' victories count toward the state points system, the Hornets barely made the playoffs as the eighth -- and final -- seed.

Last week, however, Damascus stunned Fort Hill, the top seed in the tournament, 10-9, on Dan Whitehead's 40-yard field goal with 1:48 left.

Damascus has only two players weighing more than 200 pounds. Fort Hill's offensive line averaged about 225.

"At Seneca Valley, hardly ever did anyone ever consider us an underdog like we were going into that game," said Thomas. "But I can't remember too many games that were as much fun as beating Fort Hill. Now I'm a little worried about a letdown. I just hope our kids realize we still have to be the same scrappy bunch we were before that game."