The Damascus football team's roster does not include players' heights and weights, and on Wednesday, the Swarmin' Hornets' coaches joked that they were left off intentionally due to the size of their defensive starters.

Take senior Kevin Keith. At 5 feet 10 and 170 pounds, he appears better suited for a skill position than a spot in the trenches. Keith, however, is starting at defensive end on a unit that has just three starters who weigh more than 205 pounds, none more than 250.

"We're not that big," Keith said. "We're all about my size."

But what the Damascus defense gives up in size it more than makes up for in savvy -- seven starters in their showdown with rival Linganore tonight also started last season -- and attitude.

"We fly to the ball," Keith said. "We hustle."

The hustle is obvious from a stat sheet kept in the Damascus locker room. Defensive players accumulate points for tackles, sacks, interceptions and the like, but are docked three points for missed tackles and five points for "loafs" -- given when a player does not exert maximum effort on a play. Last week in the defending Maryland 4A champion Hornets' 20-0 victory over Blake, their third shutout in their last six games, no "loafs" were given for the first time in four years.

"It's 11 helmets to the ball," Damascus Coach Dan Makosy said. "They're always talking about it. . . . They've got a lot of pride."

The swarm-the-ball mentality is embodied by 5-9, 205-pound senior linebacker Ronnie Nahr. Last year's leading tackler had a team-high 12 against Blake. "He just gets to the ball," Makosy said.

In addition to Keith and Nahr, the Hornets' entire defensive backfield -- seniors Matt Reidy, Travis Wertz and Frank McLaughlin and junior Austin Bernardo -- and junior lineman Brian Letourneau are back from last year's defense, which gave up just four touchdowns in the final five games. Junior Josh Rachel and senior Ibitango Walcourt, both of whom started on the defensive line last year, should return from injuries in the near future.

The Damascus defense will have its hands full tonight against the defending Maryland 3A champions. Linganore (0-1) was the last team to score more than 20 points on the Hornets, in the second week of the 2003 season.

Directions: Take I-270 north to Route 27 east (Exit 16A). Follow Route 27 for approximately seven miles. Damascus High is on the right.

Travis Wertz, Kevin Keith and Ronnie Nahr, from left, play large roles on defense for the defending Maryland 4A champion Swarmin' Hornets.