Damascus 29, Linganore 22

A battle of state champions lived up to its advance billing and then some last night, as second-ranked Damascus, the defending Maryland 4A champion, staged a stunning comeback to defeat defending Maryland 3A champion Linganore, 29-22, in Damascus.

With the score tied and 41 seconds to play, senior quarterback Jason Sprankle threw a 30-yard strike to sophomore Tom Cosgrove, giving Damascus the victory and uncorking a raucous celebration by the home crowd of about 4,500.

Damascus had trailed 14-0 after Linganore (0-2) scored on its first possession of the second half. The Lancers extended the lead to 22-7 when running back Matt Castor scored on an 80-yard burst on a sweep late in the third quarter.

The Swarmin' Hornets (2-0) responded in startling fashion. They scored three unanswered touchdowns in the game's final 12 minutes 38 seconds, riding a gutsy performance by senior All-Met running back Matt Reidy, a defense that finally shut down Linganore's powerful rushing attack and a coming-of-age performance by Sprankle.

"This is big," Damascus Coach Dan Makosy said. "There are certain games you put stars by on the schedule."

Sprankle, who completed just two passes in his varsity debut last week, completed 14 of 19 attempts for 172 yards. He tossed touchdown passes to senior Travis Wertz (four total receptions for 50 yards), junior Austin Bernardo (2 for 23) and Cosgrove (7 for 96).

Reidy, meanwhile, rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown on 31 bruising carries despite a sore knee and foot that kept him out of practice all week.

"Everyone was saying all week that I shouldn't play," Reidy said. "But I wasn't going to miss this game."

Linganore seemed to have the game in hand after Castor's long touchdown, but Damascus drove 63 yards in 10 plays and cut the Lancers' lead to 22-14 when Sprankle rolled left and found Bernardo in the end zone with 38 seconds to play in the third quarter.

Then the Hornets' defense, which Castor (23 carries, 253 yards, 2 touchdowns) and the Linganore ground attack had ravaged for 304 yards in the first three quarters, came to life. They forced a punt after three plays, and Damascus took over at its 35-yard line with 10:17 to play.

This time, Damascus went to Reidy. Except for one incomplete pass, Reidy got the ball on each play of the Hornets' eight-play drive. He would grind out a tough run off tackle, limp back to the huddle, then grind out more tough yards.

He scored from four yards out, then added the two-point conversion to tie the game.

Linganore drove from its 37-yard line to the Hornets 25, but on a fourth-and-2 call, Damascus senior linebacker Ronnie Nahr tackled Castor a yard short of the first down. Damascus got the ball with just more than two minutes to play, and Sprankle and Reidy drove the ball inside Linganore territory to set up Sprankle's game-winning throw to Cosgrove.

"I could never explain how good this feels," Sprankle said.

Linganore's Matt Castor (23 carries, 253 yards, 2 touchdowns) barrels through Travis Wertz on an 80-yard scoring run. Sophomore Tom Cosgrove hauls in the game-winning touchdown pass over Denny Warren with 41 seconds to play as the defending state 4A champion edged the defending 3A titleholder.