In the often thankless world of offensive linemen, the ultimate sense of vindication comes when an opposing defensive lineman hunches over in exhaustion between snaps, when he stops firing off the line the way he did at the game's start.

The offensive linemen at No. 1 Damascus see it more often than most. And they enjoy it.

"Come the fourth quarter, when we see the other team bending over and trying to get some air, that gives us more incentive," senior guard Sean Hand said. "We kind of know where we've got them. It puts us in the mind-set to take it to them."

There are five returning starters on the line -- Hand, fellow seniors Matt Barber, Steve Baisey and Charlie Robinson and junior Nick Bonturi -- as well as sophomore Tony Edwards. Senior Max Lynaugh plays almost at much, filling in at several different positions. They are the laborers, the no-named gatekeepers to perhaps the area's most effective running attack over the last two seasons.

The Swarmin' Hornets, who play at No. 8 Sherwood (6-0, 5-0) tonight at 6:30, have averaged 234.5 rushing yards per game this season, making a run at their third straight appearance in the Maryland 4A title game in five-yard increments. The line is asked to block in a throwback offense that runs the ball about 90 percent of the time and, in turn, Damascus (6-0, 3-0) has won the time of possession battle every game this season.

Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini likened the attack to a slow death after watching Damascus run 26 plays to his team's 14 and score on every possession in the first half of his team's 35-14 loss to the Hornets on Oct. 10.

"I think it starts with our philosophy as a coaching staff that the best defense you can possibly have is to keep the ball away from the other team," Damascus Coach Dan Makosy said.

Other than the 6-foot-6, 280-pound Barber, the line is not overwhelming in size, with Hand being the smallest at 5-11, 195. But the principles are simple: discipline, communication and above all, a demanding amount of repetition.

In fact, if Makosy were to hand his play-call sheet over to an opposing coach before a game, he'd see "34 TED" and "35 TED" again and again. Those are two off-tackle runs that Damascus calls more than any other play. It's almost as though the Hornets say, "This is what we're going to do. Try and stop it."

"We take a lot of pride in that," said Baisey, a three-year starter. "Everybody tried to stop it and I guess they can't, so every time someone does something different, we always have an answer."

Damascus's offensive line is anchored by, from left, Sean Hand, Steve Baisey, Charlie Robinson, Matt Barber, Nick Bonturi, Max Lynaugh and Tony Edwards.Damascus running back Steven Anderson has seen a lot of holes to run through this season, rushing 93 times for a team-high 537 yards and 9 TDs.