Top-ranked Damascus hasn't been tested often during the fourth quarter this season, but the Swarmin' Hornets have been challenged enough over the last three years to respond when the situation arises. In the end last night, that may have been the difference.
Tommy Cosgrove's interception in the end zone with less than 30 seconds left helped host Damascus secure a 21-14 victory over 11th-ranked Quince Orchard in the Maryland 4A West Region final.
In defeating a ranked opponent for the fourth time this season, the Swarmin' Hornets drew closer to their third straight 4A title game.
"One of the things about this group is they've been here for three years and they've been in a lot of big games," Damascus Coach Dan Makosy said. "A lot of these kids started on the 2003 championship team, they've been in a lot of big games all the way through. So they responded the way we expected them to."
Faced with fourth and inches on the Quince Orchard 35 late in the fourth quarter, Damascus (12-0) elected to go for it, but quarterback Kyle Frazier was stopped short and the Cougars had one last chance to extend their season.
Quarterback Pepper Coe marched the Cougars downfield, hooking up with Colin Jones for a 32-yard pass on fourth down that brought Quince Orchard to the Damascus 11. But the Cougars could get no closer, as Coe was sacked for a loss on second down and later intercepted on a pass intended for Jewison Hurtault.
Tied at 7 heading into the third quarter, Damascus went back to its grind-it-out running game and slowly pulled away from Quince Orchard (10-2). Steven Anderson, who carried the ball only four times in the first half, capped the second half's opening drive with a one-yard plunge that gave Damascus a 14-7 lead.
The Hornets turned to Anderson again on their next possession, as he carried a gang of would-be tacklers into the end zone for a five-yard run to put Damascus up 21-7. Anderson led Damascus with 73 yards on 17 carries.
"I told the linemen, 'I need one little crease. Just give me a crease and I'll score. They're not going to deny us of those touchdowns,' " Anderson said. "We thrive off of that."
It was vastly different from the last time these two teams met on Oct. 10, a 35-14 Damascus victory in which the Hornets recovered three straight squib kicks in the first half and jumped out to a 28-0 lead. Quince Orchard used that game as a rallying point for its season and vowed that if given a chance, a rematch would unfold differently.
"If we cash in on fourth down on the goal line and we don't get sacked here and there, you're talking to the winning coach," Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini said. "It's tough. I felt that we stood toe-to-toe with these guys. Anybody who saw that game tonight can tell you that."