With less than a minute left in the third quarter, Jalen Christian gathered the Damascus defense on the sideline.

The junior defensive back knew the fourth quarter of Friday’s game against Seneca Valley would rest on the defense’s shoulders, something the Swarmin’ Hornets have become accustomed to in big games.

With the host Screaming Eagles driving for the winning score in the waning seconds, No. 7 Damascus buckled down and thwarted a fourth-and-15 attempt one yard short of the first-down marker to secure a hard-fought 16-14 victory in Germantown.

“I pumped them up,” Christian said of his late-game pep talk. “I told them, especially the seniors, that this might be the last time you play Seneca. I pumped them all up.”

Christian felt the need to spark the defense on the sideline after it surrendered a lengthy touchdown drive. The Screaming Eagles (5-3, 4-1 Montgomery 3A) were able to cut Damascus’s lead to 16-14 with 1 minute, 34 seconds left in the third quarter on a 10-play drive that saw Seneca Valley quarterback Calvin Reighard complete three passes, the third going for a nine-yard touchdown strike to senior Ed Maxwell.

But over the final 12 minutes, the Damascus defense put yards at a premium.

The Screaming Eagles managed just 30 total yards in the fourth quarter while Damascus (7-1, 5-0) just missed a pair of interceptions on consecutive plays.

With 40 seconds left and Seneca Valley needing to convert the fourth-and-long from its own 42-yard line, Reighard found sophomore Antonio Fox over the middle, but he was tackled just short of the first down.

“We knew coming into that last drive that we needed a stop,” Damascus sophomore safety Jake Funk said. “We couldn’t let them get a first down. We swarmed to the ball and all communicated well.”

Funk, who also plays running back, led all rushers with 124 yards on 20 carries, which helped dictate the tempo by controlling time of possession. Christian added 39 rushing yards and had a deep 56-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Chase Williams in the second quarter for the Swarmin’ Hornets’ first touchdown. Later that period, they added another with a bit of trickery.

Damascus called a double pass, with Williams throwing the ball on what seemed like a quick flare to junior Deegar Fuller. Fuller then launched a 25-yard pass to a wide-open Alec Magas for a touchdown, giving Damascus a 16-7 lead late in the second quarter.

The early offensive fireworks gave way to a gritty defensive effort in which Damascus held the Screaming Eagles to 48 total rushing yards.

“Damascus is known for defense,” Christian said. “We knew it was going to be a close game. Our defense saved us. I just love them.”