Damascus Coach Eric Wallich has called senior Rashard Budd one of Montgomery County’s best kept secrets, but the nose guard would beg to differ. Based on the constant wave of blockers opponents have attempted to throw his way in recent weeks, Budd is pretty sure teams know his importance to the Hornet defense.
Despite that attention, Budd once again found a way to spark No. 12 Damascus in Friday’s 14-13 home victory over fourth-ranked Seneca Valley.
From his spot in the middle of the defensive line, the 6-foot-3, 275-pounder blocked the game-tying extra point attempt late in the third quarter. Then, with his team struggling to score, he spoiled Seneca Valley’s final two drives with a sack and an interception, helping the Hornets stay unbeaten and in position to earn the top seed in the Maryland 3A West playoffs.
“If I can fight off the blocks and the double teams, then I just have to find the ball,” said Budd, who ranks second on the team in tackles. “You just have to fight hard to the end of every play. You can never stop working.”
Seneca Valley (8-1, 3-1 Montgomery 3A) was poised to tie the game when senior James Jones-Williams took a short pass 67 yards for a touchdown with 2 minutes 27 seconds left in the third quarter. But after an injury delay, Budd burst up the middle and blocked his second extra point of the season to keep Damascus (9-0, 4-0) ahead.
Following a punt by the Hornets, Seneca Valley again navigated into scoring range, but Budd hauled down junior quarterback Calvin Reighard (181 passing yards, two touchdowns) on third down and the Eagles turned the ball over on downs.
Seneca Valley’s final chance ended when Budd — who has significant Division I college interest but is working to improve his grades — picked off Reighard’s screen pass over the middle with three minutes left.
“I knew [a screen play] was coming sooner or later,” Budd said, “and I just jumped it.”
Damascus came in averaging a county-best 39 points per game, but this time it scored just enough to escape with plenty of help from the defense. The Hornets turned the ball over four times in the first half, including junior quarterback Chase Williams’s first two interceptions of the season, and then didn’t score in the second half.
Seneca Valley was driving toward its second score of the game late in the first quarter when sophomore Jalen Christian jumped a sideline route and returned the interception 85 yards for the game-tying score. Senior John Hanley’s 17-yard touchdown catch from Williams with 49 seconds left in the first half gave Damascus the lead for good.
“I have no doubts about this team; they’re battle-tested,” said Wallich, whose team fell to Thomas Johnson in the 3A West final last season. “Damascus is used to playing big games, and I knew they would rise to the ocassion.”