Sherwood linebacker Rich DiPietro felt his team’s defense turned in its best week of practice this season leading up to Friday’s nonleague meeting with No. 14 Damascus. With all the game planning required to stop an offense built around playmakers Zach Bradshaw and Trevor Patton, the junior said the situation demanded attention to detail.
With DiPietro leading the way, the Warriors executed that plan to perfection. They forced four turnovers and came up with three second-half red zone stands in a 14-3 win that snapped Damascus’s 21-game winning streak against county competition. It was the Hornets’ first loss to a Montgomery team since they fell to Seneca Valley on Sept. 25, 2009.
“It was all [defensive coordinator John] Zier’s genius,” said DiPietro, who finished with two sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. “It just worked. Everything fell together. Our defense really clicked.”
Down 7-3 in the third quarter, Damascus (4-1) moved into scoring range twice looking for the go-ahead score, but Eric Williams’s interception in the end zone and Monroe Sherman’s fumble recovery inside the 10-yard line ended those threats. After Fernando Smith’s 39-yard touchdown run on the second play of the fourth quarter extended Sherwood’s lead, DiPietro extinguished another red-zone trip when he snared Chase Williams’s fourth-down desperation heave toward the goal line.
Set back by turnovers, negative plays and penalties, Damascus ended up with just Eddie Cooke’s second-quarter field goal against Zier’s defense. It was the Hornets’ lowest offensive output since a 35-3 loss to Quince Orchard in 2008.
Sherwood (3-2) wasn’t much better on offense, managing just four first downs in the game. But the Warriors scored an early touchdown on a fluke play and did just enough to make the defensive effort stand up.
After DiPietro’s second-quarter sack and forced fumble gave the Warriors possession inside the Damascus 5-yard line, junior quarterback Jordan Larsen tried to pass left. A Hornets defender batted the pass down but Larsen caught it and headed right, diving past the pylon for a three-yard touchdown.
In fact, Larsen’s three-yard catch from himself made him the Warriors’ second-leading receiver in the game.
Damascus defenders “were calling [Sherwood’s offensive plays] out. That’s how well they knew them,” Sherwood Coach Mike Bonavia said. “But the key to that game wasn’t offense. It was our defense.”
Damascus Coach Eric Wallich hopes his young team — which had three wins in its first four games by seven points or less — can use the tough night as a learning experience.
“One loss isn’t the end of the world,” Wallich said. “A loss can be good. Last year we didn’t have any [regular season] losses and I almost felt like we could’ve used one to ground everybody and keep that hunger. Hopefully, this team will respond that way, and I think they will.”