For the second straight season, the Damascus High School football team's playoffs are halted at the hands of the visiting Urbana Hawks, who narrowly escaped Friday night's Class 3A Region semifinals with a 35-34 victory.
With the second-seeded Swarmin' Hornets (9-2) down by a touchdown with just under two minutes left in the game and the ball on the 1-yard line, junior running back Jalen Christian ran up the middle for the touchdown and only needing an extra point to tie the game.
After losing to the Hawks in last season's semifinals on a gutsy two-point conversion in overtime, Damascus coach Eric Wallich elected to kick the extra point. However, sophomore kicker Joseph Curry missed wide-right.
Damascus went for the onsides kick but the attempt was recovered by the Hawks (9-2). Urbana's offense, which rushed for more than 300 yards in the game, ran out the remainder of the clock.
“I thought about going for two for the win,” Wallich said. “But, it is just a tough call to make.”
The Swarmin' Hornets knew from last year's loss that they had to find a way to contain third-seed Urbana's biggest threat in running back Raekwon Gray after he rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns in last year's matchup. Gray would out-do himself this time around by rushing for 268 yards on 24 carries. Gray, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season, had three touchdown rushes, all of which were runs of 50 yards or more.
“He is as good a back as I have ever seen in high school,” Wallich said. “The whole game plan was to stop him and obviously we didn't do it. He is a heck of a back and they are a well-coached football team.”
Although the Damascus defense gave up a lot of yardage, so did the Hawks' defense as they had a hard time stopping the Damascus running game. Sophomore running back Jake Funk rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries while junior Jalen Christian had 126 yards on 13 carries. Junior Ari Cacopardo added 43 yards on five carries.
Wallich said leading up to the game that it would be won and lost on the offensive and defensive lines. Despite the outcome, he thought his team controlled the flow of the game more than Urbana.
“When it comes down to one point, it doesn't mean that one team is necessarily better than the other,” Wallich said. “I thought we controlled the game more than them, but they just ripped off long runs, so it doesn't matter.”
In his final high school game, senior quarter back Chase Williams completed seven of 14 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. He kept calm and composed leading the offense down the field to score the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of the first half including two big pass gains to Christian.
“This has been the best experience of my life,” Williams said. “I wouldn't change this past four years for anything.”
Maryland 3A Regional Semifinals
Urbana 35, Damascus 34
at Damascus High School
Urbana 14 7 14 0 – 35
Damascus 14 14 0 6 – 34
U – Raekwon Gray 60 run (kick good) 9:31
D – Jake Funk 1 run (kick good) 5:39
U – Raekwon Gray 57 run (kick good) 1:47
D – Lakye Alston 23 pass from Chase Williams (kick good) 1:10
D – Jalen Christian 7 pass from Chase Williams (kick good) 5:05
U – Zack Cummings 16 run (kick good) 2:30
D – Jake Funk 1 run (kick good) 0:22
U – Raekwon Gray 50 run (kick good) 10:50
U – Zack Cummings 10 run (kick good) 4:00
D – Jalen Christian 1 run (kick missed) 1:49
Urbana – Reakwon Gray 24-268, Zack Cummings 7-44, Donovan Pannell 3-4, Bradley Jones 1-2, Brandon Plante 2-(-3)
Damascus – Jake Funk 21-134, Jalen Christian 13-126, Ari Cacopardo 5-42, Tait Buttrey 3-23, Kevin Proctor 1-3, Chase Williams 3-(-9)
Urbana – Donovan Pannell 3-7-47-0
Damascus – Chase Williams 7-14-121-2
Urbana – Patrick Coffey 2-43, Bradley Jones 1-4
Damascus – Jalen Christian 4-83, Lakye Alston 2-38