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Special Teams Mishaps Lead to Seneca Valley Loss to Damascus

The score reflects a 44-20 victory for Damascus over Seneca Valley. Many folks who were not at the game might surmise that Damascus had its typical machine like a victory over the Eagles, and Seneca’s points came in garbage time against the Hornets’ second-string JV players.

To borrow a phrase from Lee Corso on ESPN College GameDay, “Not so fast my friend.”

This game consisted of three-quarters of good football on both ends, and three minutes of a championship team showing why they are champions.

The opening drive of Friday night’s game in Gaithersburg began much like just about every Damascus opening drive had begun all season. The drive was a strong ground game pounding out yards, with a pass play thrown in keep the defense on its toes. Damascus ate up yards on the drive toward the endzone.

But the tone of the game changed as Damascus’ sophomore running back Aiden Beall crossed the line of scrimmage at the Seneca Valley six-yard line, he was hit by Seneca’s Manaseeh Jaquin, which popped the ball free. The fumble was recovered by Seneca’s Ryan Padilla at the four-yard line. Beall injured his right knee and wound not return to the game.

The Screamin’ Eagles and the Swarmin’ Hornets have been bitter rivals for decades, but to many, it was a foregone conclusion that Damascus would win by 30 points. Seneca Valley came into this game with 5-3 record, Damascus is undefeated since 2014. The Hornets are back-to-back Maryland State champs and are 88-8 since 2010, under Coach Erick Wallich.

However, after stopping the Damascus opening drive, Seneca Valley started to believe.

The Eagles would drive up the field and be stopped on fourth down and turn the ball over to Damascus. On the next drive, the Seneca defense would force the Hornets to punt. The Eagles kept the Hornets out of the endzone for the second time. The first quarter ended with no scoring by either team.

On the next series, Seneca would draw first blood on a nine-yard pass from senior quarterback Michael Kapneck to senior wide-out Harold Dotson. Seneca Valley led 7-0.

The Eagles defense would come up with another big stop, aided by few sloppy penalties by the Hornets. Damascus would get on the board with a 39-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Junior Baires, to cut the lead to 7-3. The Seneca defense forced a fumble, two punts, and held Damascus to just a field goal, before giving up a touchdown.

On the next drive, Seneca Valley had forced Damascus into a three-and-out situation, and they had to punt, but a roughing the kicker call gave the Hornets new life with an automatic first-down. Damascus made the Eagles pay for that special teams mistake.

With less than one minute remaining in the half, Damascus would find the endzone on a 9-yard pass from senior quarterback John Allen Furguson to senior receiver Michael Rice. Seneca Valley would block the extra point, and Damascus took a two-point 9-7 lead into halftime.

Seneca Valley received the second-half kickoff and scored on a 49-yard run by Kapneck to regain the lead. The attempt a two-point conversion fell short. Eagles lead 13-9, early in the third quarter.

The next drive showed Damascus’ power on offense. The Hornets wore down the Seneca defense with an 80-yard drive culminating with a three-yard touchdown run by senior Ben Lokos to regain the lead 16-13.

Seneca would be stopped on the next drive; a poor punt would set Damascus up with a short field and Furguson would find senior receive Colin Gallagher for a touchdown pass to extend the lead to 23-13.

The Eagles responded with 6:23 remaining in the game. Kapneck threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Jamal Snowden to cut the lead to just three-points.

The Seneca Valley faithful were starting to believe, and then the wheels came off.

On the ensuing kickoff, Damascus’ returned the kickoff 80 yards to maintain the 10 point lead. It was the first of three touchdowns the Hornets scored in the final six minutes of the game to cement their 35th straight victory. “Kids don’t understand and realize how important special teams are,” said Seneca Valley Head Coach Fred Kim, “that kickoff return and the roughing the kicker call — they killed us. Those are momentum changers on special teams, and they were devastating. There are three phases of the game, and special teams is the one that changes the momentum every single time. You can’t allow yourself to fall asleep on special teams.”

Damascus would score in quick succession. The Hornets’ Gabe Mendez would tear off 40-yard touchdown run. Seneca Valley would fumble, and set up and 32-yard touchdown pass from Furguson to senior tight end Matthew Betterelli to cap the scoring at 44-20.

Damascus, now 9-0 this season, will host 6-3 Wootton next Friday, as they prepare for a playoff run. The Patriots redeemed themselves on Friday with a 50-21 win over Walter Johnson, after a humiliating 76-7 road loss to Walkersville the week before.

Seneca Valley, now 5-4 will finish their season next Saturday at 3-6 Wheaton, who are coming off a 41-22 victory over Kennedy on Friday. The game will be played Saturday, Nov. 4 at Richard Montgomery High School at 10:00 am.


Top: Damascus defeated Seneca Valley 44-20 on Friday night to extend their winning streak to 35.

Next: Seneca’s Ryan Padilla (18) dives on a Damascus fumble at the four-yard line ending Damascus’ first drive of the game.

Video: Seneca to a 7-0 lead after this touchdown pass from Mike Kapneck (6) to Harold Dotson (11) with 8:20 in the 2nd quarter.

Video: Damascus would find the endzone on a 9-yard pass from senior quarterback John Allen Furguson to senior receiver Michael Rice (6).

Next: Damascus junior running back TD Ayo-durojaiye (34) ran for 159 yards in Friday’s game.

Video: Seneca scored on their first drive of the second half on a 49 yard scamper by Michael Kapneck (6). Seneca led 13-9.

Video: Seneca cut the lead to 23-20 with this pass from Kapneck to senior Jamal Snowden (4).

Video: Damascus sealed the victory with this 34 yard pass from John Allen Furguson to senior tight end Matthew Betterelli.

Photos and videos by Germantown Pulse