The two teams regularly expect to contend for a state championship in their classifications and this year is no different, with Damascus looking to repeat after capturing a record-tying 12th state title last year. Northwest, though a few years removed from their last title game appearance, added some big-time championship experience to their coaching staff. Their head coach will be familiar to many Damascus fans, as Bucky Clipper was the Hornets’ defensive coordinator during their dynasty run from 2014-18, and in 2019 served as DC for Northwest who made the 4A final that year. Anyone who saw Damascus play during that glory period knows the Hornets defense was straight up nasty during that time, and Clipper will look to maintain that same identity as he guides Northwest as the top dog. He’s not the only championship coach they brought in either, as Justin Sickeri returns as OC of the Jaguars after head coaching stints at Poolesville and Seneca Valley. Sickeri was the mastermind behind the offensive unit that captured back-to-back titles in 2013 & 2014, and will look to field a just-as-great unit a decade later.
Both teams achieved big blowout victories to start the year. Northwest went to Montgomery Village and thumped Watkins Mill, 47-0, which they reached in just the first half of play. Damascus welcomed Einstein to the “Hornet’s Nest” and boatraced the Titans 44-12. Solid performances across the board for these teams, but Watkins Mill and Einstein will not come close to the challenge level that Northwest and Damascus will find in each other.
If both teams are at full strength, we should be in for another tight matchup with great offensive performances much like last year. However, questions linger because a lot of the key players from last year’s game are now gone. Northwest does have a key returning offensive piece in Antonio Berry, who had two long touchdown scores against Watkins Mill one as a rusher one as a receiver. This game will show whether the Jags’ passing attack as a whole, though, is ready to contend. Led by junior QB David Davis Jr., the unit did look good against WM, with Davis throwing four touchdown passes to four different receivers, on only seven passes!
On the flip side, Damascus’ offense last year had a very simple game plan which was to give Dillon Dunathan the ball. Dunathan near-singlehandedly kept the Hornets neck and neck with Northwest in last year’s game, and with him now playing at the next level, Damascus will need new players to step up. However, if last week’s game was any indication, that shouldn’t be an issue. Junior RB Michael Cooley, who was the backup last year, is a tough runner who reliably picked up yards last week vs. Einstein. However, there may also be a passing attack to talk about in regards to Damascus. Junior QB Jeremiah Sandy has taken over for outgoing state champ Thomas McDarby and his aerial performance last week was not a sight people are used to seeing in Damascus, as he threw for over 200 yards and three touchdowns. Sandy is also a dual threat who can contribute to the ground game on the option, and I won’t be surprised to see him become much more well-known in the coming weeks. If he does the unthinkable and Damascus not only keeps pace with Northwest, but does so through an aerial attack, it may happen this week.
Both teams should have what it takes to make this matchup another classic.
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