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Halfback pass helps Damascus beat Seneca

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Jalen Christian is stopped inches from the goal line as Damascus struggled against Seneca Valley before winning 16-14. Photo by David Wolfe

Jalen Christian is stopped inches from the goal line as Damascus struggled against Seneca Valley before winning 16-14. Photo by David Wolfe

Published on: Thursday, October 31, 2013

By Holden Wilen

GERMANTOWN – Damascus head coach Eric Wallich’s assistant coaches joke he does not call any trick plays, but in a 16-14 win over rival Seneca Valley on Friday, aggressive play calls were the difference.

With 24 seconds left in the second quarter and leading 10-7, Damascus found itself on the Seneca Valley 25-yard line following a 35-yard run by sophomore running back Jake Funk. Instead of running out the clock and settling for a field goal, Wallich decided to call a halfback pass. The gutsy call worked out well, as junior back Deegar Fuller completed the pass to Alec Magas for the score. Damascus missed the extra point, but went into halftime leading 16-7. The 16 points ended up being enough for the victory.

“My coaches all joke with me that I never call trick plays and say I have not called one in like 15 years, so I called one and they were laughing,” Wallich said. “It was just one of those plays where we were happy to run the clock out and then Jake Funk popped one and got us down there so we ran the double pass we worked on in practice. It worked like a champ.”

Fuller said he was excited about the opportunity to throw a pass because he used to be a quarterback.

“I was so happy,” Fuller said. “I was like ‘Yeah, this is a touchdown right here. It is my time to shine.’ That is all I was thinking.”

Seneca Valley coach Fred Kim said the play, and Funk’s run to set up the play, were the difference in the game.

“It caught us off-guard and absolutely murdered us,” Kim said. “They are trying to run the clock out and we give up the one big run; that is what actually hurt us. They set up the trick play and our kid was out of position and we gave up the deep ball. That was really disappointing but what can you do when you give up two big ones like that. That was completely unacceptable and was the difference.”

From the beginning of the game, Wallich was aggressive with his play calling. On its first possession of the game Damascus drove down to the Seneca Valley 5-yard line. Wallich ran the ball three consecutive times with junior back Jalen Christian. After failing to get into the end zone, Wallich decided to run it one more time with Christian from the one-yard line on fourth down, confident his defense would prevail if the attempt failed.

The play did fail, but the defense forced a punt by Seneca Valley. Damascus then went up 3-0 on a field goal to begin the second quarter.

The defense came up big again on Seneca Valley’s next possession when junior Ari Cacopardo intercepted a pass. Damascus immediately took advantage of the turnover on the first play of the ensuing possession when senior quarterback Chase Williams threw a deep strike to Christian for a 56-yard touchdown to go up 10-0.

Seneca Valley finally scored a touchdown with just under three minutes remaining in the half, but after Damascus’ trick play the team trailed 16-7 at halftime.

Seneca Valley cut the deficit to two points when senior quarterback Calvin Reighard found receiver Ed Maxwell for a touchdown with less than two minutes left in the third quarter to conclude a 10-play drive.

Throughout the fourth quarter both teams battled defensively, but Seneca Valley had one last chance to win the game with a drive at the end of the fourth quarter. The drive failed when a Seneca Valley receiver came one yard short of a first down on 3rd-and-15 with less than a minute remaining in the game.

“If you went through the last six or seven years that I have been at Damascus I think literally there has not been more than one game against Seneca that has been more than seven points,” Wallich said. “It is pretty much what you expect.”

For Damascus, the win puts the team in position to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Seneca Valley is on the outside looking in and needs other teams to lose if it is going to make it to the postseason.

“At this point we tell the guys that it is not over. Obviously we need a tremendous amount of help from some other teams but somehow we have to pull off a miracle,” Kim said. “Last year Urbana was dead in the water and then all of a sudden North Hagerstown kicks a field goal at the end to beat South Hagerstown to win the game. Urbana made a run and got to the state semifinals.”

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