So, a strange high school football season in Frederick County comes down to this.
Linganore (11-0), the lone-surviving team, travels to high-powered Damascus (11-0) Friday night for the Class 3A West championship game. It marks the second-straight appearance in a regional final for the Lancers, who reached the 3A championship game last season. The top-seeded Swarmin’ Hornets, meanwhile, are in the regional championship game for the first time since 2010 when they won it.
Both teams have similar profiles. They play excellent defense and are efficient enough on offense, primarily through their running game. It is likely to be a low-scoring game. Twenty points could be enough to win it. Damascus would seem to be the slight favorite, especially after throttling Urbana, 46-3, last week in a first-round game. But Linganore has a chance if it can run the ball well and play its brand of attacking, turnover-happy defense.
The real shocker from last week’s regional semifinals was top-seeded Oakdale falling to South Carroll, 35-12, in the 2A West. The Bears had handled the Cavalier with relative ease during the regular season, 35-7 in Week 2 (Sept. 12). But South Carroll is an experienced playoff team used to being in this position, while Oakdale was making its first playoff appearance in school history. That had to play a factor, as the Bears turned the ball over five times and appeared jittery at the start, according to coach Kurt Stein. Oakdale enjoyed a remarkable 8-3 season, easily the best in school history. The Bears lost by one at Urbana and hung with Linganore for a half. But they will have a few regrets when they look back upon how their season ended. The path was really set up for them to, at least, reach the state semifinals. It will be hard for them to not think that they let a prime opportunity get away.
Urbana, meanwhile, also finished 8-3. The Hawks won’t like how their season ended either. But they never really had a shot against Damascus. The Hornets scored touchdowns on all six of their first-half possessions. Junior running back Jake Funk (213 yards on 22 carries) had five touchdowns in the first half and six for the game. Believe it or not, the game was even more lopsided than the final score indicated. Damascus took its foot off the gas and only scored seven points in the second half. It was a rotten way for Dave Mencarini to end a successful first season as Urbana’s head coach, and it was a lousy way for senior stalwarts Ray Gray (45 yards on 21 carries), a Temple recruit, Donovan Pannell and Zach Cummings to close their remarkable career for the Hawks. But Damascus felt it owed one to Urbana after falling at home by one point to the Hawks in the regional semifinals the previous two seasons.
Linganore had no trouble with previously unbeaten South Hagerstown (10-1) in the first round of the 3A West, rolling to a 45-6 home win. The Lancers were easily the best team South Hagerstown had faced all season.
Strange as it sounds, Carroll County will have at least one team reach the state semifinals, while Frederick County will have none unless Linganore beats Damascus. Carroll County has three teams in regional championship games. South Carroll and Liberty will play each other for the 2A West championship, while North Carroll will take on unbeaten Fort Hill for the 1A West title.
A Linganore loss would tack an odd finish onto a most-unusual football season for the Frederick area.