Oakdale quarterback Collin Schlee celebrates in the closing minutes of the Bears’ 24-7 win over Damascus on Friday. Photo by Austin McFadden.
While last Friday’s heavyweight playoff bout between No. 4 Damascus and No. 6 Oakdale staged another matchup for the ages, it pitted programs on polar ends of the Maryland football history books and later crossed the intersection between breakthrough and denouement.
Oakdale 24, Damascus 7 surged an eight-year-old program into state football lore and ceased a gridiron giant’s storied run. The Bears were long lambasted for choking, for not being fluid when it mattered, for simply not being strong enough in the trenches against weight room warriors like Damascus. It extinguished all of that criticism in one night, their third playoff win in program history and first-ever region title over the gridiron giant that, at the same time, lost grasp of a 53-game win streak — the nation’s longest and most consecutive wins in Maryland history — and seven-year run at home of not losing a single game by more than one point.
Eleven years ago, current Damascus coach Eric Wallich was taking over the program that had just won its eighth title under the legendary Dan Makosy. Oakdale? They were just a blueprint and a workplace for construction workers. A lot has changed then. Here’s an in-depth dive into the historic result:
Rushing yards: Oakdale 127 on 34 carries, Damascus 106 on 49 carries
In 2016, the Hornets steamrolled the Bears for 464 yards on the ground in a 42-21 win in the 3A West region title game. Two years later, the Bears cut that mark by three-and-a-half football fields and stifled the ultra-productive Hornets to 2.1 yards per carry. The number itself isn’t surprising. Oakdale entered Friday yielding 2.2 yards per carry to opponents. But on Damascus? That’s unheard of.
Of the Hornets’ 49 carries, only four went for double-digit yardage — two of those came from quarterback Michael O’Neil. Damascus’ longest rush was Chris Shaw’s 13 yarder in the third quarter.
Oakdale, meanwhile, was led by Simeon Sabvute, who totaled 113 yards on 27 carries (3.7 yards per carry) and produced timely runs throughout the night, including an 18-yard gash on 4th-and-2 that led to a touchdown and a 10-yard scamper to set up his game-sealing, goal-line score two plays later.
In my four years of covering high school football, I’ve never seen the opposition out-rush Damascus … until Oakdale.
Why Damascus scored with ease on the opening drive and then went inept
When the Hornets chugged 71 yards on the game’s opening, 18-play drive — which spanned 8 minutes and 43 seconds, by the way — nearly everyone in the stadium thought the usual: All the hype from the opposition is for naught and Damascus is going to have its way all night.
Then the remaining 40 or so minutes played out and the product wasn’t even close to the first impression. Why? There are two underlying reasons. The first is rushing yards after contact. Of the 71 yards on the scoring drive, 65 were rushing and 37 came after first contact (16 carries on the first drive). That’s only an average of 4.1 yards per carry, but 2.1 yards after contact. So, the Hornets were essentially turning nothing into three-yard gains and two-yard gains into four or five-yard pickups. Damascus never had a play longer than seven yards on the opening. It simply chipped away and plowed ahead.
Oakdale clamped down and allowed 20 yards after contact over the final 33 carries. Damascus never scored again.
The second reason is Damascus showed all five of its formations on the opening drive, and, like a baseball team picking up a pitcher’s tendencies through the first round of at-bats, Oakdale decoded the Hornets’ philosophy and adjusted. After that, Damascus mustered just 41 rushing yards on 33 carries and 67 yards of total offense on 41 plays. A counter-argument could be Damascus’ lack of creativity and zero play action looks. But, you be the judge. The stats speak for themselves.
Oakdale won the trench battle. Now, all of its ‘soft’ stigmas need to go
The Bears have fallen considerably short over the years because of their inability to get it done inside. Damascus and Walkersville have ended Oakdale’s season from 2015-17 with dominant, physically-imposing lines.
While they didn’t fully exact revenge, the Bears turned years of lambasting into an emphatic message: the years of “soft” are over and this line can slug with the best.
The statistics prove Oakdale outdueled Damascus up front. It outgained them on the ground 127-106. It generated better penetration with 86 yards before first contact (2.5 yards per rush) to Damascus’ 49 yards (1.0 per rush). It protected Schlee, allowing no sacks while making 6-6, 290-pound Bryan Bresee, the top 2020 recruit nationally, a non-factor. Matter of fact, Bresee had more personal fouls (three) than tackles (two). That’s no knock on Bresee, but a testament to Oakdale’s execution. On the other side, Oakdale sacked O’Neil twice — one being a strip sack that led to a touchdown.
After years of getting housed up front, Oakdale shed the stigma that they can’t win a big game with the big boys.
Collin Schlee: 4 of 15 for 89 yards and a touchdown
Despite their Division I quarterback recruit completing just four passes with a quarterback rating of 74.0, Oakdale still won by 17. No way that statement was even plausible heading into Friday, but here we are, trying to comprehend it.
It’s not that Schlee played horrible. After all, he played a clean game and managed the game well enough to win. But because of mucky field conditions and a few tight Damascus coverages, this was one of his worst games of the season. If Schlee attempts 15 passes and plays up to his 130.6 QBR, he’s looking at nine completions, at least 140 yards and at least two touchdowns.
First downs: Oakdale 13, Damascus 12
This is the one statistic the Hornets kept close. In all honesty, Damascus coach Eric Wallich would probably take that margin and expect a tight win. The Hornets were able to mount a few promising drives, but the culprit was miscues and penalties. Four of Damascus’ eight drives ended in a turnover — with nine points directly resulting into points for Oakdale — and three of those drives crossed midfield. As for the penalties, the Hornets were slapped for 113 yards on 10 flags (67 yards in the fourth quarter alone).
34 of Ayo-Durojaiye’s 72 rushing yards came after contact
Damascus running back TD Ayo-Durojaiye came out swinging. He ran for 29 yards, 19 coming after first contact, on the first drive and eventually scored first. Of the senior’s 72 rushing yards, 34 came after the first contact. Ayo-Durojaiye, a hard runner by nature with a knack for the end zone, certainly did his part. It’s just running lanes never really materialized.
Passing — Damascus: O’Neil 4 of 10, 32 yards, 1 INT; Oakdale: Schlee 4 of 15, 89 yards, 1 TD
Rushing — Damascus: Ayo-Durojaiye 21-72, 1 TD, 10 long. Shaw 4-28, 13 long. O’Neil 4-26, 13 long, 2 fumbles. Beal 3-11, 4 long. Roland 3-6, 7 long. Leslie 2-4, 5 long. Team 4-minus 41. Total 49-106, 2 fumbles; Oakdale: Sabvute 27-113, 1 TD, 18 long. Schlee 2-5, 3 long. Baxter 1-5, 5 long, 1 fumble. Goings 4-4, 2 long. Total: 34-127, 1 fumble.
Receiving — Damascus: Team 2-17, long 12. Furgeson 1-8, 8 long. Ayo-Durojaiye 1-7, 7 long. Total 4-32, 12 long; Oakdale: Baxter 2-56, 1 TD, 37 long. Goings 1-17, 17 long, McKoy 1-16, 16 long. Total: 4-89, 37 long.
Drive summary: plays, yards, TOP, start of drive, highlights, how it ended
Damascus (18 plays, 71 yards, 8:43): own 21-yard-line. two fourth-down conversions at Oakdale’s 31 and 21. 65 rushing yards on 16 carries. Ayo-Durojaiye two-yard touchdown run. 7-0 Damascus, 3:17 1Q.
Oakdale (7 plays, 53 yards, 2:26): own 20. Schlee 36-yard pass to Baxter from their own 15 to the Damascus 48. Justin Ritter 22-yard punt for a touchback. 7-0 Damascus, 0:41 1Q.
Damascus (5 plays, 17 yards, 2:14): own 20. Ayo-Durojaiye runs of nine and three yards for a first down. Oakdale defensive end Tyree Jones recovers bad snap at the Damascus 37. 7-0 Damascus, 10:27 2Q.
Oakdale (5 plays, 18 yards, 2:18): Damascus 37. Sabvute 12-yard run, Schlee 3-yard pickup, Sabvute 3-yard push to get inside red zone. Schlee incompletion on fourth-and-four at the Damascus 19; turnover on downs, 8:09 2Q.
Damascus (4 plays, minus-19 yards, 0:58): own 19. Ayo-Durojaiye three rushes for four yards. Snap at own 23-yard-line sails over punter’s head, resulting in a safety. 7-2 Damascus, 7:11 2Q.
Oakdale (8 plays, 48 yards, 3:07): Damascus 48. Sabvute 18-yard run on fourth-and-2 from Damascus 40 to the 22. Schlee 18-yard touchdown pass to Baxter. 9-7 Oakdale, 4:04 2Q.
Damascus (3 plays, minus-20 yards, 1:03): own 20. 15-yard personal foul from own 22 to 7. O’Neil strip-sacked from blind side; Ben Bevilacqua falls on fumble in end zone for touchdown. 16-7 Oakdale, 3:01 2Q.
Damascus (5 plays, 8 yards, 2:06): own 32. Shaw 13-yard from own 32 to 45. Drive stalls. 33-yard punt. 16-7 Oakdale, 0:55 2Q.
Oakdale (3 plays, 11 yards, 0:55): own 24. Personal foul from own 24 to 39. Two Schlee deep passes dropped. End of first half. 16-7 Oakdale, halftime.
Oakdale (3 plays, 4 yards, 0:56): own 39. Schlee’s flea-flicker bomb broken up by Austin Ambush. Three-and-out. 29-yard punt. 16-7 Oakdale, 11:04 3Q.
Damascus (9 plays, 36 yards, 3:45): own 28. Ayo-Durojaiye 10-yard run from own 28 to 38. O’Neil 11-yard run from own 44 to Oakdale 45. Ayo-Durojaiye 8-yard run on third-and-eight from Oakdale 43 to 35. Drive stalls at Oakdale 36. Three-yard punt. 16-7 Oakdale, 7:15 3Q.
Oakdale (6 plays, 30 yards, 3:57): own 33. Sabvute 9-yard run from own 33 to 43. Schlee 17-yard pass to Goings from own 44 to Damascus 39. Baxter fumble at Damascus 37. 16-7 Oakdale, 3:18 3Q.
Damascus (3 plays, 0 yards, 2:04): own 43. Three-and-out. 37-yard punt. 16-7 Oakdale, 1:14 3Q.
Oakdale (13 plays, 80 yards, 5:00): own 20. Sabvute 36 yards on nine carries. Schlee 16-yard pass to McKoy on third-and-eight from own 39 to Damascus 45. Personal foul from the Damascus 42 to the 27. Pass interference from the Damascus 24 to the 12. Sabvute 2-yard touchdown run. Reifer pass to Schlee for 2-point conversion. 24-7 Oakdale, 7:14 4Q.
Damascus (5 plays, 20 yards, 2:08): own 42. O’Neil two completions for 20 yards. O’Neil interception on third-and-10 from Oakdale 38. 24-7 Oakdale, 5:06 4Q.
Oakdale (5 plays, 18 yards, 2:00): own 24. Back-to-back Damascus offside penalties from own 23 to 33. Sabvute 8-yard run from own 35 to 43. Drive stalls. 33-yard punt. 24-7 Oakdale, 3:06 4Q.
Damascus (5 plays, minus-10 yards): own 27. O’Neil 13-yard rush from own 32 to 45. Back-to-back personal fouls push Hornets back to own 15 from 45. Roland fumble. 24-7 Oakdale, 0:56 4Q.
Oakdale (0 plays, 0 yards, 0:00): Refs call came with 0:56 remaining.