Damascus forfeits opener

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Elijah Kasten

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A Damascus football player sprints up the field during a game. The Damascus football program has been under fire lately, having to forfeit their first game of the season due to the holding of an illegal practice.

Photo courtesy of MCPS

A Damascus football player sprints up the field during a game. The Damascus football program has been under fire lately, having to forfeit their first game of the season due to the holding of an illegal practice.

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Damascus High School is famed for their successful football program. A commanding 53-game winning streak as well as state titles from 2015-2017 have been defining achievements for their elite program. Already recovering from a hazing scandal that put their program under fire during the 2018 season, Damascus football took another hit as they forfeited their first game of the 2019 season due to the holding of an illegal practice in May.

Montgomery County and the country was left in shock and concern following the hazing scandal that lead to four teens being charged with rape. On May 14, Damascus junior varsity and varsity football teams were placed on probation and any further violations of local and state rules would lead to consequences.

On May 19, Damascus held an illegal practice at their field. This practice was considered out of season and it consisted of too many returning players in addition to returning coaches. A school team can’t practice or compete beyond the guidelines of the MPSSAA (Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association) sports season. These parameters start on the first day of practice and end upon the conclusion of the playoffs.

In addition, a school coach may not instruct or coach returning players beyond the established MPSSAA sports season unless the players are on a non-school team coached by the school coach.

If a school coach is the coach of a non-school team, the number of returning players that can be on the non-school team can’t violate the MPSSAA “Eighty-Percent” Rule. This rule is in play from the first practice of fall sports (mid-August) to the last spring sport state championship (late May).

It was later confirmed by school systems athletics director Jeffrey Sullivan, that Damascus had violated the Eighty-Percent rule.

“Following an investigation, it was confirmed that a number of returning Damascus football players and coaches conducted an out-of-season practice. A school system spokesman confirmed the practice was led by Wallich, the varsity head coach,” Sullivan said, adopted by Bethesda Magazine.

WJ varsity football head coach Larry Hurd Jr. assures that his team is always playing by the rules.

“We adhere to all guidelines and standards that MCPS and the state mandate,” coach Hurd Jr. said.

WJ and other schools are not permitted to use equipment provided by the school.

“For off-season practices, we can’t use school equipment. For seven on sevens we use our own footballs,” junior safety David Gardner said.

Both Damsucus junior varsity and varsity football teams forfeited their season opener on September 7 against Rockville High School.

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