Together at that 1 time of the year

Season ending high school sports awards abound at this time of year. For those student athletes who excelled it is rewarding to be recognized now as best amongst your peers both here in the county and across the DMV.

Accolades for MoCo student-athletes did suffer an indirect loss this year. The Gaithersburg Gazette weekly newspaper is no longer in existence and seasonally produced an all county individual listing. Regardless, the competition amongst MoCo standouts remains high it just now lacks the local props.

I, for my part couldn’t conceive, how best to proceed with filling a void of identifying the best of the best – nor shall I try. However, there is one standout – or should I preface that as a team that stands out this year in the county.

The standout is Jake Funk, running back and defensive back for the 2015 3A Maryland State Football Champions of Damascus that is the #1 team that he played on.

I had five opportunities in 2015 to catch the Damascus Hornets in action, one pre-season tune up, two regular season and two state playoff games. I was not a latecomer to that funky noise going down off of Route 27. Rather, I first heard that noise in all places on a foggy, wet muddy night in Rockville, October 16, 2014 to be exact. It was a 3A match up between Rockville Rams and the Hornets. Back then expectations was for a state championship, the Hornets however they fell short in Baltimore in the state finals of that year.

A desire was born that night of the failed championship – it was for the Hornets to return to Baltimore and claim their #1 place in MoCo and state football history.

2015. Enter Jake Funk.

Already the preseason hype upcounty was all about this talented student-athlete. My brother, a JV coach at Damascus sung his praise to me during the summer. But I already knew as did the many Division I, II and III schools that lined up for views along Route 27.

My challenge this year was how best to capture Funk in motion. In all honesty it was never what I expected. I did not recognize during the games just how powerful and fundamentally sound the entire Damascus team was, especially the offensive line, and the offensive backfield, the ends and oh, how about the defense. They all simply crushed their opponents.

In reviewing the photos for this layout all the above became apparent and that in over 15 plus years of shooting, college or high school football, I never had as many wide open shots of a running back going through the opposing defensive line. The Damascus opponents I photographed were no pushovers either – they included Quince Orchard, Seneca Valley, Reservoir, and Dundalk all ranked teams in their own right.

It was – Funk, right, Funk Left, Funk up the middle, in the wildcat, on sweeps, catching a pass, blocking and even tackling where he left his mark.

It was too easy. I gave up shooting Funk from the sidelines I just headed for the end zone and waited. A state record 57 times he would end up there mostly a result of the Swarm of Hornets blocking for him. I saw a third of the 57 – that’s pretty good odds to capture scoring action. I saw enough of him hitting the line full speed and then suddenly appear in the secondary out of the grasp of multiple defenders. I saw him with wingmen on either side, solo, and for good measure – face mask to face mask with an opponent.

I saw Funk finally rest in Baltimore on December 3rd on the sidelines his job done after scoring seven touchdowns along with those first stringers that made it happen – both defensively and offensively. Yes, the coaches played a huge part – the Swarm was prepared – and any of you, who played, watched, photographed, covered, or just tuned in for the first time was not. It was over in the blink of a high school football career.

All that remains are glory day legends and stories of the time “we” played for or against Damascus. And it is time for brothers who played on the team, Funk’s and Bradshaw’s, and two Fabrizio’s who watched from the sidelines in season.

One short year gone by and it is Damascus – Team 1.

To the Damascus Hornets Champions – you all started as 1 and finished 2015 that way, together.