Updated: Police Investigating ‘Concerning Call’ To Damascus High School Prior to Friday Night Varsity Football Playoff Game

Police reported no problems at Friday night's game

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Updated: Nov. 12, 11:15 a.m. Police presence was heightened Friday night at a Damascus High School Varsity football state championship playoff game after a “concerning call” was made to the school last week following the arrests of five Junior Varsity football players charged with sexually assaulting players on the JV team during a hazing event.

“There were more police officers there than we normally have,” said Montgomery County police spokesman Capt. Tom Jordan. But, Jordan said, “there no problems reported for the evening.”

Jordan said it was too early in the week to say if additional police would be required for Friday night’s game against Frederick County’s Oakdale High School. The two teams will face off in the regional finals leading up to the state Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association championship for the 2018-2019 season.

Montgomery County police have been investigating a phone call made to Damascus Thursday morning, but a police spokesperson Friday fell short of calling it a threat – despite accounts from two individuals with direct knowledge of the situation who say it was.

A spokesperson for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) also said Friday the call was not a threat. “The main office received a concerning call that they shared with MCPD who immediately followed up with the caller,” Montgomery County Public Schools spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala said.

However, a police officer with knowledge of the situation said the caller threatened to harm members of the school community if the Friday night game went on and said the school administration had to go. A protest may also happen, the police officer said.

After the concerning call Thursday, “a lot” of officers were present at the school Thursday afternoon from 1:30 p.m. on, and a plan to have a larger police presence at the school’s Friday night varsity football game is also in place, the police officer said.

When asked which statement was more accurate – a concerning call or a threat – a high level Damascus High School employee with direct knowledge of the call said “go with the police source.” The school employee asked not to be named.

The police source said a meeting was held at Damascus Friday morning to discuss security issues for the Friday night game, among other topics.

The alleged threatening phone call follows the arrest of five junior varsity football players who have been charged with second-degree rape and second-degree assault following an alleged after-school hazing situation in the boys’ locker room Oct. 31.

In a letter sent to “MCPS Community” on Friday, Superintendent Jack Smith said the varsity football game will go on as planned, stating police have found no indication at this time that varsity football players were involved in the hazing incident.

Smith said police findings were reaffirmed Thursday.

“Given the information, we are allowing the game to proceed as scheduled so our student-athletes on the varsity team have the opportunity to continue with their season,” Smith said. “If the police investigation, or our subsequent investigation in to this matter, reveals evidence of a connection between this incident and the varsity football program, MCPS can and will take steps to address the situation.”

Police spokesperson Lucille Baur said Friday a police presence at the Friday night varsity game against Carroll County’s Century High School would not be larger than what is normal for any MCPS football game.

However, the police officer with knowledge of the situation said at least 12 officers would be on hand, and the normal number of officers at high school football games is two.

The Damascus High School football team is a powerhouse in the county. After breaking a state record Oct. 26 winning their 51st game in a row and winning their first play-off game against Century Friday night, 42-3, they will next face off this Friday against Frederick County’s Oakdale High School in the regional final for the state championship.

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