Damascus Football Team To Forfeit First Game of Season After Violating State Rules

Damascus Football Team To Forfeit First Game of Season After Violating State Rules

Team participated in an out-of-season practice in May

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Damascus High School

Photo via MCPS

Five days after the Montgomery school system announced a crackdown on the Damascus High School football program, the team violated state athletics rules and will now be forced to forfeit its first game of the season, according to school officials.

On May 14, school system leaders announced major changes to the Damascus football coaching staff and that the junior varsity and varsity teams were placed on “probation,” and any violations of local or state rules would result in punishments.

On May 19, the team held an out-of-season practice, violating state athletic association rules, according to a letter sent from school officials to Damascus families.

The football program was placed on a one-year “probationary oversight period” after four JV players were charged with first-degree rape for allegedly assaulting teammates with a broomstick in a team locker room before the final practice of the season.

Each suspect was originally charged as an adult, but later had their cases transferred to juvenile court, where one defendant reportedly agreed to a plea deal last week.

An internal investigation found the coaching staff left the team unattended for about 25 minutes the afternoon of the attacks, and Superintendent Jack Smith in May announced the JV coach, Vincent Colbert, had been fired and Joe Doody, the school’s athletic director was removed from his position. The varsity head coach, Eric Wallich, retained his position, according to the school system.

In April, Damascus principal Casey Crouse resigned, citing fallout from the attacks, and started a new position in the school system’s Rockville central office, working in the human resources department.

A new athletic director has been hired and the new principal and JV coach are expected to be in place by July 1, according to school system officials.

Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and Montgomery County Public Schools policy says teams can’t hold official practices outside of the sport’s official season.

Any team that gathers with three or more players “for the purpose of drilling or instruction,” is in violation, according to the handbook. Alleged violations are investigated by the school system’s superintendent or their designee, the handbook says.

“Following an investigation, it was confirmed that a number of returning Damascus football players and coaches conducted an out-of-season practice,” school system athletics director Jeffrey Sullivan wrote in the community letter.

A school system spokesman confirmed the practice was led by Wallich, the varsity head coach.

The spokesman declined to comment on whether disciplinary action was taken against Wallich, but the state athletics association handbook says a coach’s first violation results in a “censure” – a formal statement expressing disapproval of the action. Additional violations could result in the coach being declared ineligible to coach the team for the current school year.

As a result of the out-of-season practice, both the JV and varsity teams will forfeit their first game of the 2019 season — a home game against Rockville High School.

The Damascus varsity team has been a powerhouse program in recent years, losing one game in the past four seasons and collecting four consecutive state championships. On Nov. 17, the Swarmin’ Hornets’ 53-game winning streak – believed to be the nation’s longest – was broken in an away game at Oakdale High School in Frederick County.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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