Coach of the year
The 36-year-old Damico returned only three starters from the previous season, and his team was ranked as low as No. 11 during the preseason by The Sun. But Damico molded his team into a winner, capturing his fourth straight MIAA B Conference title and, along the way, mowing down then-No. 3 Mount St. Joseph and No. 1-ranked Gilman -- two members of the A Conference. The Eagles finished the season ranked No. 1 in The Sun with a 10-0 record. The No. 1 rating is believed to be McDonogh's second in football history at the school, and its first since starting out that way in 1994, with a 10-0 record. And the Eagles did it not only with a first-year quarterback, but with more size among the linemen than in previous years. Damico has placed seven players in Division I schools during his seven years at McDonogh, and looks to have at least an eighth in 6-4, 260-pound two-way lineman Kellen Williams. Damico's 49-16 record at McDonogh includes 28 consecutive victories against the B Conference. Damico's program moves into the A Conference next season, but he has been successful anyway against that conference's champs. Damico is 3-1 against St. Mary's, a team that won the A Conference in 1996, and is 2-1 against Loyola and Mount St. Joseph, each a past champ. McDonogh snapped a three-game losing streak against Gilman, winner of its third A Conference crown this year.
Player of the year
The 6-5, 210-pound Benson had a breakout season, being effective as quarterback, place-kicker and punter, as well as a hard-hitting defensive back for the Eagles. On offense, the junior right-hander was 85-for-130 passing (65 percent) for 1,790 yards and 18 touchdowns, and rushed for four scores on 350 yards. Benson, who earned second-team All-City/County honors last fall for his kicking abilities, was 1-for-2 on field goals with a 33-yarder, 36-for-38 on extra points, and averaged 42 yards per punt. Benson, who intercepted three passes on defense, didn't always look smooth while executing. But he has an improvisational skill that at times was uncanny. Benson's numbers aren't gaudy, but the damage he caused the opposition was always great. In McDonogh's season-opening, 34-24 win at Chambersburg, Pa., Benson was 10-for-12 passing for three touchdowns in the first half alone, and finishing with 197 passing yards and 36 yards rushing. He was efficient in a 42-12 rout of Mount St. Joseph, going 4-for-7 for 110 yards and a touchdown. But Benson's crowning achievement was his 73 passing yards and 34 rushing against Gilman, when he threw the game-winning score and kicked the extra point for a 7-0 victory. Facing third-and-9, third-and-14 and second-and-13 versus Gilman, Benson passed for 12 yards, ran for 15 and ran for 16 - all for clock-killing first downs. "I'd have to say he's the best quarterback I've had here," coach Dom Damico said of Benson, a basketball rebounder and high-scoring lacrosse player. "As a general athlete, he's tough. A gamer. He shows up for the big games."
A solid Division I prospect, Colvin was agile and immovable as a two-way lineman. The four-year starter, who is 6-4 and 310 pounds, put in the work required to make himself a star lineman. Colvin slimmed down from the 330 he weighed during the preseason, and the nearly 350 he tipped the scales at as a freshman and sophomore. Colvin often cleared the way for running back Darnell Baylor's 1,855 yards and 19 TDs. He was invited to the preseason Nike football training camp, where he showed his athleticism, clocking a 5.46-second 40-yard dash, more than respectable speed for his size. Colvin's powerful legs also defied gravity to the tune of a 21-inch vertical leap. Of the 10 or so 300-pound-plus players at the camp, only one other - who weighed 305 and leaped 20 inches - was close to Colvin. Georgia, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Maryland are among the schools Colvin, a solid student, is considering.
Although unheralded prior to the season, Dennis proved to be a force to be reckoned with and, at his best, uncoverable. Dennis led Calvert Hall to an 8-1 season after going 2-8, a runner-up finish in the MIAA A Conference, and helped his team snap an 11-game losing streak to rival Loyola. He had 950 receiving yards on 50 receptions and eight touchdowns. The 6-foot, 170-pounder, who runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, had a momentum-swinging, 52-yard punt return in a come-from-behind win over then No. 5 Mount St. Joseph. In a loss to Gilman, Dennis had seven receptions for 99 yards, including a 27-yard scoring reception when he out-leaped his defender in the back of the end zone. The catch made Calvert Hall only the second team this fall, and the first in the area, to score against then No. 1 Gilman. A B-average student with a 1,050 SAT, Dennis is considering Villanova, William & Mary, Towson, Bucknell, New Hampshire and UMass.