DAMASCUS, Md. - Damascus High School has a storied football tradition and this year's team is favored to return to the Maryland 3A state finals.
"The goal is always to win a state championship,” said Damascus head coach Eric Wallich.
The Hornets are led on offense by all-state running back Jake Funk and quarterback Julian Kinard.
"When things aren't going our way, [Kinard] is one of the guys who really does a good job at calming down the team,” said Funk.
"I have not seen him rattled yet,” said Wallich. “He’s a pretty cool customer.”
Kinard doesn't get rattled because he knows it can never get as bad on game day as it did one day in December 2009.
"I was just hanging with some friends sledding and I noticed that something felt a little different and it progressed on through the week, it got worse,” he said. “Next thing I know, they said you’re going to take a little nap.”
Kinard was suffering from hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a blood disorder that affects one in 500,000 children. The disease has a 50 percent mortality rate.
"New Year’s Eve, they told my mom that they should expect that I probably won’t wake up the next day,” said Kinard.
“It was very scary,” said Funk. “You don’t realize how quick you could be from death and Julian was very close unfortunately.”
He was in a coma for two weeks. When he woke up, he had one question.
"When am I going to play football again?" Kinard said. “They told me you might not even walk again.”
Before he could run back onto a football field, he had to relearn how to walk.
"I decided to fight through it and prove them wrong,” said Kinard.
He went through physical therapy three times a day for a month. He put in the work off the field as well.
Kinard had to miss three months of school while he was in the hospital, but he didn't let that stand in his way. He now has a 4.4 GPA and wants to major in engineering in college.
“There's always something to live for, there’s always something to keep fighting for,” he said. “Just keep fighting and eventually you’ll make it through.”
On the field, Kinard and his teammates have the Hornets undefeated and well on their way to accomplishing a goal they set way back in middle school -- to win a championship.