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Gilman students gather to watch rare football game on national TV

'Even for us, this is new,' says school spokesman

By Larry Perl, lperl@tribune.com

11:04 PM EDT, August 26, 2012

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Classes don't start at Gilman School until Thursday, so why were students hanging out by the auditorium in the rain Sunday evening?

That's what Design and Woodworking teacher A.J. Howard wondered when he pulled into the parking lot, intending to get his classroom ready for the school year.

But he ended up happily procrastinating, sitting in the auditorium with other teachers, students and parents to watch the Gilman Greyhounds football team play a nationally televised game in Cincinnati, Ohio, against Archbishop Moeller Catholic School, ranked 16th in the nation by ESPN.

"I'll watch the first quarter, then go to work and come back for the fourth quarter," Howard said.

In a triumph of technology, school spirit and the social network, Gilman students organized a game-watching meetup that drew about 100 people, even on a day of thunderstorms. Tough the ESPN High School Football Kickoff game was being broadcast on the cable channel ESPNU, there was no TV in the auditorium; instead, students hooked up a laptop to a projector and showed the game streamed live from the Internet onto the projector screen. onstage.

Some students at the private boys school in Roland Park painted the letter 'G' on their chests and staged pep rallies during commercial breaks. Others sold hamburgers, hot dogs and drinks outside the front door.

"I'm real proud of the boys for pulling this off," said Headmaster John Schmick, who was in the audience. "It was all their idea."

Gilman database manager Allison Conner, who lives on campus, stopped by with her dog, Poe, an 8-year-old greyhound.

Dogs aren't supposed to be in the auditorium, but Conner figured Poe deserved a pass.

"He's the unofficial (school) mascot," Conner said. "That's the only reason I sneak him in."

The event was the brainchild of senior Peter Cooke, of Roland Park, whose friends on the football team told him they would be playing on national TV.

"A light bulb went off," said Cooke, 17. With the blessing of Head of Upper School Iva Turner, Cooke and senior class president Zane MacFarlane, also of Roland Park, started a Facebook page and got the word out to other students at Gilman, as well as students from the nearby girls schools Bryn Mawr and Roland Park Country, who often take classes at Gilman.

"I don't know much about football, but I like to support Gilman when I can," said Bryn Mawr senior Aidan Lorch-Liebel, who takes English and history classes at Gilman.

The Greyhounds, last year's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champions, were ranked 16th in the USA Today preseason Super 25 rankings, and second in Maryland in a state media preseason poll. But they were overmatched against Archbishop Moeller, losing 35-14.

That didn't detract from Gilman's enthusiasm.

"It's a fun time," Conner said.

"It's Gilman. It's football," said senior John Chirikjian, sporting a 'G' on his chest.

"I think it's a wonderful idea to generate school spirit even before school starts," Turner said. "We're happy, even with this monsoon weather."

And MacFarlane said, "It's just a good way to start off the year."