By Nelson Coffin, firstname.lastname@example.org
5:24 PM EDT, October 3, 2011
When Calvert Hall (4-0) and Gilman (4-1) stage their much-anticipated showdown Oct. 6 at 2:30 p.m. in Roland Park, Cardinals coach Donald Davis hopes it will be a good game.
"If it's a good game, I'd say 'hot dog,' because that means we were in it," he said. "If it's not a good game — a blowout — we'd be in trouble. There's no way we go in there and blow them out."
There hasn't been a rout in what has become the area's most competitive gridiron rivalry since 2006, when the Greyhounds rolled to an easy 26-7 triumph.
The last four battles between the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference foes have been decided by an average of four points, with Gilman prevailing, 14-10, in 2007 and, 13-10, in overtime, in 2008.
Calvert Hall became the only local rival in recent memory to beat Gilman two years in a row, pulling off a 21-10 stunner in 2009 and an even more miraculous 26-21 victory under the lights last year at Paul Angelo Russo Stadium in Towson.
Both teams are primed for the rematch that will give the winner a good start towards bagging the top seed in the first-ever playoff in the A Conference — or its predecessor in the Maryland Scholastic Association.
Yet the very fact that there is a playoff means the combatants could easily meet again in late November for the title the Cardinals currently own.
Gilman coach Biff Poggi, whose Greyhounds thrashed Archbishop Spalding, 42-8, Oct. 1, answered affirmatively when asked if the playoff format could diminish the importance of the regular-season contest.
And senior running back Kenneth Goins said that the game "will be just like a regular game," to Gilman.
Still, it's difficult to believe the Greyhounds wouldn't get an extra measure of satisfaction by knocking off the Cardinals.
Considering the way Gilman stars Cyrus Jones and Shane Cockerille played against Spalding, Calvert Hall figures to have its hands full.
After forcing a poor punt on Spalding's first series deep in its own territory, Gilman started its first drive at the Cavalier 15 and scored three plays later on Cockerille's 5-yard burst.
The Stoneleigh resident also rushed for two other TDs, tossed a 15-yard scoring strike to sophomore Bijan Rhett, watched what would have been a long bomb slip through the hands of a receiver and had a 5-yard touchdown flip to senior Cyrus Jones called back for an inadvertent whistle after a fake handoff to senior Kenneth Goins fooled the referees.
Jones also had an interesting day, fumbling through the end zone after a terrific zig-zag through what seemed to be every opponent with an interception before having a long scoring run called back on a holding penalty.
On a positive note, one of the state's most highly sought after recruits had a 72-yard punt return to set up Gilman's third touchdown and scored on a 68-yard reception from Cockerille in the third quarter.
"They're big, fast, strong and deep," Davis said. "And they have a kicker (Trevor Wey) who can kick the heck out of the ball.
Davis says his team is still "banged up," but is a big believer in the Cardinals' depth.
"That's why we coach the game," he said. "We have to prepare some of our No. 2 and No. 3 players to be ready, and my coaches do a good job of that."
The good news for the Cardinals is that they had a bye last weekend, which gave their top performers — senior quarterback Thomas Stuart, senior running backs CJ Williams, Garrett Keene and Brandon Neverdon, senior wideout Trevor Williams and his junior sidekick Kyle Levere — a welcome rest.
That group has played a key leadership role in Calvert Hall's run of 17 wins in its last 18 games, and 22 of the last 24.
"They have three or four really good backs, some very good skill-position guys on the outside and some excellent defensive backs," Poggi said. "They also have a quarterback who is a playmaker. We know they're a very good team."