Gilman football coach Biff Poggi has an impressive resume. Poggi enters the 2013 season with a 119-36 record in 16 years, with 11 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championships, including the last two.
“We have had a number of awesome football players,” Poggi said. “We have replaced as many great football players over the last four years as any school in the country. We have had guys play at Alabama, Michigan, Penn State. You name it.”
Even with players helping to make records like that, Our Lady of Good Counsel, of Olney, won’t be intimidated when the Falcons travel to clash with Gilman on Aug. 23 in the season opener for both schools at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The 8:30 p.m. kickoff will be nationally televised on ESPNEWS.
Good Counsel, ranked 19th nationally by USA Today, has won the past four Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles and edged the Greyhounds last year, 20-19.
Good Counsel has won three of the last four meetings over Gilman, including the overtime verdict in 2012 and a 26-21 thriller in 2011.
“We are hoping for another battle like it has been the last two years,” Gilman defensive coordinator Stan White said. “It went down to the final play of the game.”
Good Counsel graduated Dorian O’Daniel, who will play for Clemson and rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns against Gilman last year. The Falcons also lost wide receiver Kendall Fuller, who caught a touchdown.
Still, Good Counsel boasts a standout offensive line, highlighted by seniors Sam Mustipher (Notre Dame recruit), Richie Wenzel and Sam Madaras.
Gilman will also be playing with a rookie quarterback, talented junior Kai Locksley.
At 6-feet, 4 inches and 200 pounds, Locksley has the size, speed and strong arm to help the Greyhounds ease the loss of Shane Cockerille, now at Maryland after rushing for 1,305 yards and 15 touchdowns and throwing for 1,106 yards and seven scores as a senior.
Despite having never taken a snap under center as a starting signal caller, Locksley has received scholarship offers from Florida State, Michigan State, Maryland and Virginia, according to Poggi
“He also has an offer from Tennessee for basketball,” Poggi explained. “How often do you see that? It’s one of those unique things. But he is just a rookie. He’s got a lot to learn.”
Should Poggi have to turn to the running game, he hopes the tandem of senior Bijan Rhett (5-10, 190) and sophomores Antonio Dupree (5-11, 205) and Dorian Maddox (6-0, 185) can provide a boost.
They will be working behind the big and physical offensive line of seniors Chibuzo Ukandu (6-3, 259), Ben Robbins (6-6, 260), Sheldon Johnson (6-3, 280) and Arien Mayeux (6-2, 245) and sophomore Stephen Spanellis (6-4, 245).
Ukandu is lone starter back on the line.
At wide receiver, senior and returning starter Troy Vincent Jr. (6-0, 190), who will play at Penn State as a defensive back, could be Locksley’s top target.
The Greyhounds have no shortage of wideouts with sophomore Korey Stephens (6-0, 180) and juniors T.J. Oursler (5-10, 160), Robert Branch (6-2, 193) and Jelani Roberts (5-9, 170) in the mix.
Seniors Chase Campbell (6-3, 204), Trevor Tomlinson (6-3, 200) and Taylor Swindell (5-10, 180) will fill the starting roles for the defense.
“We had three linebackers that started for us for three years, which means you can do a lot of things,” White said. “The new starters will be similar to the guys that graduated. They will be very good, but right now they are very young.”
Replacing Poggi’s son Henry, a defensive tackle who recorded 14 1/2 sacks and went on to play at Michigan, won’t be easy.
Senior end Melvin Keihn (6-3, 220) should step into a leadership on the line with his play on the field and sophomore tackle Ellison Jordan (6-0, 242) should continue to improve.
“(Jordan) is one of the best players we ever had a freshmen,” White said.
Vincent Jr. spearheads a secondary that also features Branch at safety.