No. 1 Gilman went into Monday's game at No. 2 Calvert Hall having allowed a total of 16 points to its previous three Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference football opponents, but the Cardinals scored 14 in the first 20 minutes.
Calvert Hall led, 14-9, at halftime, as Gilman had to settle for three field goals by Trevor Wey. Given recent history, however, that didn't mean much.
For the third straight time in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown with the Cardinals, the Greyhounds came back in the second half for the victory. Their 24-14 win, in a game postponed by thunderstorms Friday , gives defending champion Gilman (5-2) sole possession of first place in the conference at 4-0 and seals the top seed for the A Conference tournament.
The Cardinals (6-2) drop to 2-1 in the conference and face a showdown with No. 10 Archbishop Spalding (3-1 in the conference) Friday night for the second seed.
After struggling to establish their running game, the Greyhounds' offense took advantage of an early second-half Cardinals' turnover and started rolling behind the running of quarterback Shane Cockerille (19 carries, 77 yards), Daniel Blair (16 carries, 89 yards) and Wyatt Dickerson (nine carries, 47 yards).
"In the first half, I think it was the guys getting wigged out," Cockerille said. "It's Calvert Hall, so everybody's all pumped up. We just needed to slow down a little bit. We didn't go down and not score. We put up three each time. We moved the ball and then we would stall, but we came out the second half a little bit more relaxed. We always talk about playing for 48 minutes."
The Greyhounds went three-and-out on their first drive of the half, but they got the ball right back when Melvin Keihn caught Calvert Hall quarterback Colar Kuhns from behind, forcing a fumble that Micah Kiser recovered on the Cardinals' 49-yard line.
Nine plays later, Dickerson scored on a 3-yard run and Cockerille added the conversion pass for Gilman's first lead, 17-14, with 5:16 left in the third quarter.
Gilman, which had possession for more than 8 minutes of the fourth quarter, followed ith a 70-yard, 10-play scoring drive capped by Cockerille's 1-yard sneak for a 24-14 lead with 8:48 to go.
Cardinals coach Donald Davis said his young team couldn't afford youthful mistakes against Gilman, and they turned the ball over twice. Their first came late in the second quarter when Mike Knudsen picked off Kuhns (14-for-28 passing for 235 yards). The turnover led to Wey's 37-yard field goal that cut the Cardinals' lead to 14-9 going into halftime.
That turnover was especially costly because it came one play after Calvert Hall's Kevin Nickel had intercepted Cockerille, who was 7-for-13 passing for 142 yards.
"Because we turned the football over and we struggled a little bit to move the ball, we put ourselves in some unfavorable situations on defense. You can't do that against a great football team," Davis said. "That's a great football team. You can't just keep giving them those kinds opportunities."