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Gilman football gets ready for defense of A Conference title

After splitting four non-league games to open the season, it’s time for Gilman to focus on defense of its Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference football title.

The Greyhounds begin league play a week from Friday, Oct. 4, against Mount St. Joseph in Roland Park.

Although Gilman defeated Mount St. Joseph, 37-7, last year in Irvington, the 2013 Greyhounds (2-2) are younger in terms of age and experience.

That’s why Gilman coach Biff Poggi expects a tougher game from the Gaels (1-2). Still, there is plenty to like about the Greyhounds.

First, Gilman has two weeks to prepare for its conference opener because of a bye in the schedule. Then there is Mount St. Joe's defense, which is yielding 46 points per game so far this season.

Still, Poggi is not one to let his players become overconfident, especially when facing a Gaels offense that has averaged 44.6 points per game.

“That’s a huge game,” he said. “We have a lot of questions and a lot to prove. We are so far away from competing with the best teams in the league. They (the Gaels) are getting better every year, and they will be a force in the league.”

That’s what Gilman — ranked No. 1 this season in the metro area by the Baltimore Sun and second in the state behind DeMatha by the Maryland High School Football State Poll — has been in the league for long time.

Even so, Poggi scoffs at being called the favorite for another conference title, calling McDonogh (5-0, ranked 11th in the state) the best team in the league.

“We haven’t been this young in the 17 years I have been coaching,” said Poggi, who has won 11 league crowns, including three in a row. “Defending champs? All the guys that won that championship are at Michigan, Virginia and Alabama. These guys aren’t defending anything. They haven’t won anything yet.”

The Greyhounds won their season opener, 20-14, over Our Lady of Good Counsel before being routed by both Florida’s Manatee and New Jersey’s Paramus Catholic, which is ranked fourth nationally by USA Today.

Poggi’s team rebounded with a 56-6 thumping of visiting Anacostia on Sept. 20.

“We beat (then nationally ranked) Good Counsel, which was a great win,” Poggi said. “Frankly, we weren’t in the Manatee game at the end and we weren’t in the Paramus game. So I am not thrilled with that. I am duly concerned.”

Poggi and defensive coordinator Stan White hope to see improved play from a defense anchored by senior defensive end Melvin Keihn and sophomore defensive tackle Ellison Jordan.

The unit allowed a combined 72 points to Manatee and Paramus.

“Ellison and Melvin are two guys who can make a big play on every play,” White said. “What we are trying to do is add some to that right now. We need guys to just step up, start making plays and doing things they are supposed to do.”

On offense, 6-foot-4, 200-pound starting quarterback Kai Locksley is getting a lot of attention. Locksley said he has had scholarship offers from eight universities, including Alabama and Florida State.

Considering his performance in the rout of Anacostia (1-3), rushing for 131 yards and three touchdowns on four carries and catching a 20-yard touchdown from freshman quarterback Kasim Hill, it’s no surprise college scouts are pursuing Locksley.

Locksley said the offense’s performance against Paramus had weighed on his mind in the Anacostia game.

“Zero points is definitely something I put on myself, since I play under center,” he said. “I definitely played with a lot of anger out there (against Anacostia).”

Locksley had some help, including contributions from Carlton Taylor (3 carries, 39 yards, 1 TD), Robert Levine (5, 47) and Antonio Dupree (2, 41) in rolling up 343 yards on the ground.

Moreover, Amyhr Barber scored on a 103-yard interception return and Antonio DiCerbo and Devery Hamilton recovered fumbles for the Greyhounds.

“We did OK,” Poggi said of his team’s performance. “We have a long way to go. I mean a long way to go. We have to get a lot better.”

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