Thunderstorms force cancellation of Gilman-Calvert Hall football showdown

Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis didn't like the odds when assessing his team's chances of taking the field against Gilman on Friday night during an unexpected lightning-laced thunderstorm that prompted the cancellation of the showdown between the only two unbeaten teams in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.

After all the spectators were cleared from the stands and the players were sent to the locker rooms at Paul Angelo Russo Stadium about a half hour before the original 7 p.m. starting time as the storm raged, Davis, Gilman coach Biff Poggi and the schools’ athletic directors, Calvert Hall's Lou Eckerl and Tim Holley of Gilman, had to decide whether to proceed with the contest.

“It was like playing roulette with Mother Nature,” said Davis, whose No. 2 Cardinals (6-1, 2-0 conference) were hoping to grab the top seed for the upcoming playoffs from the No. 1 Greyhounds (5-2, 3-0). “And you don't want to do that.”

After the initial downpour, some fans in the large crowd expressed surprise that the game was going to be canceled instead of being delayed.

“It was pretty clear that there was more [bad weather] to come,” said Davis, after he and the other officials conferred.

As late as 8:30 p.m., lightning flashes were evident in the area, which would have invoked a mandatory 30-minute waiting period between the last sign of lightning (or rumble of thunder) and when on-field athletic activities are allowed to continue.

Moreover, by virtue of an agreement with its surrounding communities, Calvert Hall has agreed to turn off the lights at Russo Stadium no later than 11 p.m., making the cancellation a no-brainer.

After the decision was announced, fans lined up to receive money back from ticket purchases. That process seemed to go off in a reasonably quick and orderly fashion.

Eckerl said, as the home team's athletic director, the decision was ultimately his.

“It's also a safety issue for the kids,” Eckerl said. “They could go out and warm up again and then have to stop — and maybe try to start again. That can be dangerous, too.”

Like Davis, Poggi was frustrated with the situation.

“Obviously, I'm not happy about it,” he said. “It's hard for both teams and both coaching staffs, but you can't control the weather.”

While there was some talk of postponing the game until Saturday, both teams had key players committed to making college visits. That means the Cardinals and Greyhounds might have played Monday at the earliest, although a Sunday game would not be unprecedented.

Calvert Hall and McDonogh played a makeup game on a Sunday last year after a rare snowstorm forced postponement the day before.

Nevertheless, the decision was reached not to play the game in the regular season, giving the Cardinals a chance to remain unscathed in conference play should they beat Archbishop Spalding next Friday.

Gilman, on the other hand, can also remain unbeaten if they defeat archrival McDonogh next Saturday.

Regardless, the teams' paths are likely to meet in the playoffs.

“It's not that big of a deal, because we'll face them again,” Cardinals junior lineman Spencer Tuveson said. “They're a powerhouse. We wanted to see what our defense could do against their offense. But our paths will cross again.”

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