In the first postseason meeting in the nearly century-old rivalry between Gilman and McDonogh, the Greyhounds didn't go for any style points in their 20-8 victory in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinal on Saturday at Archbishop Spalding.
Gilman (8-2, 6-0 conference), employing a sledgehammer running game with quarterback Shane Cockerille and running backs Danny Blair, Wyatt Dickerson and Bijan Rhett, was content to pound the Eagles into submission and await another showdown with Calvert Hall — a 34-11 winner over Mount St. Joseph in the first half of the doubleheader — for a chance to secure its 11th title since 1995.
"I'm proud of our defense," McDonogh coach Dom Damico said. "That might have been the toughest game they've been in since (a loss to) Good Counsel."
The championship game is set for Johnny Unitas Stadium next Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Greyhounds pounded the ball against McDonogh (3-8, 1-5) on a clock-draining drive capped by a 1-yard Cockerille plunge to take a 7-0 lead with 9:40 left in the first half.
A similar tactic advanced the top seeds to the McDonogh 15-yard line, where the drive ended on a missed field goal. On the last play before the intermission, Gilman was short on another field goal try.
McDonogh then spurted ahead on a blocked punt that was returned 3 yards by sophomore defensive lineman Mike Smith for a touchdown with 8:27 left in the third quarter. Senior quarterback Travis Wood's conversion pass to senior wideout Jabari Weems made it 8-7 with an upset brewing.
However, Gilman retook the lead on another sustained drive helped by a 20-yard completion from Cockerille to senior tight end Micah Kiser. Dickerson bullied the final 4 yards for the go-ahead score and a 13-8 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
The Greyhound increased the margin on another sequence powered by Cockerille's running and capped by a Dickerson 11-yard spurt
"I think some of our guys came out not expecting a tough game," Cockerille said. "But as a captain, we knew it was going to be tough. We didn't panic when we got behind, because coach always preaches that you have to play (the full) 48 minutes."