While there was some controversy about the idea of adding a playoff in a league with only seven teams, there's no doubt the first MIAA A Conference championship game kept the 5,728 fans at Johnny Unitas Stadium riveted for Friday night’s entire game — and two overtime periods.
No. 1 Gilman’s 34-32 victory over No. 2 Calvert Hall will be talked about for a quite some time.
The Greyhounds (10-1) pulled ahead, 20-14, on a 1-yard plunge by quarterback Shane Cockerille and the ensuing two-point conversion pass from Cockerille to fellow junior Henry Poggi.
But senior quarterback Thomas Stuart led Calvert Hall (9-2) on a crisp, six-play drive that ended with his third touchdown pass of the game, an 18-yard strike to senior Brandon Neverdon to tie it with 28 seconds to go.
The Cardinals’ euphoria was short-lived, though, when they missed an extra point and the game went to overtime.
On fourth down in the first overtime, Stuart rainbowed a throw that Neverdon pulled down for a 26-20 Cardinal advantage.
After Jones scored to tie it on a 1-yard dive, Gilman fumbled the point-after snap. That sent the game into a second overtime, but a Calvert Hall penalty allowed the Greyhounds to start their next possession from the Cardinals’ 5 instead of the 10.
Jones scored on his first carry from there, and he added the conversion run for a 34-26 lead.
Stuart then found junior Kyle Levere to close the deficit, but he could not do the same on the ensuing conversion pass, which was knocked down by Gilman junior Wyatt Dickerson to give the Greyhounds the crown they lost to the Cardinals last year.
It was the third straight game between the rivals that the team leading at halftime went on to lose, including Gilman's 28-21 win Oct. 7 after trailing 21-7.
“I really feel bad for Calvert Hall,” Gilman coach Biff Poggi said. “We were on the losing side last year, and we know how they feel. But Jones said, 'Ride me.' He wanted the ball in overtime. He wanted it for the two-point conversion. He wanted to put us on his back. The team rallied around him.”
Calvert Hall struck first on a six-play, 61-yard drive capped by a 15-yard pass from Stuart to fellow senior Trevor Williams, who broke a tackle at the 3-yard line before crossing the goal line. Junior Austen Strachen's extra point made it 7-0 with 4:10 left in the first quarter.
On a fourth-and-10 from the Gilman 14, Stuart found senior C.J. Williams streaking over the middle for another score and a 14-0 advantage with 5:17 remaining in the first half.
Trailing by two touchdowns, Gilman called on Jones to rally the troops, and he did just that, carrying the ball four times for 41 yards and catching a pass for 9 more yards on a 65-yard drive finished by a Cockerille keeper with 1:27 to go before halftime.
It took the Greyhounds another quarter to score again, when senior Kenneth Goins powered in from the 3. Cockerille kept that drive alive on a fourth-and-10 completion to junior tight end Micah Kiser after scrambling out of a sack attempt and rolling to his left long enough for his receiver to shake free.
That left Calvert Hall with a 14-12 lead with 46 seconds left in the third period, but it was a lead the Cardinals couldn’t hold onto.
“My hat goes off to their kids and their program,” Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said. “They played awesome tonight.”
While Gilman's season ends with its 10th MIAA title since 1998, the Cardinals will finish their year with the annual Turkey Bowl Thanksgiving Day against rival Loyola at Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium.
MIAA A Conference championship
No. 1 Gilman 34, No. 2 Calvert Hall 32 (2 OT)
CH 7 7 0 6 6 6 32
Gil 0 6 6 8 6 8 34
CH-T. Williams 15 pass from Stuart (Strachen kick)
CH-CJ Williams 14 pass from Stuart (Strachen kick)
Gil-Cockerille 3 run (kick missed)
Gil-Goins 3 run (pass failed)
Gil-Cockerille 1 run (Cockerille to Poggi)
CH-Neverdon 18 pass from Stuart (kick failed)
CH-Neverdon 18 pass from Stuart (pass failed)
Gil-Jones 1 run (miss kick)
Gil Jones 5 run (Jones run)
CH-Levere 11 pass (pass failed)