When the punt bounced toward Gilman’s Cyrus Jones with a little over three minutes left in a tie game against Calvert Hall Friday, his teammates yelled for him to let it roll into the end zone. They had plenty of time to go 80 yards for a touchdown.
Jones figured he could get there a little quicker.
The senior took the ball off the bounce at the 3-yard line, zig-zagged to the outside, got a huge block from Wyatt Dickerson to clear his final 25 yards, and raced to the end zone to give the No. 1 Greyhounds a 28-21 lead that would hold up for a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference victory over the No. 2 Cardinals.
Jones, who finished with 270 all-purpose yards, scored twice in the final 6:33 to complete a 21-point run that brought the host Greyhounds back from a 21-7 halftime deficit. When he scooped up Garrett Flannery’s 49-yard punt in the fourth, he wasn’t focused on his teammates’ advice.
“I didn’t hear them at all,” Jones said. “They know me when I back there on a punt return. They never know where the ball is going to bounce. They never know whether I’m going to pick it up or not. I’m a little dangerous back there, I guess.”
Gilman coach Biff Poggi lets Jones, a versatile athlete being recruited by Alabama and Auburn among other top-tier college programs, make his own decisions on the returns.
“He has no rules,” Poggi said. “All he has to do is come in his uniform. That’s all we require.”
Friday, Jones, an All-Metro cornerback last season, had six carries for 40 yards, six receptions for 94 yards, a kickoff return for 23 yards and three punt returns for 113 yards. But he and the rest of the Greyhounds really didn’t get going offensively until the second half.
Quarterback Shane Cockerille scored on a 1-yard run late in the first quarter to put Gilman (5-1, 3-0 conference) on the board first. But the second quarter belonged to the Cardinals, who had won the last two games in the series — including last year, when they erased a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 26-21.
All-Metro Cardinals quarterback Thomas Stuart, who was 16 for 27 passing for 205 yards, hit Delando Johnson for a 39-yard touchdown and Kyle Levere for a 6-yard score. Then, on the final play of the half, the Cardinals staged a fake field goal, with holder Matt Dubuque hitting Logan Kurek with a 10-yard pass to build a 14-point lead.
Two Gilman fumbles, recovered by Steve Wrzosek and Garrett Epple, led to Calvert Hall’s second and third scores.
After gaining just 61 yards from scrimmage in the first half, the Greyhounds adjusted on offense in the second half and moved the ball much better. Kenneth Goins scored on a 12-yard run with 1:35 left in the third quarter to pull within 21-14. On their next drive, the Greyhounds went 88 yards on seven plays to tie the game on Cockerille’s 25-yard pass to Jones.
The Gilman defense clamped down in the second half, with their foursome of Division I recruits up front — Brian Gaia, Devon Porchia, Henry Poggi and Goins — pressuring Stuart and limiting him to just 40 yards passing after he threw for 165 in the first half.
“After the first half, we felt like we were outplayed,” Goins, an All-Metro defensive end, said. “We had to motivate ourselves to come out real hard in the second half and dig deep. When you have heart, you can do the things you want to do.”
The Cardinals (4-1, 0-1) managed one first down on their final drive thanks to a roughing the passer call on Gilman. But, Facing fourth-and-14 with 1:14 left, Stuart faced too much pressure from Poggi to complete his pass to Levere.
“Momentum helps in those situations, and knowing what the other team has to do,” Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said of Gilman’s final defensive stand. “Knowing that we’ve got to cover large chunks of yards and we only have two minutes to do it, certainly it’s advantageous from a defensive standpoint. When you’re defending 70 yards, it certainly puts you in an aggressive defensive mood.”
No. 1 Gilman 28, No. 2 Calvert Hall 21
Calvert Hall 0 21 0 0 -- 21
Gilman 7 0 7 14 -- 28
G—Cockerille 1 run (Wey kick)
CH—Johnson 39 pass from Stuart (Strachen kick)
CH—Levere 6 pass from Stuart (Strachen kick)
CH—Kurke 10 pass from Dubuque (Strachen kick)
G—Goins 12 run (Wey kick)
G—Jones 25 pass from Cockerille (Wey kick)
G—Jones 97 punt return (Wey kick)Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun