After their thrilling season-opening victories last weekend, the Gilman and St. Frances football teams will try to keep the momentum rolling against a couple more challenging opponents Sunday at the Under Armour Brothers In Arms Classic at Byrd Stadium.
The No. 1 Greyhounds, the two-time defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champions, scored the last 20 points of the game to beat Good Counsel last Friday night. They will face Manatee, from Bradenton, Fla., at 7 p.m.
The Panthers, a first-year MIAA A Conference team that won the last two MIAA C Conference titles, steamrolled Nease (Fla.), 48-7, in Orlando last weekend and will meet Friendship Collegiate, from Washington, D.C., at 1 p.m.
Both coaches — Gilman's Biff Poggi and St. Frances Messay Hailemariam — are pleased to be part of the Brothers In Arms Classic because of what it represents, as well as for the competition. The Classic, held over several weekends at sites from Maryland to California, benefits the Brothers In Arms Foundation and honors U.S. Navy Seal Lt. Brendan Looney, a graduate of DeMatha and the Naval Academy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010.
Two of Gilman's assistant coaches, Henry Russell and Bill McGregor, have connections with the Looney family.
"First of all, on a macro level," Poggi said, "it's important to do anything you can do to honor the people that serve our country. This benefits a foundation that benefits service men and women and their families who served our country. Then, from a personal point of view, Brendan Looney was Henry's classmate at the Naval Academy and Bill McGregor coached him at DeMatha, so it means a lot to us personally, too."
When it comes to football, the Greyhounds and the Panthers look forward to more national-caliber competition on a big stage.
Gilman faces Manatee, a team ranked No. 40 in USA Today's Next 25 addition to its Super 25 poll. Gilman is No. 32. Last season, the Hurricanes were ranked No. 1 in several national polls before being upset in the Florida Class 7A state semifinal and finishing 13-1.
While the Greyhounds overcame a lot of youthful mistakes to rally for the win over Good Counsel, the then-No. 19 team in USA Today's Super 25, they may not be able to get away with falling behind against Manatee, which has linemen committed to Florida State and Georgia Tech and a 1,500-yard running back headed to Missouri.
Still, the Greyhounds defeated Don Bosco Prep, from New Jersey, last season after the Ironmen had finished the 2011 season as USA Today's No. 1 team.
For St. Frances, the game against Friendship is a chance to build toward their debut in the MIAA A Conference. The Knights, who finished 8-3 last season, are ranked No. 9 in The Washington Post and play a tough national schedule that includes Don Bosco Prep and Paramus Catholic, a New Jersey school ranked No. 3 in USA Today's Super 25.
The Knights also played in Florida last week, defeating Atlantic, from Delray Beach, 34-0, in their season opener.
"This is a proven team on a local basis," Hailemariam said, "and they've established for the last three to four years a level of dominance that has put plenty of their kids into big-time [college] programs. I say, 'We're playing Goliath. We're the David.' What we did last week doesn't really matter on Sunday. We have to come into it knowing no one expects us to win, and rightfully so, and we have to show the world we're for real."
In between the Gilman and the St. Frances games, Gonzaga (D.C.) will play Cocoa (Fla.) at 4 p.m. On Monday, the Brothers In Arms Classic concludes at Byrd Stadium with DeMatha vs. Godby (Fla.) at 3 p.m.
Brothers In Arms Classic
St. Frances (1-0) vs. Friendship Collegiate, D.C. (1-0), 1 p.m.
Gonzaga, D.C. (0-1) vs. Cocoa, Fla. (0-0), 4 p.m.
No. 1 Gilman (1-0) vs. Manatee, Fla. (0-0), 7 p.m.
DeMatha (1-0) vs. Godby, Fla. (1-0), 3 p.m.
Where: Byrd Stadium, College Park
Tickets: $10 adults, $8 with student ID
Parking: FreeCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun