Game of the Week
No. 1 Gilman (1-0) vs. Oscar Smith, Va. (0-0)
Where: I-95 Kickoff Classic at Morgan State
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Coaches: Biff Poggi, Gilman; Richard Morgan, Oscar Smith
Last meeting: First meeting.
Key players to watch:
Gilman: Cyrus Jones, Sr., ATH; Brian Gaia, Sr, OT/DT; Kenneth Goins, Sr., RB/DB; Devon Porchia, Sr., LB; Henry Poggi, Jr., TE/DT; Micah Kiser, Jr., TE/LB.
Oscar Smith: J.C. Coleman, Sr., RB; Sequan Gooding, Sr., WR; Rhakeem Stallings, Sr., LB; J.J. Williamson, Sr., QB.
Keys to victory: Poggi has wanted to play a team from the Hampton Roads area for a while, and I-95 Kickoff Classic founder Tony Kennedy wanted a team from there in his event, so it all came together with the Gilman-Smith matchup. While the Greyhounds are ranked No. 47 in the ESPN High School Powerade Fab 50 (up from No. 50 after last week's 68-9 win over Maryland Christian), Smith also has the potential to break into the national rankings.
The Tigers, a public school team, went 11-2 last season, which Morgan said was a bad year. They won the Southeastern District title for the seventh time in a row but lost in the regional championship. The Virginia Division 6 (akin to Maryland Class 4A) state champion in 2008, they reached the state semifinals each year from from 2007-2009. In seven years, they have lost only two regular-season games.
A multiple pro-style team, the Tigers have a potent passing game (Williamson, who has committed to Hampton, threw for 3,400 yards and 37 touchdowns last season) and a big running game (Coleman, who is committed to Virginia Tech, ran for 1,500 yards and 26 touchdowns). Morgan said the Tigers will look to adjust to what Gilman's defense gives them.
Poggi said it will be critical for his defense to react to the Tiger's pre-snap adjustments. The Greyhounds defense has the assets to counter the Tigers' big-play potential with four Division I players in Gaia (Penn State), Porchia (Pitt), Goins (multiple offers) and Poggi (multiple offers).
Offensively, Gilman still prefers to run, but transfer QB Shane Cockerille has a strong arm and, in a departure from the norm, the Greyhounds likely will go to the air more than they run. The highly-recruited Jones, who is looking at colleges such as Auburn and Alabama, will be a featured target.
Both coaches said the keys will be preventing turnovers and keeping the opposition from breaking a big play. Both teams have big-play potential, especially in returning punts and kicks.
"Who sees in high school a team that throws the ball like this with these kinds of weapons?" Poggi said of the Tigers. "Their screen game was outstanding. We have to be solid. We can't have one guy in the wrong spot or they'll turn 15 [yards] into 100. If we're in the right spots on defense, we don't give up the big play and we can throw the ball, it should be a close game."
Other games to watch:
No. 11 Franklin vs. Henry Wise at Morgan State, Friday, 5:30 p.m.
No. 6 Old Mill at No. 15 Broadneck, Friday, 6:30 p.m.
No. 14 Wilde Lake at No. 13 Hammond, Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 McDonogh at Gonzaga, Saturday, 2 p.m.
No. 5 Dunbar vs. Dunbar-D.C. at Morgan State, Saturday, 7:45 p.m.