Gilman’s football team aimed for more than bragging rights in the 102nd rivalry game with McDonogh on Saturday evening. The visiting Greyhounds needed a win to secure a playoff berth for next weekend’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoff semifinals.
They scored the first 17 points and held off a second-half rally by the No. 4 Eagles to win the Price Trophy for the second time in three years with a 24-21 victory in the regular-season finale.
After finishing 1-5 in the conference a year ago, the Greyhounds (4-6, 3-3 MIAA) are seeded second in the A Conference playoffs behind No. 1 St. Frances (10-0, 6-0). Gilman ended up in a five-way tie, but through a series of tiebreakers — including most points scored in league losses — they earned the second seed while Calvert Hall is third and McDonogh is fourth.
“I think at the beginning of the year, there were some doubt about our team,” Gilman senior defensive end Thomas Booker said, “and I think … we rallied and we got together and we decided to say, ‘OK, the naysayers are going to say what the naysayers are going to say. We’re going to do our thing. We’re going to stay focused on our thing. We’re going to stay positive.’ So I think that culminated in a win tonight. McDonogh was a fantastic team and I’m glad we got to play such a high-caliber opponent for this.”
Gilman, which leads the series with McDonogh, 61-36-5, jumped on the Eagles early with a trick play when quarterback Purnell Hill handed off on the reverse to Piper Bond, who threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Zachary Dixon with 8:17 left in the first quarter.
Douglas Godine added a 25-yard field goal six seconds into the second quarter and Khari Jones returned a kick 75 yards for a touchdown for a 17-0 Gilman lead with 1:46 left in the first half.
“I think they’ve got a really good offense,” McDonogh coach Dom Damico said. “They moved the ball against everybody in the league. I think even in the first half against St. Frances they moved the ball, so we knew they were going to be able to move the ball on us. I thought they played really inspired defense, better than they had in the last three or four weeks.”
On the Eagles’ drive after Godine’s field goal, the Greyhounds held McDonogh on fourth down, swarming quarterback DeJuan Ellis on a run for a turnover on downs.
The Eagles (6-4, 3-3) rallied with a touchdown pass from Ellis to Curtis Jacobs for a catch-and-run 51-yard score to pull within 17-7 with a minute left in the first half. Griffin Catlett picked off Hill on the next Gilman drive, but the Eagles were unable to capitalize before the half.
The Eagles moved the ball in the second half, and got to the Gilman 7-yard line, but Grayson Lawrence just missed a 23-yard field goal. On Gilman’s next drive, the Greyhounds fumbled the exchange and McDonogh tackle PJ Mustipher recovered the ball on the Gilman 20. Jabriel Johnson blew threw a hole in the middle of the line and cut left to score on the next play to pull McDonogh within 17-14.
Brandon Madison boosted Gilman’s lead to 24-14 with a 3-yard scoring run on the next drive. McDonogh cut the lead to three when Ellis connected with Jack Simmons for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 9:32 to go.
The Eagles made a couple of big defensive plays — a tackle for loss by Mustipher and a sack by Jackson Bonitz — to force a Gilman punt with seven minutes left, but they couldn’t move the ball. Gilman had to punt on its next drive as well, with about three minutes left.
Back-to-back sacks by Booker and Bryson Webb stifled the Eagles’ final drive. They had one last chance on fourth-and-long with 1:40 to go, but Ellis’ pass fell incomplete and Gilman ran out the clock.
“It’s fantastic,” Booker said of the win. “The last time we had the [Price] Trophy was my sophomore year. To have it my senior year, the last time I’m going to play this McDonogh game, means a lot, a lot, a lot to me. ... My dad played here. He played in this game and there’s just a legacy of men and shoulders that we’ve stood on for so long that I can’t even put into words the amount of pride that I have to bring it back to Gilman.”
Both teams will be back in action in the conference semifinals next Sunday at CCBC-Essex, when McDonogh faces St. Frances at noon and Gilman plays Calvert Hall at 3 p.m.
G 7 10 7 0 — 24
M 0 7 7 7 — 21
G—Dixon 34 pass from Bond (Godine kick)
G—Godine 25 FG
G—Jones 75 kick return (Godine kick)
M—Jacobs 51 pass from Ellis (Lawrence kick)
M—Johnson 20 run (Lawrence kick)
G—Madison 3 run (Godine kick)
M— Simmons 33 pass from Ellis (Lawrence kick)