With no postseason in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference football this fall, the playoffs started early for No. 1 Gilman and No. 10 Archbishop Spalding.
Their Friday afternoon showdown had all the trappings — two teams undefeated in the conference with standout quarterbacks taking it almost down to the wire.
The visiting Cavaliers matched Gilman through the first half, but quarterback Kai Locksley gave the Greyhounds the edge for good with a pair of scoring runs in the final 20 minutes of a 29-21 victory.
Spalding running back Avery Simmons scored on a 3-yard touchdown push with 2:10 left to cut the lead to eight, but the Cavaliers ran out of timeouts on Gilman's final drive and time expired on their upset bid.
"They controlled the clock in the second half," Spalding coach Kyle Schmitt said. "We had one drive, they had two [in the fourth quarter] and we didn't lose it, the clock just ran out on us, but they were a little bigger on their line and they got after us a little bit and Kai Locksley makes a huge play, jumps over two guys and runs into the end zone. But I'm incredibly proud of our … kids. They're so tough, the way they fought out there."
Locksley, a 6 foot 4, 200-pound junior being courted by Alabama, Ohio State and Wisconsin among a host of other NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision programs, ran for 189 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns.
"Every game this year is pretty big," Locksley said, "because we don't have a championship or a tournament at the end, so it's a free for all. Every game is a championship in our eyes, so we have that mentality going in, and we're going to continue to do that throughout the year."
The two-time defending A Conference champions needed that mentality against the Cavaliers, who matched them stride-for-stride in the first half.
Cavaliers quarterback Zach Abey, a senior committed to Buffalo, ran for 111 of his 198 yards in the first half. He finished with 29 carries and was 5-for-14 passing for 46 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Ronnie Beswick caught four passes for 44 yards.
In the second half, one costly mistake set up Gilman's critical scoring drive.
After their first drive of the half stalled, the Cavaliers (5-2, 3-1) booted a 1-yard punt that set Gilman (5-2, 3-0) up on the Spalding 32-yard line. Two plays later, Locksley slithered through the line and leaped a couple of Cavaliers on a 31-yard touchdown run. He then added the two-point conversion for a 22-14 lead.
Spalding's next drive stalled at the 8 after moving 58 yards. Gilman took the turnover on downs and marched 88 yards on 16 plays in 5:13. Locksley polished that off with a 2-yard touchdown run.
The offensive line of Chibuzo Ukando, Sheldon Johnson, Ben Robbins, Arien Mayeaux and Stephen Spanellis opened huge holes all afternoon for Locksley and Antonio Dupree, who ran 12 times for 77 yards and a touchdown.
After Spalding's Simmons, who ran 14 times for 73 yards, cut the lead to 29-21, Jack Halpert recovered the onside kick for Gilman with 2:09 left. Locksley ran the last five plays, picking up enough ground for three first downs to run out the clock.
The Greyhounds and McDonogh (8-0, 3-0), which had a bye this week, are the only teams that remain undefeated in the A Conference. They meet in the final game of the season, Nov. 9 at McDonogh. Spalding hosts the Eagles on Nov. 1.
S 7 7 0 7 -- 21
G 7 7 8 7 -- 29
G—Locksley 1 run (Cohill kick)
S—Abey 38 run (Butts kick)
G—Dupree 12 run (Cohill kick)
S—Beswick 8 pass from Abey (Butts kick)
G—Locksley 31 run (Locksley run)
G—Locksley 2 run (Cohill kick)
S—Simmons 3 run (Butts kick)
[ Editors Note: An earlier version of this article misidentified a Gilman lineman. ]