McDonogh's football team started off just the way it wanted to against No. 1 Gilman Saturday afternoon, with a long, plodding scoring drive. The longer the No. 8 Eagles could keep Gilman's prolific offense off the field, the better.
Averaging 41 points a game with lots of big-play potential, the Greyhounds don't need much time to come back. And Saturday, they took 11 seconds.
Cyrus Jones ran their first play from scrimmage 63 yards for a touchdown to tie the game, and Gilman went on to win the 96th meeting between the two programs, 31-21, before an estimated crowd of 6,000 at McDonogh.
Coach Dom Damico's Eagles used up more than seven minutes on that opening scoring drive, capped by senior quarterback Joel Jorgensen's 30-yard touchdown pass to Taysean Scott to take a 7-0 lead, but whenever the ball gets into Jones' hands, anything can happen.
The multitalented senior, who lists Alabama and Auburn as his top college choices, took the handoff from quarterback Shane Cockerille and followed his blockers until breaking free for the long score.
"That was big," said Gilman lineman Brian Gaia, "because it was a one-play response to the surgical drive they had. It really gives a team a boost of motivation."
Jones scored again later in the game, and Cockerille and Kenneth Goins also ran for touchdowns as the Greyhounds (8-1) finished 6-0 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference regular season and won their third straight against McDonogh. They hold a 58-33-5 lead in the series.
In a new twist, this game did not end the season for the teams, as both advance to the first A Conference playoffs next week. That didn't take the edge off their storied rivalry game, which featured an orange biplane soaring over the McDonogh campus trailing a "Go McDonogh. Beat Gilman" banner.
"It was a packed house and people were still going crazy," Jones said. "Just the environment around here, it's going to be the same for years to come. [The playoff] didn't take away anything from this game. I was still excited about this game from the day after our last game. This is always the biggest game on the schedule."
After his first touchdown, Jones, an All-Metro cornerback last season, intercepted a Jorgensen pass, and eight plays later, Cockerille scored on a 3-yard run to give Gilman 14-7 lead with 10:44 to go in the first half.
On McDonogh's next series, Malcolm Powers picked off another Jorgensen pass, and the Greyhounds converted on a 3-yard Goins run for a 21-7 lead 1:09 before halftime. Trevor Wey's 37-yard field goal boosted the Gilman lead to 24-7 early in the second half.
Jorgensen, who passed for three touchdowns, orchestrated a 96-yard, 18-play drive to open the game, connecting with Scott for the early lead. That drive ate seven minutes off the clock, but the Eagles could not mount another such drive until late in the third quarter.
"I made two bad reads on the two interceptions," Jorgensen said, "and when you play Gilman, you've got to score every time to stay in the game, and they did a great job on offense. They held the ball, and sometimes they'd break a big play and they'd score. We couldn't really slow them down, so that hurt us."
The Eagles, who turned the ball over three times, pulled within 24-13 when Jorgensen hit Jabari Weems with a 7-yard touchdown strike with 3:34 left in the third quarter, but Jones answered that too with a 30-yard touchdown run with 3.8 seconds left in the quarter.
"The whole line played great today." Jones said. "They really handled business up front. After the first [Gilman] touchdown, we kind started off slow and we had to pick our tempo back up and find our rhythm, but the line played great the whole game."
Jorgensen, who was 22-for-33 passing for 256 yards, hit Miles Crump with a 51-yard touchdown pass with 3:11 left to make it 31-21, but the Greyhounds used up more than two minutes before the Eagles got the ball back.
Friday, the Greyhounds will host No. 9 Archbishop Spalding in the A Conference semifinals, while the Eagles will travel to face defending champion Calvert Hall. The winners will meet in the title game at 8 p.m. Nov. 18 at Towson University.
G -- 7 14 10 0 -- 31
M -- 7 0 7 7 -- 21
M—Scott 30 pass from Jl. Jorgensen (Glaser kick)
G—Jones 63 run (Wey kick)
G—Cockerille 3 run (Wey kick)
G—Goins 3 run (Wey kick)
G—Wey 37 FG
M—Weems 7 pass from Jl. Jorgensen (kick failed)
G—Jones 30 run (Wey kick)
M—Crump 51 pass from Jl. Jorgensen (Cromwell pass from Jl. Jorgensen)