We're almost to the No. 1 team in The Baltimore Sun's preseason high school football Top 10. We've reached No. 2 with the most successful MIAA A Conference team over the last 16 years -- Gilman.
This evening we'll reveal our No. 1, although most of you have probably already guessed. On Thursday in The Baltimore Sun and on baltimoresun.com, we will publish the entire preseason football poll as well as players to watch.
We'll also take a look at the two Baltimore-area teams that made it to the state finals last season -- Class 3A champ Franklin and Class 1A runner up Douglass.
Coach: Biff Poggi
Last season: 7-3, No. 2
Next game: Paramus (N.J.) at Towson Unversity, Saturday, 11 a.m.
Players to Watch: QB Kai Locksley, Sr.; DT Ellison Jordan, Jr.; S Robert Branch, Sr.; WR Jelani Roberts, Sr.; RB Antonio Dupree, Sr.; RB Dorian Maddox, Jr.; WR Alonzo Mayo, Sr.; OL Stephen Spanellis, Jr.; OL-DL Jahee Jackson, Sr.
Outlook: The Greyhounds suffered their first loss to an MIAA A Conference foe in three years when they fell to archrival McDonogh, 37-6, in the season finale. Last year, these Greyhounds were the youngest team Poggi had ever coached, but they’re juniors and seniors now and behind Locksley, a Florida State commit, they aim to claim the A Conference title for the third time in four years.
No team has won more A Conference titles than Gilman in the last 20 years. The Greyhounds have won 11 times (twice tying) since 1998.
Included in a sizable returning contingent of skill players is a huge chunk of offense. Locksley, a second-team All-Metro quarterback, ran for 795 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and threw for 875 yards and five touchdowns.
He might get a little more freedom in the passing game this fall, with quality wide receivers Roberts, who is commited to Northwestern, Mayo and 6-foot-4 junior John Fitzgerald.
Still, the Greyhounds likely won't stray far from their power run game with Dupree, who ran for 455 yards last season, and Maddox.
For all of that to work, however, Gilman must bolster its offensive line, a major trouble spot in Sunday's 38-7 loss at nationally-ranked St. Edward, Ohio. Locksley was just 2 of 8 passing for 13 yards, ran for 45 yards and was sacked twice, but Poggi said, "We didn't block anybody."
Four starters graduated from the offensive line and Spanellis is the only returnee. Jackson and Cam Spence, who got some playing time last season as a freshman, stepped into starting roles.
Defensively, Jordan, an All-Metro first-team selection, and Jackson return to the line while the Greyhounds also bring back Branch and corners Mayo and senior Amyhr Barber.
"We have all the pieces," Poggi said. "We're not really missing one. We have no excuses and we have got to get a lot better. Our kicking game, we need to work on. We need to work on everything, but this is a much more mature, much more experienced team than we had last year."
The Greyhounds are motivated after falling to McDonogh in the 98th edition of the rivalry game. Gilman struggled on offense in that game and their difficulties in the kicking game were glaring at times.
Starting out with a tough national schedule that includes Paramus Catholic and Good Counsel the next two weeks, the Greyhounds hope to be battle-tested and ready to make a run at reclaiming the A Conference title.