Former Greyhound Darius Jennings tweeted his encouragement: “still #4 at heart. Good luck tonight boys.”
Then, the No. 1 Greyhounds set the Twitter-verse aflutter with a 13-6 victory over the New Jersey powerhouse, ending what was actually a 46-game win streak. Coach Biff Poggi called the win the biggest in Gilman football history. Assistant coach Bill McGregor, who built DeMatha into a powerhouse winning 278 games there before retiring 18 months ago, thought it was even bigger.
“Bill’s arguably the most successful high school coach in Maryland history and he turned around to me and said, 'That's the biggest win in Maryland high school football history,’ and for Gilman, it’s clearly the biggest win that we’ve ever had -- they’re a monster, three out of the last four national championships. They hadn’t lost since September of 2008, so nobody on that field had experienced a loss before,” Poggi said.
With the win, the Greyhounds escaped 1-2 from the Bermuda Triangle of early-season schedules, one that at least one recruiting analyst thought was the toughest in the country.
They lost their opener to Archbishop Moeller (Ohio) in Cincinnati, 35-14, then fell to Good Counsel, 20-19, in overtime last week. With both of those teams nationally ranked and Bosco coming off a No. 1 season in USA Today's Super 25, Scout.com labeled that Gilman run the Bermuda Triangle.
Each game, the Greyhounds got better and, unlike the past few years when the offense sparked the wins, defense made the difference against Don Bosco. They held Bosco, a seven-time defending state champ, to just 68 yards of total offense in the second half.
All-Metro linebacker Micah Kiser (9 1/2 tackles) had a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown to tie the game at 6-6 with 22 seconds left in the first half. All-Metro defensive tackle Henry Poggi had 3 1/2 sacks and 11 tackles -- two for a loss.
Biff Poggi also pointed out the play of linebackers Miles Norris (11 tackles), Wyatt Dickerson and Ned Emala, safety Matt Tilley, whose 35-yard punt return put Gilman on the Bosco 30 to start their scoring drive, and quarterback Shane Cockerille, who scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run with 4:27 left.
“I think when you look at the total three games, we played one bad quarter and that was the first quarter at Moeller,” Biff Poggi said. “From then on out, we really played very, very well and with Bosco we made some mistakes when we started, but our defense was magnificent. They kept us in the game and then we kept getting better during the game offensively. We put together some really good drives. Of course, we missed a field goal, but we wound up scoring and then our defense took it.
“We’re winning very much like the old Gilman teams used to win by playing very stout defense and field position offense and being kind of opportunistic. We don’t have a fellow that’s going to take it 99 1/2 yards at any point in time, so it’s a different kind of game, but I think it’s a very good team and I’m really proud of how they played. We could have gone the other way (with a weaker early schedule) and they didn’t want to. They wanted to do this and what the heck, what a win.”
The Greyhounds now will ave to avoid a letdown when they face Charlotte Christian from North Carolina at home Friday at 4 p.m. Biff Poggi will certainly remind them of two years ago when the Greyhounds defeated Good Counsel, 28-7, only to come back the next week and get rocked by Don Bosco, 33-6.
While Charlotte Christian may not be the caliber of Gilman’s first three opponents, Biff Poggi said they have three Division I players, including their quarterback, and that they would be competitive in the MIAA A Conference.
After that, the Greyhounds will take a week off before beginning the defense of their A Conference title with Mount St. Joseph on Sept. 29.
“I think we’ll be very tough the rest of the way,” Biff Poggi said. “We could have scheduled three wins. We could be 3-0 right now and pumping our chest out and not really knowing if we’re any good and now I think we know we’re really good.”