MIAA football championship previews

A Conference

No. 1 Gilman (9-1) vs. No. 2 Calvert Hall (9-1)

When: Friday, 8 p.m.

Where: Johnny Unitas Stadium, Towson University

Coaches: Biff Poggi, Gilman; Donald Davis, Calvert Hall

Last meeting: Gilman won, 28-21, Oct. 7

Outlook: For the first time in A Conference history, the champion will be decided on the field in a title game. Calvert Hall beat out Gilman for the crown last fall in a head-to-head tie-breaker based on their recular season meeting. Gilman will be going for its 10th title since 1998 while the Cardinals won their first title since 1982 last season.

This matchup couldn’t be much closer. The Cardinals came from 21-7 down at the half to win their October meeting when Cyrus Jones scored twice in the final 6:33, including the game-winning 97-yard punt return with three minutes left. A year ago, the Cardinals rallied from 21-7 down in the fourth quarter to win with two touchdowns in the final two minutes, including Delando Johnson’s return after a bad snap on a Gilman punt with 26.3 seconds to go.

The Greyhounds are led by the versatile Jones (who has nearly 2,000 all-purpose yards), quarterback Shane Cockerille, running back Kenneth Goins and a defense that has allowed just four rushing touchdowns all season. For the Cardinals, quarterback Thomas Stuart, running back-linebacker C.J. Williams, defensive back Da’Quan Davis and wide receiver Trevor Williams lead the way.

B Conference

Annapolis Area Christian (8-2) vs. Boys’ Latin (5-6)

When: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.

Where: Johnny Unitas Stadium, Towson University

Coaches: Ken Lucas, AACS; Ritchie Schell, Boys’ Latin

Last meeting: AACS won, 28-19, on Oct. 21

Outlook: Annapolis Area Christian moved up from the C Conference this fall after winning back-to-back titles, while the Lakers won the B Conference title in 2004 and lost in the finals in 2005 and 2009. In their regular-season game, the first meeting between the two programs, the Eagles’ Josh McPhearson ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

The Eagles and Archbishop Curley lost just one game each in the C Conference this fall, but the Friars earned the top seed because of their win over AACS. Boys’ Latin staged a late-season comeback, winning its last two regular-season games to get into the playoffs and then beating Curley, 21-14, last week to reach the title game. The Eagles beat John Carroll, 41-6 in the semifinals.

While McPhearson leads the Eagles, Brandon Cherry has been carrying the load for the Lakers, rushing for 286 yards in the win over Curley. He finds a lot of running room behind 6-foot-5, 310-pound lineman Greg Pyke, who is committed to Georgia.

With a win, the Eagles would become the first team to win championships in difference conferences in consecutive years. Only two other teams, McDonogh and St. Mary’s, have won titles in two conferences.

C Conference

Severn (8-2) vs. St. Frances (8-2)

When: Friday, 3 p.m.

Where: Johnny Unitas Stadium, Towson University

Coaches: Chris Kirchenheiter, Severn; Messay Hailemariam, St. Frances

Last meeting: Severn won, 33-0, Sept. 23

Outlook: These two teams come into the title game after remarkable turnaround seasons orchestrated by first-year coaches.

Between them, the teams won one game in 2010. St. Frances, in only its third season, had lost 16 straight games before winning its season opener. The Admirals had lost 13 straight before beating the Panthers in last year’s season finale.

The Admirals dominated their first meeting, with Ben Priddy throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. Thanks in part to two Panthers turnovers, the Admirals posted their first shutout in five years. St. Frances quarterback Darin Washington, a transfer from Have de Grace, takes aim at another title after leading the Warriors to the state Class 1A final last season.

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