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Loyola football looks to close the gap on Gilman

Loyola quarterback Jason Smith, right, attempt to elude Gilman linebacker Antonio DiCerbo in the Greyhounds' rout of the Dons last year.
Loyola quarterback Jason Smith, right, attempt to elude Gilman linebacker Antonio DiCerbo in the Greyhounds' rout of the Dons last year. (File photo/Baltimore Sun)

The Gilman-Loyola Blakefield football rivalry is one of the longest-running in the state, starting in 1917.

"It's been an exciting rivalry over the years," said Gilman defensive coordinator Stan White, who has been part of 18 games in the series.

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But the rivalry has lost its luster because Gilman has blown out the Dons in each of the last six meetings between the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference foes.

Loyola coach Brant Hall hopes to see his Dons change that trend when the teams play each other  Friday in Towson at 4 p.m. in the conference opener for both.

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Loyola's 3-1 start creates optimism.

"Our guys believe they can go out and compete with the likes of Gilman," said Hall, a former Loyola quarterback whose teams have won only six games the past two years. "This year, it's a different team with a different mentality. We are learning to win. We are in tough games and doing the right things."

Loyola will count on senior running back Biafra Okoronkwo, who has rushed for 420 yards on 51 carries.

Okoronko gained a season-high 150 yards on 11 carries and scored two touchdowns in Loyola's 33-32 upset of host Archbishop Curley, snapping the Friars' 11-game winning streak.

The Dons also have received strong play from junior quarterback Jason Smith, senior linebacker Darren Seward and junior strong safety Omar Whiting.

They will need to perform well to stand up to a Gilman offensive line featuring four seniors committed to play in college: tackles Devery Hamilton (6 feet 7, 290 pounds, Michigan) and Stephen Spanellis (6-5, 320, Virginia) guard Wes Mehl (6-3, 280, Navy) and center Stewart Keehner (6-5, 280, Georgetown).

They've opened lanes for senior running backs Antonio Dupree (437 yards rushing, 6.9 average, 4 TDs) and Dorian Maddox (250 yards, 5.7 average, 3 TDs) during a three-game winning streak.

Gilman junior quarterback Kasim Hill also has benefited, rushing for seven touchdown and 190 yards.

The Greyhounds' defense — led by senior defensive tackle and Penn State recruit Ellison Jordan (22 sacks) over last two years — is also strong.

Gilman has allowed an average of 18.5 points per game to non-conference powerhouse programs such as St. Edward (Ohio), Paramus Catholic (N.J.), Good Counsel and Eastern Christian Academy.

"Curley had the longest winning streak in the area," said Gilman assistant coach Henry Russell, whose team is ranked No. 2 in the Maryland High School Football Media State Poll. "Watching some game film, they have some skills guys that can score from anywhere and their defense is playing well. They got things rolling. We will have our work cut out for us."

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