Coach George Petrides said he needed some answers from his top-ranked City football team, and he got them on the Knights' muddy home field yesterday.
The answer came in his team's hard-earned, come-from-behind 12-7 victory over Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference rival Gilman.
Against the seventh-ranked Greyhounds (4-1, 3-1), the Knights trailed for the first time this season -- 7-0 at the half -- and had been held to 109 yards on offense. City's Dwight Banks had missed a first-quarter field-goal try after a 13-play, 78-yard drive on the Knights' first possession.
Gilman defensive back Peter Bogue had sacked All-Metro quarterback Terence Suber and intercepted him once as Suber went 0-for-4 passing in the first half.
And on a punt, Gilman's Mark Lord hit City's returner, Darrell Jackson, so hard that he never returned to the game.
"I didn't know the character of this team, but I do now," said Petrides, standing on the damp field afterward. "I knew Gilman's defense had rarely been scored upon all year, and that was a concern. The field conditions favored them in the first half, but they improved for the second, so we could open up more."
And when the rain stopped as the third quarter began, the Knights (4-0, 3-0) poured it on, racking up 185 yards of offense with 230-pound fullback Antonio Travers (14 carries, 74 yards) going up the middle more.
Suber faced third-and-nine with 5:13 left in the quarter when he found Banks for his only completion of the game. Banks, who faced double coverage all day, out-leaped Gilman's Jimmy Zimmerman near the right sideline, then used his 4.5 speed to outrun Mark Cornes to the end zone.
The reception, Banks' third touchdown of the season, covered 79 yards and cut the deficit to 7-6 after Suber's conversion pass was batted down.
"They were playing off of me deep the whole game," said Banks, a junior who has 17 catches for 354 yards. "I figured we could beat them if we waited until the right moment."
Suber (17 carries, 101 yards) rushed for 68 yards in the second half. During the winning drive, which covered 86 yards in 12 plays in the fourth period, Suber zig-zagged 48 yards, breaking six tackles until he was stopped at the Gilman 26.
Five plays and a face-mask penalty later, the Knights had the ball on the Greyhounds' 3. From there, junior Ricky Dangerfield (10 carries, 50 yards) scored his fifth touchdown, raising his team-leading total to 38 carries for 299 yards.
Suber was sacked on the conversion run with eight minutes left in the game, but the Knights had a 12-7 lead and plenty of momentum.
Gilman got the ball with 1:13 left after Lou Kousouris recovered a Suber fumble at the Greyhounds' 17. But after Cornes (5-for-8, 63 yards) completed passes of 17 and 22 yards to Dylan Schlott and Zimmerman respectively, Trent Green intercepted the ball with 43 seconds remaining and the Knights ran out the clock.
"We didn't know how long we could hold them off, but that pass [to Banks] really hurt us," said Gilman coach Sherm Bristow, whose defense-oriented Greyhounds entered the game having outscored their opponents, 82-6, (65-0 in its first three games), including 24 sacks and 25 tackles for losses.
"We scouted them well and felt we had all of their tendencies covered," said Bristow. "We wanted to see how long they could (( play the kind of punch-it-out football we were dictating."
After Bryan Smith punted to the City one-inch line midway throughthe second quarter, the Knights moved it just 4 yards in three plays.
Gilman's Tim Elliot called for a fair catch at the City 37 on the ensuing punt, and seven plays later, Jamie Biddison scored his fifth touchdown from 3 yards out with 36 seconds left in the half.
Earlier in the second quarter, Gilman had the ball fourth-and-one at the Gilman 16 when Elliot was penalized 5 yards for not having his mouthpiece in. Jermaine Eaton sacked Cornes on the next play and City regained possession.