Top-ranked Gilman puts its 21-game winning streak on the line today against DeMatha, Maryland's nationally recognized football power and owner of a 31-0-1 regular-season unbeaten slate.
"Clearly, we're the underdogs. But we want to find out how good we are," said fourth-year Gilman coach Biff Poggi of both teams' season opener at 1:30 p.m. at Parkdale High in Prince George's County. "They're among the best in the country each year."
DeMatha is 18-3 vs. the Baltimore area, with its previous loss coming against City College, 20-12, in 1966, when Morgan Wootten coached the Stags and George Young, who would become the New York Giants' general manager, coached City, which was quarterbacked by Kurt Schmoke, who would become Baltimore's mayor.
Under 19th-year coach Bill McGregor (164-26-3), DeMatha has been nationally ranked five times by USA Today, reaching sixth in 1986.
This year's Stags are ranked No. 1 in the state by the Associated Press and No. 31 nationally by Rivals100's top 50. Gilman is ranked No. 3 in the state and is unranked nationally.
"It's an honor to be in a game against their program," Poggi said. "I've told our kids to play hard, have fun, absorb the experience."
But Gilman doesn't want to absorb the beating DeMatha has given some of Baltimore's best in the past. In the 1990s, Gilman, Loyola, Edmondson and Mount St. Joseph (twice) fell to DeMatha, with St. Joe losing, 41-14, in '97 as the area's No. 1 team.
DeMatha running back Anthony Riley, Prince George's County's 1999 Offensive Player of The Year, is Maryland's top returning rusher. He had 2,064 yards and 25 touchdowns last year.
The Stags' offensive line averages 275 pounds, including 6-5, 300-pound Jimmy Keys and 6-3, 265-pound tight end Brennan Schmidt. Sophomore QB Ryan Mitch (6-2, 190) targets four receivers, including Division I prospect Domonique Stewart.
Gilman's All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year, Starrett Esworthy (6-0, 222), noseguard Dan Zito (6-1, 240), 6-5 defensive end Greg Lotz (225 pounds), and sophomore Victor Abiamiri (235) will have their hands full.
"Their receivers are part of the track team's 400 [meter] relay team, and their running back runs great after contact," Poggi said. "Their linemen are great run-blockers, and they go nine deep up front, defensively."
Gilman starts a sophomore at quarterback in 6-1, 180-pound Ambrose Wooden. He clocked a 4.24 40-yard dash at Ohio State's football camp this summer. His primary target should be Napoleon Sykes, who had 17 receptions for 393 yards and five scores last year.
Esworthy will line up in the offensive backfield with top returning rusher Malcom Ruff (877 yards, 12 touchdowns), a sophomore 400-meter dash champion.
The Sun's fall 2000 high school preview section will run Tuesday. at football, boys and girls soccer, It will include an area-wide look field hockey, volleyball, cross country and golf.