IJAMSVILLE -- They shouted from the sideline and they shouted in the locker room. They shouted through tears and they shouted through the pure, unbridled joy. And when the clock's final seconds ticked away, the Urbana football team shouted to anyone who would listen.
For the 39th straight game, they were winners.
Despite four turnovers, a litany of penalties and a mountain of emotion that all got in the way at some point, Urbana knocked off No. 1 Gilman, 12-7, last night, keeping the visiting Greyhounds winless in two games this season.
Urbana senior receiver Billy Gaines caught five passes for 76 yards, scored a touchdown and broke up a pass in the end zone on Gilman's final drive to seal the victory.
"I felt like Superman out there," Gaines said. "No one really gave us much of a chance, but I knew it was meant to be. Everyone said they were the best, but we beat them, so I guess we're the best as well."
It didn't start out that way. Coming off a brutal loss to DeMatha last week, Gilman came out hitting hard and took a 7-0 lead with 5:54 left before halftime on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Ambrose Wooden to Anthony Triplin.
Urbana (1-0), which had bottled up Gilman's option attack up until that point, missed two tackles on the play and found itself behind for the first time in a long time.
Through nearly the first two quarters, Urbana's offense was out of sorts, as the Hawks fumbled six times and lost three of them. But Urbana quarterback Joe Connor and Gaines hooked up for the game's biggest play, a short pass at midfield that turned into a 44-yard gain by Gaines after two missed tackles by Gilman.
Gaines was dragged down at the 3-yard line, but Connor found Patrick Ferguson open in the end zone on the next play.
"Joe just made a gutsy throw on the play to Billy," said Urbana coach Dave Carruthers. "It was low, but it had to be or it would have been intercepted. After Billy broke that play and we scored, it really gave us some life."
On the extra-point attempt, however, Gilman defensive end Victor Abiamiri, who wreaked havoc on defense all night, broke through the line and stuffed the kick by Eric Lenz. Gilman led 7-6 at halftime, and both coaches figured it was anyone's game.
"Urbana really played like a team that's never lost," said Gilman coach Biff Poggi. "There was a couple times they really could have folded I felt, but they just got back up and made the next play. They played excellent."
Admittedly, Gilman did not play its best, though that was almost entirely to Urbana's credit, Poggi said. The Hawks held Gilman to minus-1 yard rushing in the first half, and in the second the Greyhounds totaled only 23.
"Both teams kind of shot themselves in the foot," Carruthers said. "I was just proud of our maturity, because we played our best when we most needed to."
After an interception off a botched field-goal attempt turned Urbana away late in the third quarter, the game turned on one play. Wooden tried to run an option wide inside his 20-yard line, but tailback Malcolm Ruff couldn't handle the pitch. Ferguson pounced on the loose ball, and nine plays later Connor found Gaines open in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown pass that proved to be the winning score.
Still, Gilman had one last chance, driving inside Urbana's 10-yard line with under two minutes left in the game. But two huge defensive plays -- a tackle for lost yardage by Hawks lineman Scott McGregor, and Gaines' broken-up pass in the end zone on fourth down -- sealed the victory.
"I'm just on an incredible high right now," Gaines said. "We've talked about this for eight or nine months and now it paid off. It's amazing."
The Sun accepts nominations for its Athletes of the Week on Sundays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., at 410-332-6200 or 1-800-829-8000, ext. 6200.
Two athletes (one boy and one girl) will be selected each week and featured in Wednesday's editions, beginning next week. To be nominated, athletes must play for their high school team and be available the next Monday to have their pictures taken. Only coaches can nominate Athletes of the Week.