After Glenelg graduated 22 players and returning just one offensive starter, few people gave the undersized Gladiators much chance of continuing their recent dominance of Howard County football.
Glenelg trounced host Hammond yesterday, 42-7. The Gladiators (3-0 overall, 3-0 league) have won 26 straight league games. The two-time defending county champions haven't lost to a league opponent since Sept. 28, 2000, when Howard beat them by two points.
Despite an offensive line that averages only 210 pounds, the Gladiators continue to make the improbable probable. And they do it with the double wing T offense.
Senior running back Tim Siders, the lone returning starter, rushed 11 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns, including a 65-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left in the first half that made it 21-7. That play changed the momentum after Hammond had scored with 48 seconds left and pulled within 14-7.
The Gladiators' Joey Stancil then intercepted a pass at the Hammond 25-yard line and returned it for a touchdown with 23 seconds left.
"When they scored those two touchdowns at the end of the half, that just killed us," said Hammond's Jonathan Biermann, who caught two passes for 72 yards, including a 44-yarder that set up Hammond's touchdown.
Siders said: "No one thinks we're any good because we're so small. And we have a fun time proving that we are good."
Senior running back Joe Derwent, who didn't play last season, rushed seven times for 129 yards, including the game's first touchdown on an 83-yard counter on which Siders handed off to him.
With the game still scoreless in the first quarter, Hammond (1-2, 1-2) had driven to Glenelg's 35, but chose to go for field position and backed the Gladiators to their 1 on a punt.
"It was third down and long and they go 83 yards," said Hammond coach Bill Smith, whose Bears committed four turnovers, including three interceptions.
Derwent injured his shoulder early in the third quarter, however, and had to leave the game.
A 12-yard touchdown run by Siders made it 35-7 with 7:51 left in the third quarter.
Smith said: "Our theme was to be in the game at halftime and then let our running backs take over. But Glenelg knows how to win. At 14-7 we should have been seizing the moment and smelling blood in the water. Instead, they came right back and ripped our heart out."