Each fall, Gilman's football team aims for two primary goals - to beat McDonogh and to win the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship. Saturday, they did both.
Darius Jennings rushed 35 times for 252 yards and three touchdowns and Anthony Ferguson and Bryan Willis combined for a game-saving sack, as the No. 5 Greyhounds dealt host and No. 2 McDonogh its first conference loss, 34-27, in the season finale. Both teams finished with 4-1 conference records, but Gilman, whose loss was to Calvert Hall, takes the title with the head-to-head victory.
"It was a great team effort," said Jennings, a junior quarterback. "The seniors, it was great playing with those guys. I've been playing with them for three years and it's a great feeling. I was out there trying to play for them, so they could leave with a win over McDonogh their senior year."
The 94th meeting between the two, played before about 6,000 fans, according to McDonogh officials, gave the Greyhounds (7-3 overall) their seventh A Conference title since 2000 and their ninth since 1998.
Gilman leads the series, 56-33-5, as the visiting team has won each of the past five games.
It looked as if that might change Saturday when McDonogh (7-2) started rolling in the third quarter, making up a 27-13 deficit to tie it on two touchdown plays from quarterback Rudy Johnson.
The Buffalo-bound senior, who passed for 182 yards and ran for 61, scored twice in the third quarter - first on an 8-yard run and then with a 51-yard pass to Sam Eby. Eby's extra-point kick tied the game at 27 late in the third quarter.
Jennings then orchestrated a 10-play drive that culminated in Dexter Davis' 1-yard touchdown run. Mimmo Cricchio's fourth extra point of the game boosted Gilman's lead to 34-27 with 7:02 to go.
On the next series, Johnson led McDonogh 67 yards on 13 plays to the Greyhounds' 15. On fourth-and-11, he looked to pass, but his receivers were covered and Ferguson and Willis sacked him. Gilman got the ball back with 2:40 to go.
"We knew we had to come after him because he was making plays on us all day out of the air," Willis said. "We were able to get pressure on him, and we were able to get him down. It was a big turning point. It shifted all the momentum to our side."
After Gilman could not convert, Johnson took to the air for the Eagles' final three plays, but Justin George picked off a long pass with 17 seconds left to seal the win.
"I don't think it was one play that was pivotal," said McDonogh coach Dom Damico, who also noted a diving catch by Willis on fourth down to keep the Greyhounds' final scoring drive alive. "It was just back and forth, a great high school football game. It was a shame someone had to lose."
G 21 6 0 7 - 34 M 7 6 14 0 - 27
M-Macis 42 pass from Johnson (Eby kick)
G-Jennings 8 run (Cricchio kick)
G-Jones 8 run (Cricchio kick)
G-Jennings 44 run (Cricchio kick)
M-Kennedy 40 pass from Johnson (kick failed)
G-Jennings 6 run (kick failed)
M-Johnson 8 run (Eby kick)
M-Eby 51 pass from Johnson (Eby kick)
G-Davis 1 run (Cricchio kick)