An overflow crowd estimated at more than 4,000 showed up Friday night for the first on-campus night game in the history of Calvert Hall. By night's end, the vast majority were reveling in a finish that is certain to be talked about for years to come.
Sophomore Delando Johnson recovered a snap that had sailed over the head of Gilman's punter, returning it 20 yards with 26.3 seconds left to give Calvert Hall its second touchdown in just over a minute. When a last-second pass from Gilman quarterback Darius Jennings fell incomplete in the end zone, No. 4 Calvert Hall had escaped with a 26-21 win over the top-ranked Greyhounds.
"It's the greatest day of my life," said Cardinals junior quarterback Thomas Stuart, reduced to tears and unable to walk under his own power after throwing for three touchdowns.
"I saw the ball and just started gunning," Johnson said. "I didn't know what was going on -- my mind went blank. I picked it up, jumped over the pile ÃÆÃâÃâÃâ¦ and just fell in the end zone. I felt like I dreamed it."
The win improved Calvert Hall to 7-0 for the first time since 1997, as well as 2-0 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
"They played a great game," Gilman coach Biff Poggi said. "They deserve a ton of credit."
For most of the night, however, this one looked like Gilman's to win.
Led by Jennings (28 carries, 200 yards), the Greyhounds (4-2, 1-1) controlled he game from the outset
Jennings ran for touchdown scores of 46 and 65 yards on his team's first two possessions, as the Greyhounds built a 14-0 lead after the first 6:30.
Calvert Hall also suffered a major blow on the game's opening series, when top running back and middle linebacker C.J. Williams went down while on defense with an apparent injury to his left knee. He didn't return, and later stood along the sideline on crutches.
But it was the big arm of Stuart, as well as Calvert Hall's defense, that led the comeback.
Trailing 21-7 early in the fourth quarter, Stuart pumped-faked and found receiver Joe Carroll in the back corner of the end zone from 23 yards, cutting the lead to 21-13. Then, he capped a 13-play drive by hitting Travor Williams down the seam from 26-yards out. The two-point conversion failed, leaving it a two-point game with 1:45 to play.
The defense, meanwhile, limited Jennings to just 32 yards rushing after halftime. He had run for 168 in the first half.
"Everybody doubted us," Johnson said. "The whole world doubted us. They said we were going to lose by 35 points. We just came out to play, and you see what happened."