Gilman quarterback Shane Cockerille, who is committed to Maryland, will be one of the key players if the Greyhounds hope to defend their MIAA A Conference title this season.
Gilman quarterback Shane Cockerille, who is committed to Maryland, will be one of the key players if the Greyhounds hope to defend their MIAA A Conference title this season. (Doug Kapustin / For The Baltimore Sun)

Here we are at No. 1 in The Baltimore Sun's countdown of the Top 5 high school football teams and it's likely no surprise to anyone.

Gilman takes the top spot coming off its 10th Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship since 1998. The Greyhounds should again have the area's top defense as they prepare to fight off their most likely challengers, Calvert Hall and McDonogh, for the A Conference crown.

Now that the Top 5 have been revealed, you can see the entire Top 15 poll as well as the top players to watch in Friday's football preview in The Baltimore Sun and on baltimoresun.com.

To have a look at the other teams ranked in the top five, click on their names: No. 2 Calvert Hall, No. 3 River Hill, No. 4 McDonogh and No. 5 Dunbar.

1. Gilman

Coach: Biff Poggi

Last season: 10-1, No. 1.

Postseason: MIAA A Conference champion

Key players: LB-TE Micah Kiser, Sr.; DL-TE Henry Poggi, Sr.; QB Shane Cockerille, Sr.; LB-RB Miles Norris, Sr.; LB-RB Wyatt Dickerson, Sr.; WR-DB Matt Tilley, Sr.; DB-WR Troy Vincent Jr., Jr.; DE-TE Melvin Keihn, Jr.

Outlook: In a huge turnover season after nearly every big-name player graduated, the Greyhounds lost the most talent -- including Offensive Player of the Year Cyrus Jones Jr. (Alabama) and Defensive Player of the Year Kenneth Goins (Maryland) -- but they also return the most.

Two All-Metro players, Kiser (Virginia) and Poggi (Michigan), lead a defense that should remain the area's best while Cockerille (Maryland) leads an offense that will have to find its identity without Jones, who scored the game winners in both victories last season over No. 2 Calvert Hall, including the 34-32 overtime victory in the first-ever A Conference title game.

For the last two years, the Greyhounds' roster has included many Division I players but it also had that one individual who could change a game. Now, they have to rely on everybody.

"We don't have a Darius [Jennings] or a Cyrus," Biff Poggi said, "but what we do have is probably the most really good players we've ever had on the team or very close to it, so we're going to be a different team but we're going to be a very good one."

The Greyhounds, who graduated 15 players but return 31, swept their A Conference competition last season and lost only to Good Counsel, 26-21, after beating the Falcons in 2010. In preseason, Gilman is ranked No. 2 in Maryland behind Good Counsel, their opponent on the road Friday night, and the Greyhounds were No. 16 in USA Today's preseason Super 25.

In their season opener, the Greyhounds struggled early and lost 35-14 to Ohio powerhouse Archbishop Moeller in Cincinnati Sunday. They trailed 28-0 at the half before Cockerille, playing behind an experienced offensive line, rallied them with pair of rushing touchdowns that closed the gap to 28-14 in the third quarter.

The Greyhounds face one of the toughest opening stretches in the country with Moeller, Good Counsel and next week's opponent, 2011 national No. 1 Don Bosco Prep from New Jersey at the 9/11 Patriot Classic at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. That led one recruiting website, Scout.com, to label their schedule "the Bermuda Triangle."

Whether the Greyhounds escape "the Bermuda Triangle" with a win or not, such an ambitious early schedule will certainly have them -- especially a handful of underclassmen who could play key roles -- battle tested for A Conference competition.


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