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MIAA A Conference football title on the line when McDonogh meets Gilman

McDonogh football Dom Damico and Gilman football coach Biff Poggi.
McDonogh football Dom Damico and Gilman football coach Biff Poggi. (Kenneth K. Lam/The Baltimore Sun)

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Where: Gilman

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Coaches: Dom Damico, McDonogh; Biff Poggi, Gilman

Last meeting: McDonogh won, 37-6, last season

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Series: Gilman leads 59-34, five ties

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

McDonogh: LB-OL Wyatt Cook, Sr.; OL Ellis McKennie III, Sr.; LB Connor Young, Sr.; QB Jansen Durham, Sr.; WR Michael Cornwell, Sr.; S-WR Eric Burrell, Jr.; WR-DB Kareem Montgomery, Sr.; RB Nihgel Scott, Jr.; RB Mylique McGriff, Soph.; LB Cameron Harrell, Sr.; LB Akeem Myers Blakney, Sr.; OL Jordan McNair, Soph.; OL Chase Kirol, Jr.

Gilman: QB Kai Locksley, Sr.; DT Ellison Jordan, Jr.; WR Jelani Roberts, Sr.; S Robert Branch, Sr.; RB Antonio Dupree, Sr.; RB Dorian Maddox, Jr.; WR Alonzo Mayo, Sr.; OL Stephen Spanellis, Jr.; OL-DL Jahee Jackson, Sr.; TE-DE Devery Hamilton, Jr.; QB-S Kasim Hill, Soph.; WR John Fitzgerald, Jr.; WR-DB Korey Stevens, Jr.

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KEYS TO VICTORY

For McDonogh and Gilman, the football season always builds toward a crescendo in the traditional season finale, which this year turns 99. With no additional stakes, just winning would be enough for either side. But for a second straight time the game will determine the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion.

The Eagles won outright last year, blasting through the conference to put the finishing touch on an 11-0 season with a 37-6 win over the Greyhounds. This year, however, after losing to No. 9 St. Frances two weeks ago, the No. 3 Eagles can only share the title if they win. Gilman can win outright.

The No. 1 Greyhounds have been cruising, winning eight straight after falling to nationally-ranked St. Edward (Ohio) and Paramus Catholic (N.J.) by a combined 73-7. Their streak includes a 20-0 win over Good Counsel, which is ranked No. 2 in the state media poll (Gilman is No. 1). They've scored 227 points in beating all five A Conference foes and won the closest game by 24 points.

Saturday, that high-powered offense will meet the league's stingiest defense, one largely intact from last season, when it dominated the Greyhounds.

McDonogh also opened with a tough schedule, falling to St. Joseph Regional (N.J.) and LaSalle (Pa.) while taking a 28-14 win at nationally-ranked Elder (Ohio). Despite the 8-3 loss to St. Frances, the Eagles defense, led by Purdue-bound Cook, last season's All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year, has allowed only 42 points to their A Conference foes — half as many as Gilman.

"They have two outstanding linebackers [Cook and Young] that make plays all over the field. They did it to us last year," Gilman assistant coach Henry Russell said. "Those two boys were everywhere and when you watch them on film this year, they're doing the exact same thing to everybody. They also have a big defensive line that plays hard and creates problems and they have a strong secondary with Burrell, Montgomery and Meyers. They have a lot of players on defense that make plays."

On the flip side, the Greyhounds have scored 92 more points than McDonogh has against conference opponents. Locksley, who is committed to Florida State, has lots of options in the running and passing games. Roberts, with his track-star speed, is a big play waiting to happen.

"They make you defend the entire field," Damico said. "They have Jelani Roberts running sideline to sideline with sweeps, they have powerful backs running between the tackles, they have the ability for Kai to pull the ball and run outside or inside and then they can throw deep passes to fast receivers. They have lots of weapons and you have to be able to defend all those weapons."

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