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McDonogh topples Gilman in football teams' 99th meeting

McDonogh went into Saturday's 99th rivalry game against No. 1 Gilman wary of the Greyhounds' big-play potential, but the Eagles proved they could make the big plays, too.

Trailing by seven with four minutes to go, No. 3 McDonogh made one critical play after another to win 21-14 in overtime after linebackers Wyatt Cook and Connor Young forced a fumble from Gilman quarterback Kai Locksley. Eagles safety Eric Burrell recovered.

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"The ball came loose and I jumped on top of it," Burrell said, "and next thing I know [there are] Gilman guys jumping on top of me and I tried to hold the ball and make sure I didn't let go of it, and we won. ... I was feeling so good after that play."

The visiting Eagles (7-3) beat Gilman (8-3) for the second straight time and won their second straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship, though they share this one with the Greyhounds. Gilman leads the all-time series 59-35-5.

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"They're a real formidable opponent," Eagles senior offensive lineman Ellis McKennie said. "They're a very good team, huge up front and for the first three quarters we didn't look good, but our team kept fighting and I believe in my guys and we just showed the fortitude and we made it to the end."

Against a Gilman team that outscored A Conference opponents by an average of 28.6 points, Cook said the Eagles figured they could give up one big play but no more.

That one big play came at the end of the first half when Gilman receiver Jelani Roberts, who caught four passes for 95 yards and ran seven times for 23 yards, used his track-star speed to turn a short pass from Kai Locksley into a 50-yard touchdown. Roberts split two defenders after about 10 yards and beat Burrell in the open field. That gave the Greyhounds a 14-7 lead that lasted until the final four minutes of the game.

Both teams had trouble holding onto the ball in the second half, when there were eight turnovers — five by Gilman, which had scored at least 35 points on every other A Conference team. Three of the Greyhounds' last four drives ended in turnovers and Burrell, Young, Cameron Harrell, Michael Cornwell and Kareem Montgomery recovered fumbles.

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Harrell's recovery, with 3:54 to go in the game, started the Eagles at the Gilman 20-yard line. Sophomore running back Mylique McGriff, who scored all of the Eagles' touchdowns, broke a 19-yard run and then added the 1-yard punch to tie 14-14.

Then Montgomery recovered a fumble to end Gilman's next drive and the Eagles drove 51 yards in a little over two minutes, thanks in large part to Montgomery's leaping grab on a 16-yard pass from Jansen Durham and McGriff's 23-yard run up the middle.

With 16 seconds left, Eagles kicker Mike Shinsky set up for a 20-yard field goal, but a bad snap forced holder Robert Clark to pass to James Margraff, who was stopped at the 1-yard line where Locksley recovered his fumble.

McDonogh went first in overtime, where each team has four downs to score from the 10-yard line. McGriff raced nearly untouched into the end zone. Greyhounds defensive tackle Ellison Jordan said his team wasn't lined up correctly on that play, so no one got a hand on McGriff.

After Shinsky added the extra point for a 21-14 lead, Locksley ran the ball on Gilman's first play, but Cook and Young knocked it loose. After Burrell's recovery, McDonogh students stormed the field.

"I thought we had it, but we've got to give credit to them." Jordan said. "They were the better team this year, this game. Their line was good and they have a lot of great players."

While the Eagles will graduate 17 starters, McGriff is just getting started. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound back ran 17 times for 114 yards, including 68 yards for the first touchdown of the game.

"What a great back," McDonogh coach Dom Damico said. "He is explosive, he's got great cuts, he runs hard, he's strong and he's going to be a special, special player for the next two years."

This season, Damico changed his nonconference schedule to include tougher opponents and even though they lost to a couple of them, McDonogh beat then-nationally ranked Elder (Ohio) in Cincinnati.

"I think the high-level games that we played in during the beginning of the year, helped us in the fourth quarter and in the overtime period," he said. "When you take a team to Cincinnati and you beat Elder in front of their crowd — and we had to do it kind of in the same way, we were behind a little bit –- so our kids tasted that. I think they had confidence. They knew they could finish."

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