To McDonogh quarterback DeJuan Ellis, it mattered little that for the first time in years, there was no championship on the line in Saturday's 101st meeting with archrival Gilman.
The Eagles' first-year signal caller, who transferred to the Owings Mills school from Bishop O'Connell prior to this season, learned all he needed about the rivalry from teammates.
"They said to treat every Gilman game like a championship," Ellis said, "and that's exactly what it felt like."
The Virginia Tech commit left little in the tank, rushing for 214 yards and four touchdowns, and throwing for 116 more, as No. 3 McDonogh rolled over host Gilman, 42-6, to give the Eagles their most lopsided victory in the series since 1969.
Running back Mylique McGriff added 97 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Eagles (8-3 overall, 4-2 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference), who still trail in the all-time series — the area's second oldest behind City and Poly — 60-36-5.
It marked the first time in four years the matchup didn't decide the A Conference championship, since both teams already had been eliminated. Still, McDonogh coach Dom Damico said that motivating his players wasn't an issue.
"We've been playing for 101 years. We know this can make or break anyone's season," Damico said. "Once you're eliminated from the A Conference championship, you've got to look at it like this is your bowl game. Even if both teams were 0-9 going in, it would be a hard-fought game."
Despite suffering through one of its most difficult seasons in recent history, Gilman (2-9, 1-5) posed a stiff challenge early, limiting McDonogh's running game and showing some spark on offense, led by junior quarterback Purnell Hill.
The teams were scoreless through a quarter before the Eagles broke on top when Ellis capped an 18-play drive with a 12-yard floater to Marquis Thornes.
The score was huge for a McDonogh team intent to not let Gilman gain any early confidence.
"We told them that once they get the momentum and they feel like they belong in the game, they usually stay in the game," Damico said. "So it was very important for us to get off to a strong start and make some big plays. They started out really great, but we just kind of had the better team and wore them out a little bit."
Said McGriff, "We couldn't really run the ball as much in the first half, but we got it going."
Ellis later capped another long drive with a 1-yard run over the right side shortly before halftime, and added scoring runs of 6, 70 and 46 yards before being pulled late in the third quarter.
When McGriff broke a 40-yard touchdown run with 10:31 to play, McDonogh had extended its lead to 42-0.
Ellis said the win meant more to him after learning about the importance of the rivalry.
"I just knew how exciting this game was. They told me how it was and how the crowd is," Ellis said. "We just played our hearts out for our seniors."
McDonogh 0 14 21 7 -- 42
Gilman 0 0 0 6 -- 6
M-Thornes 13 pass from Ellis (Beatty kick)
M-Ellis 1 run (Beatty kick)
M-Ellis 6 run (Beatty kick)
M-Ellis 70 run (kick failed)
M-Ellis 46 run (Ellis pass to Thornes)
M-McGriff 40 run (Beatty kick)
G-Schloeder 28 pass from Edmunds (no attempt)