Gaels survive an upset bid to win MIAA A Conference opener

Mount St. Joseph freshman sensation Billy Atkins threw a pair of interceptions, but also had a pair of TD passes as he kept the Gaels’ offense moving in a 28-25 win at Gilman.

Despite an early lead and numerous opportunities to tie or win the game in the fourth quarter, host Gilman could not quite make the extra play necessary to pull off an upset of No. 3 Mount St. Joseph, as the Gaels survived their visit to Roland Park with a 28-25 victory in the MIAA A Conference football opener for both schools.

After missing a potential game-tying field goal in their previous drive, Gilman got one final opportunity as it drove from its own 30 to setup a first-down at the MSJ 24, with two minutes left on the fourth-quarter clock. A couple of incompletions and a sack pushed the Greyhounds into an improbable fourth and 26 from the Gaels’ 40, and their upset bid was dashed when Purnell Hill’s pass attempt sailed over the head of Piper Bond near the 10-yard line.

St. Joe (4-1 overall, 1-0 MIAA A) got the ball first at the beginning of the game and after a short kickoff started at their own 40. The Gaels needed just three quick pass plays to drive inside the Gilman 15 yard line, but the Greyhound defense stiffened, forcing three straight incompletions and, when the Gaels bungled the snap on a field goal attempt, Gilman took possession at its own 30.

The Gilman offensive line and running back Brandon Madison then put on an impressive performance, as Madison ran off chunks of 11, 12 and 17 yards to reach St. Joe territory. A 24-yard pass from Josh Etlinger, one of two Gilman quarterbacks to see action in the game, to Bond pushed Gilman into the red zone. The Hounds then went back to the ground and Madison powered up the gut for a 20-yard touchdown run.

MSJ freshman quarterback Billy Atkins then went to work, completing a 40-yard pass to Matthew McDonald, down the left sideline, giving the Gaels a first down at the Gilman 18. After two runs by Marlowe Wax pushed St. Joe down to the Gilman five, Atkins flipped an easy toss to McDonald on an out rout, for a touchdown which tied the contest, 7-7.

A short punt by Gilman set St. Joe up in great field position once again and the Gaels went ahead for the first time as Wax broke off a 35-yard run, followed by a 21-yard touchdown run, giving MSJ a 14-7 lead with 5:11 to play in the opening quarter.

Gilman continued to move the ball, driving into the MSJ red zone on its next two possessions, but both marches resulted in missed field goal attempts. On the second one, however, the Gaels were whistled for a personal foul, setting up the Gales with a first-and-goal at the St. Joe two. From there, Madison took a direct snap in the wildcat formation, spun and scored on a 2-yard run to tie the game, 14-14, early in the second quarter.

The track meet continued over the remainder of the first half as St. Joe scored on a 56-yard screen pass from Atkins to senior Keyshawn Hailey, pushing the Gaels back in front, 21-14. Gilman responded with a field goal and went to the half, trailing by four.

In the third quarter, Atkins and Hailey teamed up again for a 28-yard pitch, catch and run into the end zone and St. Joe’s lead grew to 28-17 after three quarters.

The Greyhounds (1-3, 0-1) would not break, nor would they go away as they put together another scoring drive, with Madison scoring the TD, once again on a direct snap in the wildcat formation. The Hounds also scored on a two-point conversion pass to pull within three, at 28-25, with 8:30 left in the game.

On MSJ’s next drive, Gilman’s Bond came up with his second interception of the afternoon, giving Gilman a first down at the MSJ 30. That led to a 30-yard field goal attempt by Godine, with 4:40 to play. With an opportunity to tie the contest, Godine’s kick sailed wide left.

MSJ 14 7 7 0 — 28
GIL 7 10 0 8 — 25
GIL – Brendan Madison 20 run (Doug Godine kick)
MSJ – MarlowE Wax 21 run (Billy Atkins kick)
MSJ – Matthew McDonald 5 pass from Atkins (Atkins kick)
GIL – Madison 2 run (Godine kick)
MSJ – Keyshawn Hailey 56 pass from Atkins (Atkins kick)
GIL – Godine 25 FG
MSJ – Hailey 28 pass from Atkins (Atkins kick)
GIL – Madison 4 run (Bryce Bush pass from Purnell Hill)