Gilman drops No. 11 Calvert Hall for MIAA A football title showdown with St. Frances; Madison rushes for 168 yards
When the MIAA decided earlier this year to bring back playoffs in A Conference football for the fall, Gilman School playing in the final was thought to be a long shot, especially after a 2-9 season last year. The odds were longer after three straight losses to start the season.
The Greyhounds have reversed course and are headed to Johns Hopkins University. No. 10 Gilman defeated 11th-ranked Calvert Hall College, 42-24, in a semifinal contest at CCBC-Essex Sunday. Brandon Madison rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns for the Greyhounds (5-6 overall) and Brandon Willis had a game-opening 95-yard kickoff return and intercepted a pass. Mike Campbell threw for two scores for Calvert Hall (6-5).
Gilman, the playoff No. 2 seed, will face top-seed and No. 1 St. Frances Academy this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at Homewood Field for the MIAA A title. St. Frances remained undefeated (11-0) with a 49-7 decision over fourth-seeded and No. 4 McDonogh School 49-7, in the opening semifinal Sunday.
Two weeks ago, Gilman was outside the playoff gate. Now, the Greyhounds are a win away from its 14th MIAA A crown.
Gilman coach Tim Holley credited his seniors.
“There are 16 seniors who have been committed to being Gilman football players like the ones before them,” said Holley, who’s stepping down after next week’s finale. “They decided to come together and have been terrific.”
“I’ve been telling my teammates about having the confidence and we can play with anybody,” said senior defensive end/tight end Thomas Booker, who’s committed to Stanford. “Calvert Hall is a fantastic team. We’ve beaten them before but it came down to last couple of seconds. It was about handling success and having the confidence we could keep a team down.”
After getting a late score off a blocked punt to beat the Cardinals, 35-28, last month in Roland Park which may have been the spark to its resurgence, Gilman controlled play Sunday, leading by as many as 25 points.
It started immediately, courtesy of Willis. The senior gathered the opening kick, found a lane to the sidelines and streaked to the end zone.
“We knew this was a process. A lot of people didn’t believe in us,” said Willis. “We believed and had each other’s backs.”
After Calvert Hall got on the scoreboard early in the second to make it 14-7, Madison answered two plays later, breaking through a hole and going untouched 68 yards for a touchdown.
Piper Bond intercepted Campbell deep in Cardinal territory, and Madison scored from three yards to put Gilman up, 28-7.
“The last time we played them it was 28-14 and we let them come back into the game,” said Madison. “Today, our defense made a stand.”
Calvert Hall got a field goal early in the third quarter to close to 28-10 and recovered the ensuing kick at Gilman’s 30-yard line. Willis intercepted Campbell, and the Greyhounds proceeded to go 62 yards in 10 plays as Khari Jones got into the end zone from four yards, pushing the lead to 35-10.
The Greyhounds led 42-17 after Purnell Hill’s 26-yard touchdown run opened the fourth quarter. Hill rushed for 83 yards and was an efficient 8-of-10 passing for 100 yards.
Holley said the offense, under the guidance of Russell Wrenn, is hitting its stride. The Greyhounds have scored 124 points in their last three games.
Gilman’s defense intercepted Campbell (16-of-36, 286 yards) four times as Bond, a senior co-captain, finished with two. Sophomore reserve linemen Gabe Crites had two sacks and Booker added one.
The Greyhounds are now 5-0 all-time in the playoffs, winning the tournament in 2012 and 2011. In those seasons, they defeated Calvert Hall in the final.
The Cardinals, who overcame a 28-14 second half deficit against Gilman last month, stayed in catch-up mode Sunday. Cole Herbert had five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Cardinals coach Donald Davis commended the Greyhounds for “the mental toughness they’ve displayed this year.”
“Their kids played hard and for each other,” added Davis, whose squad will turn its attention to the annual Turkey Bowl match with Loyola Blakefield on Thanksgiving morning.
The Greyhounds will need to play a perfect game Sunday against nationally-ranked St. Frances Academy in a David vs. Goliath matchup with a twist. The Panthers routed Gilman, 50-0, during the regular season.
Most of the St. Frances coaching staff, including co-coach Henry Russell were previously at Gilman. Biff Poggi, who guided the Greyhounds to 13 MIAA A in 19 seasons before stepping down after the 2015 campaign, is St. Frances co-coach after spending last season as a special assistant at Michigan.
The Panthers are 13-0 in MIAA A play (including playoffs) since the coaching change last year.
“St. Frances is the best team in the league. Coach Poggi and Coach Russell and that whole staff obviously did a wonderful job at Gilman,” said Holley. “That’s a physically dominating team. What we need to do is bring our assets to the table, emotionally and physically, and try to compete.”
“We know our coaches are going to put in a great game plan. They did the last time, but we didn’t execute,” said Bond. “We’re a different team. We’re a much better team, a more disciplined team, a closer team. We got one more shot.”
MIAA A CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
No. 10 Gilman School 42, No. 11 Calvert Hall College 24
Calvert Hall 0 7 10 7 – 24
Gilman 14 14 7 7 – 42
Gilman – Willis 95 kickoff return (Godine kick)
Gilman – Bond 14 pass from Hill (Godine kick)
Calvert Hall – M. Campbell 6 run (Reynolds kick)
Gilman – Madison 68 run (Godine kick)
Gilman – Madison 3 run (Godine kick)
Calvert Hall – Reynolds 31 field goal
Gilman – K. Jones 1 run (Godine kick)
Calvert Hall – Robinson 13 pass from M.Campbell (Reynolds kick)
Gilman – Hill 26 run (Godine kick)
Calvert Hall – Herbert 29 pass from M.Campbell (Reynolds kick)