Gilman holds off No. 4 McDonogh for MIAA A football playoff spot (VIDEO HERE!!)

Gilman running back Brandon Madison (3) is upended by a McDonogh defender during Saturday’s MIAA A Conference football contest. The Greyhounds clinched a spot in the league playoffs with a 24-21 victory over the fourth-ranked Eagles in Owings Mills. (photo – Jimmy Fields Sr.)

by Derek Toney

As a steady rain cascaded the field at McDonogh’s Stadium Saturday evening, tears flowed down Tim Holley’s face as Gilman School headmaster Henry P.A. Smith held the Price Trophy.

“There’s nobody who defines Gilman more and means more to Gilman and who’s done more for the school, particularly over the last few years than Tim Holley,” said Smith. “He is Gilman.”

For five decades, Holley has been an athlete, coach, teacher, administrator and mentor. The end is nearing for Holley, who enjoyed one of his finest moments.

The Greyhounds defeated fourth-ranked McDonogh School, 24-21, in a MIAA A Conference football contest in front of an estimated audience of 2,500 in Owings Mills.

Gilman (4-6 overall) scored the game’s first 17 points before holding off the Eagles’ second half charge to regain the Price Trophy, awarded to winner of the regular season-ending rivalry match that started back in 1914. Gilman leads the series, 61-36-5.

The victory also clinched a spot in next weekend’s league playoffs. Gilman (3-3), the No. 2 seed courtesy of a tiebreaker, will play third-seed and th-ranked Calvert Hall College, next Sunday around 3 p.m. at CCBC-Essex. McDonogh, the No. 4 seed, takes on top-seed and No. 1 St. Frances Academy in the opening semifinal at noon.

At this time a year ago, Gilman lost to McDonogh, ending a 2-9 campaign. The Greyhounds, who won the MIAA A crown in 2015, just won just one league match.

Holley, a 1977 graduate of the Roland Park school and the school’s longtime athletic director who became coach last season, said he’s been proud of his team’s growth.

“It feels better to watch this than when I played,” said Holley, who didn’t lose to McDonogh as a player. “Last year, we didn’t have confidence. This year, we believe.”

“Nobody believed in us. We heard people saying we should go to the B (MIAA B Conference), that’s bull,” said Gilman senior wide receiver and co-captain Piper Bond. “We played with a chip on our shoulder.”

Bond threw a 34-yard touchdown to Zachary Dixon after taking a handoff from quarterback Purnell Hill and Khari Jones’ 75-yard kickoff return, helping stake the Greyhounds to a 17-0 first half advantage.

McDonogh (6-4, 3-3 MIAA A) rallied to 17-14 after Jabriel Johnson’s 20-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. The drive was setup by a fumble exchange by Gilman deep in Eagles’ territory.

The Greyhounds answered with a nine-play, 62-yard drive capped by Brandon Madison’s three-yard touchdown run, boosting the lead back to double digits.

“We’ve been finding a way to win,” said Madison, a senior. “It’s about fighting through adversity.”

McDonogh kept the pressure on as quarterback Dejuan Ellis connected with Jack Simmons on a 33-yard touchdown pass on a 4th-and-6 with 9:32 left in regulation. The Eagles got the ball back with three minutes left in regulation.

McDonogh got the ball past midfield, but a penalty and back-to-back sacks from Thomas Booker and Bryson Webb, left the Eagles inside their territory with a 4th-and-long with 1:40 to play.

Ellis’ desperation heave was knocked down by Bond. The Greyhounds ran out the remaining time, and their faithful stormed the field.

It was a similar scene two years ago for the 100th game as Gilman won the MIAA A Conference title. Two months later, longtime coach Biff Poggi, who orchestrated the Greyhounds becoming a local and state powerhouse, stepped down after 19 seasons and most of his staff departed to St. Frances Academy.

Many local football observers believed Gilman’s days as a football power was over. After a difficult transition last fall, the Greyhounds are much improved this season.

“It was a transition, but we had a great group of seniors,” said Madison. “We went into the offseason with the commitment to work hard. It’s the Gilman culture.”

No one understands the “Gilman’s culture” more than Holley, who will step down as football coach at season’s end and take a sabbatical from his athletic director duties in the spring.

“No one has done more for us and the school than Coach Holley,” said Madison.

“The school means so much to me,” said Holley, who has also coached baseball and basketball. “It’s my other family.”

Gilman School 24, No. 4 McDonogh School 21

Gilman 7 10 7 0 – 24

McDonogh 0 7 7 7 – 21

First quarter

Gilman – Dixon 34 pass from Bond (Godine kick)

Second quarter

Gilman – Godine 25 field goal

Gilman – Jones 75 kick return (Godine kick)

McDonogh – Jacobs 51 pass from Ellis (Lawrence kick)

Third quarter

McDonogh – Johnson 20 run (Lawrence kick)

Gilman – Madison 3 run (Godine kick)

Fourth quarter

McDonogh – Simmons 33 pass from Ellis (Lawrence kick)