Maryland high school football powers DeMatha and Gilman are set to meet on Sept 20, but they first tuned up for the big game later this month by brushing off opponents at the inaugural I-95 Kickoff Classic at Towson University on September 4.
With rushing attacks that would make professional teams envy, both schools displayed why they sit atop the rankings in local areas and set up a preview for what could be a huge game in two weeks.
No. 2 DeMatha Stags 45, No. 14 Loyola Blakefield Dons 31
Behind heralded running back Marcus Coker, DeMatha used a power ground attack last season to bruise their way to an 11-1 finish. With Coker now at Iowa, the Stags (1-0) unleashed their running-back-by-committee approach over Loyola Blakefield on September 4 in ferocious fashion. The electric Josh McPhearson and the powerful Delonte Morton headlined an attack that ripped Loyola for 433 rushing yards and 28 points in the second half.
But a high-powered aerial show allowed Loyola to keep it close going into the fourth quarter. Quarterback Mike Fafaul passed for 226 yards and three touchdowns and explosive receiver Jordan Floyd hauled in eight passes for 112 yards and a score. A field goal gave Loyola a 24-23 lead early in the fourth quarter, but that would be their last lead before Morton flexed his muscles. The 6-foot-3-inch, 251-pound senior rumbled for runs of 25 and 36 yards on the ensuing drive, scoring a touchdown on the latter.
Trailing 31-24 with just over six minutes remaining, a Fafaul pass was intercepted by DeMatha senior cornerback Jordan Lomax, who returned it 70 yards to seal the win.
No. 1 Gilman Greyhounds 28, No. 1 Good Counsel Falcons 7
When they met last season, Good Counsel and Gilman lit up the scoreboard in a 49-37 track meet that saw both teams combine for over 600 rushing yards. This time around, it was Gilman who did all the running as the top-ranked school in Baltimore dominated Washington, D.C.’s top team. With star tailback Wes Brown shelved with a knee injury, Good Counsel (1-1) was forced to lean on a passing game that stalled against a stout Greyhound defense.
Behind star senior quarterback/running back/returner Darius Jennings, Gilman (2-0) exploded to a 28-7 halftime lead and never looked back. Gilman scored on its opening drive before Good Counsel evened the game early in the second quarter. Fueled by Jennings, Gilman scored 21 unanswered points in a near five-minute span that left Good Counsel gasping for air and looking for answer. Jennings rushed for 144 yards and added another 73 yards passing, including a touchdown strike.
Although Jennings stood out, Gilman’s defense stole the show. After allowing 49 points in their meeting last season, Gilman’s defense allowed only one score, and held Good Counsel to 202 total yards, including 66 in the second half, and returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown.
The inaugural I-95 Kickoff Classic is part of event organizer Tony Kennedy’s efforts to match two of the strongest private school leagues in Maryland and D.C., the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC). A total of five games were played during the event with schools from the MIAA going 4-1 against their WCAC opponents.