Fans familiar with the Good Counsel-Gilman rivalry knew one thing heading into Friday's season opener: it was going to come down to the wire.
Those same fans must have been scratching their heads less than three minutes into the nationally-televised game, as Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)
had already raced out to a 14-0 lead at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Good Counsel had beaten Gilman (Baltimore)
by a total of just six points in their previous two matchups, including a 20-19 overtime win last season.
There would be no such disappointment for Gilman this time, as freshman Kasim Hill
threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of the Greyhounds' 20-14 comeback victory.
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What's even better is that Hill, who lost the starting quarterback competition to converted receiver Kai Locksley
, wasn't even supposed to be in the game.
Following a pivotal Dorian Maddox
Locksley ran the ball on first down and lost his shoe, leading Gilman to bring in Hill on second-and-3. After a high snap, Hill
faked a handoff and found John Fitzgerald
wide open for a 25-yard
touchdown with 4:46 left in the game. Locksley then returned and ran in the two-point conversion to
give Gilman a 20-14 lead.
Good Counsel made one last effort on the final drive of the game. On a fourth-and-10 with the game on the line, Bryan Strittmatter
found Miles Robinson
for a first down, setting up a first-and-goal from the 10.
After being stopped on three runs, Good Counsel faced a fourth-and-goal as the
seconds ticked away. The Falcons finally got play off with three seconds left, but Perry Steffanelli
was stopped short by Gilman's Alonzo Mayo
to end the game.
The finish was surprising, as Good Counsel couldn't have gotten off to a better start. C.J. Carroll
returned the game's opening kickoff 86 yards to the Gilman 5-yard line. Despite being pushed back to the 20 by a penalty, the Falcons were able to score on a Strittmatter touchdown pass to Eric Grimm
Good Counsel quickly got the ball back and wasted no time, scoring on a 54-yard run by Leo Ekwoge
to take a 14-0 lead just under three minutes into the game.
A bit shell-shocked, Gilman gathered itself thanks the the leadership of Locksley, who engineered a scoring drive which he finished himself with a 3-yard run to get the Greyhounds on the board. After a failed PAT attempt, Gilman trailed 14-6 with 5:29 left in the first quarter.
Gilman continued the momentum on defense, creating a turnover on downs after a sack by Melvin Keihn
, and the Greyhounds took over on the Good Counsel 37-yard line.
Gilman appeared to catch a break on a 4th-and-7 play as time expired in the first quarter. Gilman punted and Carroll signaled for fair catch, but bobbled the ball and Gilman recovered. Unfortunately the referee had anticipated Carroll fielding the punt cleanly and blew an inadvertent whistle. After the officials conferred, Gilman was forced to punt again.
Good Counsel was dealt a difficult blow with 11:56 second quarter, when Ekwoge suffered an apparent left leg injury on what would have been a 27-yard run were it not called back due to a penalty. He had already rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown at the time of his injury, and did not return to the game.
Continuing the comeback effort, Gilman responded with a 59-yard Jelani Roberts
punt return for a touchdown with 8:58 left in the half.
Trailing 14-12, the Greyhounds attempted a razzle-dazzle multiple-pitch two-point conversion which ended up being a pass back to Locksley, who took the initial snap. After catching the ball just inches from the goal line, Locksley reached out and appeared to break the plane of the end zone, but the officials signaled that he didn't make it and Gilman remained down by two.
The defenses took over in the third quarter, with neither team able to get anything going offensively.
Good Counsel was doing an effective job running out the clock until the game-changing interception by Maddox with 5:55 left in the fourth quarter.
Gilman (1-0) will face Florida power Manatee (Bradenton) and Good Counsel (0-1) will look to bounce back at Immokalee (Fla.).