Driven to perfection Football: No. 1 Gilman, led by a group of big, speedy, multi-sport standouts, has outscored opponents 237-49 and is on track to become the school's second unbeaten team in 60 years.


The Gilman football team is undefeated, top-ranked and one of the most talented in school history. But the best word to describe the Greyhounds may be versatile.

Six of the Greyhounds' (8-0) players have been offered full football scholarships, and four are considered big-time lacrosse prospects. Another could be drafted to play professional baseball in June. Yet another is projected to wrestle at one of the nation's top colleges.

"Just about everyone plays three sports," said running back Damien Davis, The Sun's Male Athlete of the Year as a junior. Davis, who has applied for early decision to play lacrosse and football at Princeton, was also All-Metro in wrestling. "It's like we all have to be doing something all year round."

With their attention focused on football, the Greyhounds, ranked No. 6 in the state, have outscored opponents 237-49 and are on track to become the school's second unbeaten team in 60 years. Gilman has won 12 league championships since 1940 -- as far as its official records go back -- with only coach Redmond C.S. Finney's 1967 squad going unbeaten at 9-0 to win the Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference crown.

Gilman routed last year's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champ Loyola, 31-7, two weeks ago and can clinch the A conference crown against visiting St. Mary's today. A win today, and another over next week's opponent, No. 8 McDonogh, would make the Greyhounds the first program in Gilman history to win 10 games without a loss.

After watching their 49-0 blowout of defending Baltimore City champ Poly, athletic director Tim Holley called the Greyhounds "the best Gilman team I've seen.

"We've had great teams," said Holley, The Evening Sun's 1976 Male Athlete of the Year as a Gilman senior. "But nothing like this."

"They'd have their hands full with DeMatha, maybe, but not many other teams," said John Ricca, whose St. John's of Washington team lost to Gilman, 44-0. DeMatha is ranked No. 1 in the state.

Landon of Bethesda lost to Gilman, 10-7. "I saw a marvelous combination of experience, speed, good size and balance all over the field. I saw no weaknesses whatsoever," said Lowell Davis, in his 27th year as Landon coach.

"I would define Gilman as a small-college team for their physical specimens," said Poly athletic director Mark Schlenoff, whose association with Baltimore-area football covers 31 years.

"It was one thing, seeing their size and quickness among the starters," Schlenoff said. "But you know you're in trouble when there's no difference in the starters and the subs."

Davis has raced untouched for the first touchdowns in four different games, including bursts of 46, 73 and 90 yards, against, respectively, St. John's, Poly and St. Joe.

But when Loyola held Davis to 30 yards, wide receiver/defensive back Chisom Opara caught three scoring passes.

All-Metro linebacker Felix Isuk has 12 sacks for a defense that has allowed seven points on average. But unheralded linebacker Andrew Lucas secured the Greyhounds' victory over Landon with a fumble recovery on the Gilman 1-yard line with five seconds left.

"Somebody can be having a bad day, and there's always someone else to fall back on," Davis said. "We're all fierce competitors."

So fierce, in fact, that one opponent, Bullis of Montgomery County, chose to forfeit to the Greyhounds on short notice rather than face "a very big" Gilman team, said Bullis athletic director Mike Del Grande.

"We felt that because of the size differential, if we had gotten key injuries to some of our skill players, that it would have been difficult to finish the season," Del Grande said. "It was our coach's [Walt King] decision, and I supported it."

Players such as Isuk, Lucas, and Henry Russell have mobility that allows them to blitz from the perimeter or straight on. The second wave usually includes the breakneck force of linemen Brian Lewis and Jamie Hodges.

If you dare to pass, 6-foot-2, 205-pound safety Opara or cornerback Sina Ekundayo often lie in wait.

"Defensively, they're rarely out of position. They can get to the ball because they have athletes who can fly," said Sherm Bristow, a 1967 Gilman graduate and former quarterback who retired in 1996 after 16 seasons as the Greyhounds' winningest coach with a 99-46-5 record.

Quarterback Ryan Boyle has rushed for 477 yards and five touchdowns and has passed for more than 1,000 yards, with a 67 percent completion ratio and 17 touchdowns. Place-kicker Andrew Faraone, also the best player on the Greyhounds' soccer team, kicks equally well with either foot and has field goals of 31, 36, 41 and 46 yards -- two of which were game-winners.

"Their quarterback had beautiful option footwork, and their kicker regularly puts the ball out of the end zone," said Davis, the Landon coach. "They stack up well with any of the top 10 teams in the D.C. area because they have the kind of talent coaches drool over."

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