Napoleon Sykes had a lot on his mind Saturday in No. 2 Gilman's 35-14 romp over No. 9 Mount St. Joseph. His personal inspiration became his team's motivation.
Sykes, one of Gilman's seven senior captains, asked to come out of the game after breaking a couple of tackles and returning the opening kickoff 26 yards to his team's 29.
"Nap came over to me after making an outstanding run and said, `I need a minute, Coach,' " said Gilman coach Biff Poggi, who was somewhat surprised before realizing why Sykes wanted out to gather himself.
"His best friend, Ryan Smith, who played at Mount St. Joe, was killed last year in an automobile accident. Nap played the game for him today."
On his kickoff return, Sykes saw the dangling towels inscribed with Smith's initials on the hips of some St. Joe players.
Sykes returned after a couple of downs and helped lead the host Greyhounds (3-2) to a convincing victory over the Gaels (4-2) in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference opener for both teams.
Unable to get going offensively on their first two possessions, the Greyhounds got a spark when Sykes intercepted a pass by Nick Tanis and raced nearly 70 yards to the Gaels' 5 with 4:37 left in the first quarter.
It took Malcolm Ruff two attempts to take it in from the 3 for a 7-0 Gilman lead. St. Joe tied it with 2:23 left in the first, but Gilman junior quarterback Ambrose Wooden threw two touchdown passes before the end of the half to put the home team on the way to victory.
"Nap's interception return was the turning point for us," Poggi said. "The kids knew what was on his mind, and he inspired them to get us going."
While the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association considers expanding its state football playoffs, MIAA football coaches would like just to have playoffs.
Mount St. Joseph coach Mike Working has come up with a plan to group together the teams from the A Conference and B Conference for a 15-team playoff field, but he said he isn't optimistic it would be approved anytime soon. Any such proposal would have to be approved by the schools' headmasters.
"Part of the hang-up is the Loyola-Calvert Hall Thanksgiving Day game, but we could work around that and they could still play," Working said.
More playoff talk
The MPSSAA had its state football meeting Wednesday, and playoff expansion was the hot topic of discussion. Oct. 25 is the last day to submit bylaw changes for this school year, and any football expansion would not go into effect until the 2002-03 school year.
At Wednesday's meeting chaired by John Cox, several playoff options were discussed. The two most popular among the state coaches are: 16 teams in each of the four classifications, which would expand the tournament from 32 teams to 64, or going to five classifications - 4A, 4A/3A, 3A/2A, 2A/1A and 1A - with eight teams in each for a total of 40 playoff teams.
Going to 64 teams means starting practice a week earlier (Aug. 8) and finishing the season the first week in December, a 14-week season. With five divisions and 40 teams, the current 13-week system stays in effect.
Prince George's County's 21 public school athletic directors voted not to participate in the state playoffs for all sports this year for lack of funding. ... Gilman senior kicker Morton Tilghman launched a kickoff in the third period of Saturday's win over Mount St. Joe 70 yards through the uprights, sending the crowd into a frenzy. ... Francis Scott Key running back Brad Stonesifer has scored nine of his Carroll County-leading 11 touchdowns in his past two games. ... Old Mill junior running back Brashaad Mayweather, who has scored nine touchdowns for the No. 11 Patriots, played his first two years of high school football in Texas. ... It took Eric Venerable of No. 4 Annapolis (3-1) only two games after returning from academic ineligibility to make an impact. Venerable, last year's Anne Arundel County Offensive Player of the Year, ran for 205 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries in the Wildcats' 34-14 rout of Chesapeake of Anne Arundel County (2-2). ... Centennial's 25-15 victory over Long Reach (2-2) leaves the Eagles at 4-0, their best start since 1994. ... It figured Oakland Mills (1-3) would get its first win Saturday, 41-6 over Atholton (0-4). After all, the Scorpions have won their homecoming 25 consecutive times. ... Off to its best start since 1988, Northeast is 4-0 with its sights set on its first winning season since that year. But after Southern of Anne Arundel (1-2) this week, the 3A Eagles play five straight 4A opponents, including No. 4 Annapolis and Old Mill back to back. ... No. 8 Wilde Lake (3-1) was upset, 12-7, by River Hill (2-2) Saturday.