For openers, DeMatha is perfect foe for Gilman

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

September 08, 2006|By MILTON KENT

Logic might suggest that if you're going to spend the fall dodging arrows from competitors in a very tough football league, the way No.1 Gilman will, it may not be the smart thing to do to go looking for an archer with a good aim from another conference to take the first shot.

Yet the Greyhounds, though deeply respectful of their opponents, say DeMatha, the Washington area's top-ranked team, is the perfect team to meet to begin the 2006 season.

"I've always been playing DeMatha first in all of our games," said senior lineman Ned Lundvall. "That's kind of the way I want to do it. You get to set the tone of your season by your first game. If you win the DeMatha game, there are kind of high expectations after that. It's good to not only have that out of the way, but to have all the work you've been putting in all summer kind of show up right away."

The Greyhounds and Stags have fashioned a nice little between-the-beltways rivalry, with DeMatha leading 4-3. Tonight's game at the auxiliary field at the FedEx Field complex in Landover has a foretaste of something divine.

"For me, and for the seniors, it's DeMatha first," said senior lineman David Jablonski. "It's how we go out, and how the seniors go out. It starts with DeMatha. It's a pretty big game, and everybody here is excited."

Of course, the difficulty of their respective conference schedules practically demands that Gilman and DeMatha play as early as possible, but they each could have found a William and Mary or Wofford high school equivalent to load up on for the first week before going after each other, right?

Not necessarily, Gilman coach Biff Poggi said. The season will be long and it behooves each team to be as sharp as possible, as quickly as possible. Besides, Poggi said, games like that are great for school spirit.

"It also brings the best, I think, out of both schools," Poggi said. "It's something for the student body. We're having a lot of kids come down and they'll have a huge amount of their kids. It's just a good way to start the year. It's a good thing to look forward to."

Gilman and DeMatha are each responsible for the other's last loss, and the two schools have ripped off impressive win streaks since. The Stags have won 11 straight since squandering a 12-0 halftime lead in last year's opener to drop a 22-19 decision in Baltimore.

Meanwhile, Gilman has won 17 in a row since losing to DeMatha, 12-9, in the second game of the 2004 season, though the Greyhounds say the principal thought for tonight is not maintaining their unbeaten run, but finding out where they are as a team against a top-notch opponent.

"Coming into the season, everyone thinks there's a whole lot of pressure, but once you get comfortable with this team and the new team that comes in, it kind of starts to go away and you take it one step at a time," Lundvall said.

"Players that do try to think of it as, `We've got to defend a 17-game win streak,' that's when it sort of starts to get out of hand and you're playing head games with yourself. Once you get a couple of weeks into the season and the DeMatha game goes, you kind of lose some of the pressure of defending the streak."

Indeed, each school has a November showdown with a traditional conference archrival to worry about. For DeMatha, their Nov. 3 meeting with Good Counsel is the all-encompassing match of the year, while the Nov. 11 Gilman-McDonogh game is one of the signature annual Baltimore high school contests of the year, right alongside City-Poly and Loyola-Calvert Hall.

But, for a few hours tonight, the Greyhounds will be forgiven if, for once, they aren't thinking about McDonogh or anyone else. They'll have enough to think about just worrying about DeMatha.

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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