Gilman coach Jon Seal said his team was the underdog in Sunday's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A conference championship against McDonogh despite being the top seed for the playoffs.
But while the second-ranked Greyhounds might not have quite the same soccer pedigree as the No. 6 Eagles, they pride themselves on outworking their opponents. That was the case again in the final as midfielder Cotter Brown's header with 36 seconds left in the first half gave Gilman a 1-0 victory at Archbishop Spalding. Gilman goalie Andrew Harris was once again spectacular, earning his 13th shutout of the season with 10 saves.
"It's amazing how we've come together as a team this season," Harris said. "We battled through a lot of injuries. We have amazing team chemistry. It's an unreal feeling."
While McDonogh (18-6-1) was playing in its 12th MIAA title game in 13 years, Gilman (16-2-3) was making its first appearance since 1995. The Eagles' big-game experience showed early as they were in control most of the first half. But with 36 seconds left in the half, Brown jumped above a defender and headed in a cross from Sam Wancowicz for the 1-0 lead.
"McDonogh is a great team, but we've been working hard all season long trying to match up," Brown said. "We thought this was our year."
The Eagles relentlessly pressured in the second half, and nearly tied the game on a scrum in the penalty area, but the ball was cleared off the line by a sliding Joey Cahalan.
"I was just in the right place at the right time," Cahalan said. "I just kicked it out. We got a huge goal from Cotter Brown. He jumped like three feet off the ground."
McDonogh's Malcolm Harris took over the game in the final 15 minutes, but one long-range shot was saved by Andrew Harris and another went over the cross bar.
"The feeling is something like I imagined it would be like to win one," Seal said. "Words just don't do it justice. I just have a great bunch of kids."
The close game did not surprise either coach because of the familiarity of the two teams. Three of Gilman's top playmakers are teammates with five McDonogh starters on Eagles coach Steve Nichols' club team, Bays Chelsea Academy, which won the Under-15 National Championship in 2009.
Nichols and Seal each were hired as assistants by Seal's father, Bill, at McDonogh in 1994. When Nichols took over the program three years later, his assistants were Bill and Jon, who eventually left for the Greyhounds in 2004.
Now that the MIAA season is over, players from the two teams will continue to mix. Andrew Harris and Malcolm Harris were called for the Under-18 National Team camp November 20-28 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
B Conference: St. Paul's 1, Boys Latin 0
Sam Tana's strike from about 20 yards out in the 60th minute was the game winner, giving St. Paul's its first title since 2000.
The Lakers have reached the MIAA B conference championship in seven of the Don Rickels' nine years as coach, winning five. The Lakers' Maxx Lowenstein nearly tied the game with 10 minutes remaining, but his close-range shot was turned away by Crusaders goalie Kevin Delmonte. Boys' Latin goalie Zach Davis also had several crucial saves.
"I didn't even look at the goal. I just let it go," Tana said. "Zach's a great keeper. He kept them in this game. I knew if I got one good shot, if I got lucky, I could get it past him."
The team split their regular-season meetings. St. Paul's finished the season 13-5-1, and the Lakers ended 10-6.
MIAA A championship
Gilman 1, McDonogh o
Goals: G — Brown. Assists: G — Wancowicz. Saves: M — Sanchez 6; G — Harris 10. Half: G 1-0
MIAA B championship
St. Paul's 1, Boys' Latin 0
Goals: S — Tana. Assists: None. Saves: B — Davis 8; S — Delmonte 6. Half: 0-0