Despite a lopsided final score, No. 12 Mount St. Joseph (3-2, 0-2) challenged top-ranked Gilman at every turn, during the hard hitting MIAA A Conference football opener for both squads, Saturday in Irvington. In the end, however, the Gaels could not solve the Gilman defense, while the Greyhound offense, led by its relentless senior quarterback Shane Cockerille, kept grinding in a 37-7 victory.
The teams exchanged punts on the game’s first two possessions, but Gilman (3-2, 1-0) won the field position battle as senior Trevor Wey pinned the Gaels back at their own one yard line with a 47 yard boot. It would lead to Gilman’s first points.
On a second and seven from his own 21, St. Joe quarterback Bryan Jangro threw a quick out to the right sideline, but Gilman senior Miles Norris jumped the route and came up with an interception. Five plays later, junior Bijan Rhett completed a 25 yard drive with a seven yard touchdown run and the Hounds led 7-0.
Poor field position cost the Gaels again with 4:59 to play in the second quarter. Punting from its own end zone, St. Joe failed to get Gilman’s Melvin Keihn blocked as he stormed in from the left edge and blocked Robert Busick’s punt through the end zone for a safety. The Greyhounds, following St. Joe’s free kick, setup at the MSJ 45 and promptly drove that distance in eight plays, with Cockerille going the final four yards for a touchdown that put the Greyhounds up 16-0.
On the march, Cockerille completed 3-of-3 pass attempts for 33 yards and ran four times for 17 yards. For the game the University of Maryland recruit completed 6-of-10 tosses for 126 yards, including a sensational 75 yard strike to Troy Vincent, Jr. in the third quarter. Cockerille, who runs more like a bruising fullback than a quarterback, rushed 26 times for 153 yards, adding a second TD run, also in the third quarter.
“The team came out here and just wanted to play physical, coming off the bye,” said Cockerille. “Coming in here to start the league, we wanted to start the league 1-0. I think the team played great today. We played physical. We came out here ready to bring it. The defense played lights out.”
As Cockerille pointed out, the Gilman defense was lights out. St. Joe was creative and able to move the chains at times, but the Gaels were not able to sustain anything until the game’s final drive. The Greyhound secondary, led by Norris and senior safety Matt Tilley allowed for very few open receivers. Senior linebacker Henry Poggi, who is headed to Michigan next fall, as well a big and aggressive defensive front stuffed the St. Joe ground game and kept Jangro under pressure all afternoon.
Cockerille and the rest of the Gilman starters finished their day’s work early in the fourth quarter with the Hounds up 30-0. Gilman added one final score with 6:33 to play when backup quarterback Alonzo Mayo sprinted around the right side for a four yard score.
St. Joe averted the shutout with just 31 seconds left in the contest with a four yard touchdown pass from Jangro to Marcus Alston.
After opening the season 2-2 against four highly regarded national opponents, Gilman came out of its bye week with renewed unity, according to head coach Biff Poggi.
“The kids did a great job today. There’s a great spirituality on this team. It’s rejuvenating to me to see such wonderful young kids,” said Poggi. “We have a lot of seniors, so you would expect us to be pretty good and they are wonderful human beings.”
Gilman will continue on in league play next week as it will visit Archbishop Spalding on Friday night (7:00 p.m.). St. Joe will remain at home and host No. 2 Calvert Hall next Saturday (2:00 p.m.).