Good Counsel's football program steps onto national stage with game on ESPN

Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy has built the Falcons into a power in his 10 years at the school.
Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy has built the Falcons into a power in his 10 years at the school. (Mark Gail/the Washington Post)
By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 29, 2010; 12:03 AM

When he was hired 10 years ago as the football coach at Good Counsel High School, Bob Milloy was ready for a challenge. Since opening in 1958, the Falcons had never won the Washington area's Catholic league championship. Games against the league's established powers, especially DeMatha, often were lopsided. Attracting talented players was difficult.

A decade later, though, Good Counsel's football program has transformed into a regional power with a national reputation for elite teams and coveted players. Along the way, the school has weighed the costs and benefits of facilitating such a status elevation.

Scores of college recruiters make the trek to the school's new campus in Olney and this weekend the Good Counsel team - ranked No. 1 in the Washington area - has flown 500 miles to play an Ohio powerhouse in a game that will be televised on ESPN.

"Anytime you have that combination of wins and high-profile prospects and a willingness to play top teams outside your league, you start developing a reputation of having a prominent program," ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said. "I feel strongly in saying they are certainly a program that is well respected along the East Coast."

The Falcons' rise has been quite a climb. Good Counsel played DeMatha - the region's most celebrated athletic program, one with a longstanding national reputation - in a budding rivalry in six consecutive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship games, finally breaking through with a 14-7 victory last November. Having a slew of players receiving college scholarships also has helped the Falcons on and off the field.

ESPNU televised Good Counsel's 42-21 regular season victory over DeMatha in 2008, then returned to the school three months later to broadcast the signing ceremony of All-Met Player of the Year Jelani Jenkins inking his letter-of-intent to play for Florida.

The Falcons opened last season by traveling to a game in San Diego and spending four nights in a hotel that overlooked the Pacific Ocean - the first time in a high school coaching career that started in 1967 that Milloy took a team on an overnight trip.

One year later, Milloy, his staff and players - a traveling party of 75, all expenses and a small rights fee paid by a promoter - have hit the road again. On Sunday, the Falcons will play at St. Xavier of Cincinnati, which has won four of the past five Greater Catholic League titles with a pair of state titles during that stretch.

"All of a sudden, one day the phone rings and it's ESPN and they say they want to put you on TV," said Milloy, who previously won eight Maryland championships at Springbrook and Sherwood, tied for the most by any coach in state history. "The bad part of that is you've got to play St. X, which is a really good team. But how do you say no to being on national TV? It's a thrill. It's an honor to be asked."

Being in the spotlight, however, comes with added scrutiny.

For years, opponents talked in hushed tones about DeMatha and how the Hyattsville Catholic school emphasized its athletic teams.

Now, it is Good Counsel - with its gleaming new campus and sparkling athletic facilities - that has coaches and officials at other schools wondering what it will take to compete.

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