-- For all they knew, Landon's players could have been elsewhere -- perhaps on a bye or playing at home in a tuneup for their late-season push.
But during the offseason, when Bears Coach Rob Bordley saw a hole in his schedule for this weekend, he sought out an opponent to fill the void. As it turned out, there were few takers before Gilman stepped in.
Long regarded as one of the Baltimore area's top programs, Gilman wasn't exactly a tuneup opponent. But even after a 12-7 loss Saturday, the visiting Bears came away with a sense of progress underneath their layer of disappointment.
"This was a lot better than having a bye week," Landon fullback Andy Loomis said. "We learned a lot more from this."
Indeed, the Bears (4-2) learned that they could play at a higher level, holding Gilman to only one offensive touchdown and finding themselves in position to win in the fourth quarter. They also learned that they could better control their fate if they reduced their errors. Six penalties for 65 yards and two fumbles proved to be tough for the Bears to overcome.
An offside call against the Bears late in the fourth quarter gave Gilman a critical first down. The penalty enabled the Greyhounds to chew up yardage and the clock and forced Landon to take all of its timeouts.
The Bears got the ball back for one final chance with less than two minutes in the game, but an interception at midfield sealed the victory for Gillman.
In the third quarter, the Bears marched 85 yards over 10 plays but fumbled at the Gilman 9.
"We kept the ball in their hands," Landon linebacker Scott Smith said. "We know they have a tough team and we have a tough team. We lost this game on our own."
Landon's offense stayed close behind Loomis, who barreled his way to 68 yards on 11 carries, and tight end Andrew McDowell, who caught three passes for 57 yards. The Bears grabbed a 7-3 lead on fake punt in the first quarter when George Huguely hooked up with Gibbs Fogarty on a 37-yard pass.
Gilman answered with a one-yard touchdown plunge by Ben Eaton and a 35-yard field goal just before halftime. The Greyhounds (6-1), whose only loss came to DeMatha, played without leading rusher Sean Price, who was injured. Despite his injury, Gilman stayed true to its run-first formula, using a committee of backs to run for 213 yards.
"They were missing their top tailback and they were still a darn good team," Bordley said. "They were able to run the ball and eat up a lot of clock. There was nothing tricky about it."
The sting of the loss has done little to deter the Bears on their path toward their first Interstate Athletic Conference title since 1999. Their only other defeat came to Loyola -- another Baltimore power -- and they soundly defeated their other IAC opponents this season.
"We know how this tastes," said Smith, whose team still has important matchups remaining with Bullis and St. Albans. "We felt it after Loyola and we're going to make sure we don't feel it again."
St. Albans Duo Runs Wild
St. Albans senior running back Lemi Joyner is accustomed to gaining a lot of yards on the ground, but junior teammate Greg Magee gave him a run for his money as the visiting Bulldogs shut out IAC rival Episcopal, 14-0.
Joyner's 164 yards on 27 carries was his fourth straight game with more than 150 yards. He has 864 yards this season and is averaging 6.5 yards per attempt. Magee racked up a career-high 139 yards on 20 carries.
Joyner and Magee ran in the only scores of the game. The Bulldogs (4-2, 1-1) finished with 315 rushing yards on 50 carries. Senior free safety Alex Malson's fifth interception of the season paced the Bulldogs' defense, which has held opponents to a total of 12 points in their four victories this season.
The Maroon fell to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the conference.
Special correspondent Liam Dillon contributed to this report.