Bill McGregor felt like he coached two different teams during No. 2 DeMatha's 22-19 loss at Gilman on Friday night, so the coach walked off the field somewhat confused.
Which DeMatha team, McGregor wondered, was the real one? The efficient, talented power that dominated the first half, or the tired, heavy-breathing bunch that frittered away a 12-point lead -- and a game -- without much of a fight during the final 15 minutes?
In the final 15 minutes, the Stags (1-1) undid almost three quarters worth of good work. They allowed Gilman (1-0), the top-ranked team in Baltimore according to the Sun, to control the ball for nine minutes in the fourth quarter.
The Stags let Gilman running back Sean Price race for 140 yards in the second half.
And when a disastrous second half finally ended, DeMatha had lost to Gilman for the first time in three years and surrendered its hopes for an undefeated season.
"We are in terrible shape right now," McGregor said. "I don't think we had any idea what it took to win against an excellent team. [Gilman] just played smash-mouth football -- the type of football we used to play."
DeMatha built a 12-0 lead at halftime thanks to strong running from Patrick Mealy and Kenny Tate, but the Stags faded in the second half. Eight of DeMatha's defensive starters also play consistently on offense, and players said they hit a wall of fatigue midway through the third quarter -- a fact Gilman exploited.
About six minutes into the third quarter, Gilman Coach Biff Poggi ordered his team to hand the ball consistently to Price for runs up the middle. The senior running back responded by leading Gilman on scoring drives of 77, 80 and 40 yards on its next three possessions, giving the Greyhounds a commanding lead.
"We basically decided that we were going to go after them the old-fashioned way in the second half," Poggi said. "We made it pretty simple: Let's go at them hard and see what they can take."
Much to McGregor's frustration, a fatigued DeMatha team couldn't take much. Five DeMatha players went down with cramps in the second half on defense. The offense, equally exhausted, managed a late touchdown drive thanks to two long completions by senior quarterback Marc Problador, but it couldn't complete the comeback.
"We didn't have enough heart," said Tate, a sophomore, who rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown. "It all came down to heart, and I'm not sure we had it."
Said senior lineman Brett Drumheller: "We were out of shape. We beat ourselves by taking plays off. You've got to be able to play your best for four quarters, and we definitely didn't come close to that."