TOWSON — A game that began in an explosive manner ultimately imploded in defeat for Good Counsel, which fell, 20-14, to Gilman in Friday’s season opener for both teams at Towson’s Johnny Unitas Stadium.
With the ball inside the Gilman 10-yard line in the final seconds, Good Counsel was stuffed short of the end zone on an outside run play on fourth down.
As Gilman players spilled onto the field in celebration, several Good Counsel players collapsed in disbelief at the reality of their first in-state loss since 2010.
The game pitted two of the top teams in the state of Maryland. Good Counsel is the four-time defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion; Gilman, from Baltimore, is the two-time defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion.
Falcons senior C.J. Carroll sparked his team by taking the opening kickoff 84 yards to the Gilman 5-yard line. Two plays later, Bryan Strittmatter made good on his first pass as the Falcons’ starting quarterback when he connected with Eric Grimm for a touchdown.
Good Counsel’s defense continued the strong start by stuffing a Gilman fake punt near midfield. On the ensuing play, Leo Ekwoge exploded past the defense for a 54-yard touchdown that put Good Counsel ahead 14-0 and in command. At that point, the Falcons had run just four plays in 1 minute 8 seconds.
Penalties proved to be the only thing able to slow the Falcons, who committed seven first-half infractions. The second of those penalties, an offsides call, helped set up a four-yard touchdown run by Gilman quarterback Kai Locksley. But Jesse Aniebonam, who committed to Maryland during the ESPN game telecast, blocked the extra point to keep the Falcons up 14-6 with 5:29 left in the first quarter.
Yet as the second quarter got underway, Good Counsel’s momentum — and perhaps a chunk of its season — took a sudden shift. A long Ekwoge run was negated by the Falcons’ fourth penalty of the half but the greater cause for concern was the sight of Ekwoge lying on the field in pain. The Western Michigan commit spent the rest of the night on crutches with his left knee wrapped in ice after gaining 72 yards on three carries.
After another holding penalty stalled the Falcons’ drive, Jelani Roberts took the ensuing punt 59 yards to the end zone, cutting Gilman’s deficit to 14-12 midway through the second period.
Without Ekwoge in the backfield, the Falcons struggled, producing just 119 yards in the second half while the defense did its best to hold strong. But following an interception in Good Counsel territory, the Greyhounds pulled ahead for good on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kasim Hill to John Fitzgerald with 4:46 remaining.