PARITY: Not Such a Rarity Anymore

By Nelson Coffin

It's not a stretch, especially with the 20-20 vision provided by hindsight, to look on Gilman's season-opening 12-4 pasting of Georgetown Prep as stunning. Check that. Stunning does not describe the enormity of what the Greyhounds did that day. Nor does it convey the magnitude of just how thoroughly the Baltimoreans laid waste to the Little Hoyas on Johns Hopkins' venerable Homewood Field carpet in a walkover against what many prognosticators felt was the best team in the land, other than maybe Long Island juggernaut Farmingdale. Prep Coach Kevin Giblin could only shake his head in disbelief, even after reviewing the evidence on videotape. Giblin, who guided the otherwise unblemished Little Hoyas to, noted that Gilman did not make one bad pass. They did not throw the ball away and came about as close to lacrosse perfection as a team could get in the March encounter.

Penn Charter v. Gilman

The Greyhounds then went out and stuffed defending league champ Boys' Latin, 5-3, to begin the always-competitive Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference campaign. Many observers of the sport, and probably more than a few 'Hound followers, thought an undefeated season was not out of the question after such a fantastic debut. That is, until reality set in and MIAA rivals found flaws that were not apparent earlier in the Greyhound armor. Now, some six weeks later Prep has beaten Landon at Landon, 8-5 for the school's first-ever triumph in the series between Washington, D.C. kingpins. Boys' Latin is back on top, even having lost to Mount Saint Joseph's. Brother Rice of Michigan beat Landon at the Boy's Latin Tournament just before Ridley played very competitively against BL and only a week after Gilman dropped a decision to Lafayette of New York. Until last week, West Gennesee had won 32 straight games. Fayetteville Manlius stopped that dominant streak at Coyne Field in Syracuse on Friday night.

Fayetteville Manlius v. West Genny

Parity abounds. So much so that that same flawless Gilman team is now struggling just to make the playoffs (7-5, 5-4 in the league) and trails both St. Mary's and Calvert Hall in Division II of the A Conference of the MIAA. They showed why when they hosted one of Philly's finest, Penn Charter, recently. The Quakers, who have suffered one-goal setbacks to three-time Maryland public school champ Dulaney and Landon this spring, were on the verge of stealing one at Gilman when they crept to within a goal of the Greyhounds late in the third quarter. But they went down to a 7-4 defeat. Penn Charter was right there, running stride for stride with Gilman until the hosts' defense, led by North Carolina-bound defender Gentry Fitzpatrick and flashy junior goalie Grant Zimmerman, helped put the brakes on the Quakers for the final 15 minutes. To be fair, neither team exactly painted a masterpiece during the fracas that began under warm, sultry skies that were spitting cold rain by the game's conclusion. Unforced turnovers, wild shots and generally sloppy play prevailed. Still, the battle was far from the one-sided slap-around many would have predicted when perusing the schedule post-Prep/BL and prior to the 'Hounds' unraveling. Not that Penn Charter (12-4) is the kind of squad to be taken lightly.

Strong lefty Joe Landry will take his game to Loyola

The Quakers are loaded with Division-I talent, from attackmen Andrew Seiker (Lehigh), Henry Bartlett (Cornell) and Denis Whelan (Cornell) to middies Dave Gaunt (Lehigh), and Ryan Still (Georgetown) on the offensive half of the field and Tony McDevitt (Duke) and Rob Mitchler (Penn) on the defensive end. McDevitt was particularly effective, holding Penn recruit Luke Wilson to zero points. "I just tried to keep him from getting past the goal-line extended," said McDevitt. "I just stayed on his gloves. But he's a really good ball player. He'll do well at Penn." McDevitt should be a fine addition to the Blue Devils, who are already regarded as one of the tougher defensive units in the nation. He'll be attending the school thanks to a scholarship named in honor of World Trade Center victim Peter Ortale, a former Blue Devil who, coincidentally, was a Penn Charter alum. "It means a lot to me," said McDevitt. "I just have so much respect for the (Ortale) family for establishing a scholarship that will help me and other kids, too."

Ridley v. Boys' Latin

Gilman started out in the contest as if it would shake off its recent woes. The Greyhounds prevented the Quakers from getting off a shot for six minutes while Kyle Ariano and John Pinney staked Gilman to a 2-0 advantage. Predictably, a failed Gilman clear led to a Whelan for the Quakers. Zack Goldberg answered for Gilman, which took a 3-1 lead into the second period. The Greyhounds then started to pull away on tallies by Davis Lindsey and Chris Merwin. A determined move through a gap in the defense by Still netted Penn Charter's only other retort prior to the intermission. In the third quarter, late slides in Gilman's defensive sets allowed the Quakers to bang in two more goals. Bartlett and junior middie Bruce Tan were quicker to the spot than the Greyhound help and Zimmerman paid the price as the Quakers were closing in at 5-4. However, senior Peter Formby stuck a Pinney feed between the pipes with 27 seconds left in the quarter to create a cushion for the Greyhounds. The Gilman defense did the rest.

Landon v. Georgetown Prep

Nevertheless, neither the winning Greyhounds nor their rivals from the City of Brotherly Love were particularly ecstatic after a performance ripe with unforced errors. "I can't speak for Gilman, but for us it had something to do with taking a two-hour bus ride and then playing," said Penn Charter Coach Pat McDonough, whose team routed Haverford, 17-3, a couple of days after leaving Baltimore. "We didn't play at all in the first half. They outhustled us to every ground ball." Gilman did not have excuses, nor did Fitzpatrick offer any. "We should at least be able to catch and throw by now," said the team's top defender who held Whelan to a goal and an assist. "We have ability, but we've hit a bit of a slump lately. We've just been making too many mental errors."

Dave Allan

Gilman Coach Dave Allan thinks that perhaps the unexpected start may have contributed to his team's tailspin. "Georgetown Prep didn't play well at all that day and we did," he said. "That game gave us confidence against BL. But since then it's been a struggle. We've tried being hard on the kids and they tell us to back off. Then we tried to ease up and we're told they need us to get on them more. They're a difficult group to figure out." A source close to the Greyhounds insists that they are split into factions, stemming back to ties with different pre-high school youth programs.

Tony McDevitt

And while team chemistry, or lack thereof, can always be blamed when a squad starts going down in flames, talk of divisiveness was never an issue when the 'Hounds were riding high. The bottom line is that expectations are always sky-high at Gilman. And they were even above and beyond that after a start that may have finished the Greyhounds' dreams of another title before the calendar turned to April. Gilman can still salvage its season, though, if and when it does another incredible about-face. That may have started when they turned the tables on Calvert Hall this week, upsetting the Cards with an eye on archrival McDonogh who's up next. Penn Charter, meanwhile, can always finish its season on a successful note if it can topple archrival Germantown Academy. It's just that Gilman has breathed the rarified air of being, briefly, the king of the mountain while Penn Charter has done more or less what was predicted and yet they played pretty evenly in April. To scale the summit again, Gilman will need all of its resources working in synch. If they don't, it will be a testament to the competitiveness within the MIAA and rapidly growing parity nationwide.


May 7, 2003