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September 7, 2011
Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
One game can not make a season. But for teams in non-power states, one game can certainly break it.
Take this week's RivalsHigh Game of the Week, when Olney (Md.) Good Counsel and Baltimore (Md.) Gilman Saturday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., in the final game of the two-day Patriot Classic.
The game is not just a battle of teams trying to get into the Top 25 of the RivalsHigh 100, but a battle of teams fighting for supremacy in Maryland.
"This game is as important as any on the Good Counsel schedule," Mike Farrell, Rivals.com national recruiting analyst, said. "And they know it."
So does Gilman.
"On a national scale and in terms of program visibility, this game is extremely important," Dave Lomonico, publisher of MdHigh.com, said.
The stature of the game has increased in recent years with the emergence of both teams on the national stage.
Good Counsel defeated Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier last fall. And last week, both earned big out-of-state wins as Good Counsel beat Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee in overtime while Gilman cruised to a win over Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith.
The wins could be key building blocks.
"The win over Manatee was huge for Good Counsel," Lomonico said. "(Quarterback) Brendan Marshall proved he could get the job done on a big stage and he'll be riding high heading into Gilman. It also allowed (running back) Wes Brown to get back into a rhythm.
"For Gilman, the win over Oscar Smith has them brimming with confidence. They basically dictated the tempo of that entire game. If they can do that against a supposed power, then maybe they can do it to anyone in the country."
These two squared off in a similarly hyped game last season. Gilman showed to be the more physical team as the then-No. 58 ranked Greyhounds won 28-7, knocking then-No. 16 Good Counsel out of the Top 25.
Good Counsel is not likely to have forgotten.
"Good Counsel will come out and try to show that last year was a fluke and they aren't just a finesse team," Farrell said. "After last year's loss to Gilman, there is no way they will look past them again this year."
This season, with Good Counsel ranked No. 28 and Gilman No. 29 in the RivalsHigh 100, they share goals to be among the nation's elite.
And each has the talent to make its impression on evaluators.
"I'm obviously scouting individual players and there are about 20 kids between the two teams I'm excited to see," Farrell said. "First and foremost is Stefon Diggs followed by Kendall Fuller, who I think could be a five star for 2013. Then I want to see Cyrus Jones, Wes Brown, the linemen and a ton of underclassmen.
"The best part about a game like this is that there is not a snap taken that doesn't involve someone I want to scout."
Two of those aforementioned players are in the Rivals250 - wide receiver Diggs, the No. 8 overall prospect in the nation, and Jones, who is listed as an athlete and is No. 173 overall. Joining them is Good Counsel defensive end Ryan Watson at No. 207.
All of the talent makes for many exciting matchups. It also creates problems for both teams, which may have to pick their poison regarding which player they try to take away.
"For Gilman, quarterback Shane Cockerille is a good one and he and Jones are dangerous in the passing game," Farrell said. "On defense, linebacker Devon Porchia is a difference-maker as is junior Micah Kiser and defensive lineman Henry Poggi."
Good Counsel will look at Diggs to lead the team.
"I don't see anyone on the Gilman defense that can stay with Diggs," Farrell said.
According to Lomonico, the Falcons must be able to control the line of scrimmage to exploit Diggs on offense.
"Eli Crutchfield, Mike Konrad and Sam Mustipher have to match Gilman's physicality and quickness off the ball," Lomonico said.
The physical play is something Gilman wants to establish.
"This team wants to run the football," Lomonico said. "Their offensive line is tremendous and they pride themselves on imposing their will up front and running the football."
While it is not as cut and dry as pitting physical versus speed, it may well come down to which team does impose its will early.
What is evident though is that the level of play in Maryland is on the rise and the winner of this game will take a major step toward earning a spot among the nation's elite.
"After beating powers from Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Virginia in recent years, I think Maryland has proven they can compete with the upper echelon squads," Lomonico said. "Yes, without a doubt."