Prep football | Gilman 'excited, nervous' to face off against Manatee

jlembo@bradenton.comAugust 29, 2013 

Manatee High football coach Joe Kinnan puts his headphones on as the kickoff game begins at Manatee Friday night against East Lake. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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BRADENTON -- In the eyes of Biff Poggi, Sunday's game between his Gilman (Md.) Greyhounds and Manatee is a win-win -- barring injury, of course.

"We're willing to do it, and a lot of teams in Maryland haven't been willing to play a (team) like that," Poggi said Tuesday. "If we get beat, at least we tried. We didn't shy away from the game or the competition. We're going to play as hard as we can. Now, if we get a lot of injuries, I'll be second-guessed."

Now in his 17th season at Gilman, Poggi has stockpiled 120 wins and 11 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association Class A championships. He and Gilman snapped Don

Bosco Prep's 46-game winning streak last season and opened the 2013 season last week with a victory over another Maryland powerhouse, nationally-ranked Our Lady of Good Counsel.

Yet he considers Sunday's game, part of the Under Armour Brothers In Arms Classic and scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the University of Maryland's Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium, a huge test for his program.

"I think the big thing for us is we haven't played a team like Manatee before," Poggi said. "They are so well-coached. ... Without trying to sound too cocky, this a really big game for the state of Maryland, because we don't usually see teams like that.

"Florida is considered one of the best states in the country for high school football, and we're really excited, and we're nervous, too."

Despite last week's impressive 20-14 win, in which the Greyhounds erased an early 14-point deficit against a Good Counsel team ranked No. 1 in Maryland, Poggi considers this a bit of a rebuilding season for the Greyhounds, who return seven starters and have approximately two dozen freshmen and sophomores.

Leading Gilman last week was quarterback Kai Locksley, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior who rushed for 100 yards, threw for 128 and scored the Greyhounds' first touchdown.

"They're pretty doggone good," Manatee coach Joe Kinnan said. "Very talented. Big, physical, athletic -- they look like us. They've got very good players that are extremely well-coached. We're going to have to play our best to have a chance."

This is Manatee's third out-of-state game in four years and the second time the Canes have headed to the Maryland/D.C. area following 2011's season-opener against Good Counsel.

Similar to what they did that year, the Hurricanes will take a tour of Washington, D.C., and may visit the Sept. 11 memorial site at the Pentagon, which is within walking distance of Manatee's hotel in Arlington, Va.

No district funds will be used to finance the Canes' trip.

"We're trying to expose them to something besides football," Kinnan said. "It will be a lot of these kids' first time on an airplane, and we're going to D.C. Probably most of them have never been to Washington, D.C."

And it will also give each team a chance to get better for bigger, more important games down the road. "This is what high school football is all about," Poggi said, "and we're going to get to see how the best do it. It won't just be a great experience for us, but it will be a great experience for our fans who come out to the game."

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