City vs. Poly: Tradition Time Is Here Again

Posted on November 06, 2007

By Keith Mills 

It has been 15 years since City College and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute played their football game on Thanksgiving Day, and though many fans of both schools lament the end of that tradition, the two have continued the rivalry with gusto.

A game that was first played in 1889 will be played again Saturday at noon at M&T Bank Stadium. Plenty is on the line as the two teams face off for the 118th time.

In 1993, the city’s public schools joined the state athletic association. That forced City and Poly to move their game from Thanksgiving Day to the second Saturday in November so the Black Knights and Engineers could qualify for the state football tournament, which begins on the third weekend of November.

Countless graduates of City and Poly would still rather see the game played on Thanksgiving Day than watch the two teams competing in the state tournament. But the move to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association has proven to be a solid one.

The 19 member city schools in the MPSSAA have failed to make an impact in soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, golf, tennis and baseball, although they have thrived in basketball, track and field and football. However, only a handful of schools have either won a state title or reached the finals or semifinals. 

City and Poly are two schools that have.

Since 1993, Dunbar has won four state titles (1994, '95, ’04 and '07), reached the finals in '97 and the semifinals four other times. Edmondson is the only other city school to win a state title, winning the Class 2A crown last year over McDonough of Charles County.

Under legendary coach Augie Waibel, Poly reached the finals in 1993, the semifinals in 1997 and the quarterfinals in '94 and '98. City, under coach George Petrides, reached the semifinals in '93, '02 and '06 and the region final last year.

Petrides will coach in his 33rd City-Poly game Saturday after playing in three of them in the mid-'60s for coach George Young. Petrides was the center for quarterback Kurt Schmoke as City beat Poly three straight times while emerging as one of the dominant teams of the 1960s. In 1975, he replaced Ron Chartrand as coach and has been running the program at the 174-year-old school ever since.

A year ago, Petrides' Black Knights beat Poly, 44-8, to roll into the state playoffs unbeaten, but City lost to Franklin, 7-6, in the quarterfinals to finish the season 11-1. It was also the first game in this storied rivalry for Roger Wrenn, who spent 32 years at Patterson High School before taking over as Poly's coach.

Now, the roles are reversed. Poly heads into Saturday’s game already in the state playoffs after last week’s 38-14 win over Edmondson. Under Wrenn, the Engineers have lost only to second-ranked Dunbar and are 8-1 heading into the showdown with the Black Knights, who are 7-2 after their 21-12 win last week over Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical. 

Quarterbacks Antoine Goodson and Tyrae Reid and running back Lee Reynolds lead the Engineers. City, led by James Carmon, Ellis Foster, Stephen Johnson, Adrian Coxson and Devon Roseborough is 7-2 and has won five straight.

Poly leads the series, 58-53-6.

***

It’s called simply, “The Play,” and it is one of the signature moments in a rivalry that celebrated its 100th birthday in 1988. One year earlier on Thanksgiving Day, City's Chris Smith and Jon Williams combined on a play that is still discussed 20 years later. 

“It’s definitely one of the great plays I’ve ever seen,” said Petrides, whose City team beat Poly, 34-22, in that memorable game at Memorial Stadium. It was the Black Knights' first win over the Engineers in 18 years.

With City leading 26-22 in the fourth quarter, Smith, the Black Knights’ senior quarterback, took the snap and pitched to Williams, who was quickly cut off by Poly's defense. Williams reversed his field and ran 50 yards back across the field and another 20 behind the line of scrimmage before throwing a desperation pass back to Smith who was standing near the far sideline.

Smith took the pass and raced down the right sideline for an electrifying touchdown. It went down as a 31-yard score, though the actual distance covered on the play was close to 100 yards. It also clinched City's unbeaten season and its first of three straight MSA B Conference championships.

One year later, Schmoke, then Baltimore’s mayor, threw out the first football in the two schools’ celebrated 100th game. City won, 20-7, behind Curtis Miles and Tony Thorne.

A year after that, it was Poly’s Chris Lafferman throwing two deep touchdown passes to Antonio “Buttons” Freeman as Poly beat City, 36-6, on a snow-covered Memorial Stadium field. It marked the 201st career win for Waibel, who passed away in 2001.

Smith, Williams, Lafferman and Freeman are just four of the outstanding players who joined Petrides, Waibel, Young and such coaches as Harry Lawrence and Bob Lumsden in making the series one of the greatest rivalries in the country.

Lumsden is one of area high school football’s true legends. A former player at Poly, he coached the Engineers from 1949 to 1966, when the City-Poly game annually drew upwards of 30,000 fans and was often broadcast on local television.

Lumsden later coached at High Point College in North Carolina, where one of his players was Tubby Smith, who grew up in St. Mary's County and would eventually lead Kentucky to the 1998 NCAA men’s basketball championship.

But in Baltimore, Lumsden was called "Mr. Poly," and along with Lawrence, Young and later Waibel and Petrides, he defined the rivalry by his mere presence on the sidelines.

***

Both schools have watched a number of their players take their game to the next level.

Freeman played for Waibel at Poly before moving on to Virginia Tech and later the NFL, where he helped the Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl XXXI. Lafferman went on to Towson University before transferring to Essex Community College to play baseball, while City’s Smith went to Howard University.

A handful of other City and Poly players have joined Freeman in the NFL. Poly’s Greg Schaum went to Michigan State and played with the Cowboys and Patriots.

Mike Pitts of Poly was a ferocious defensive end on one the greatest Engineers teams ever. Pitts and Brian Baker anchored a defense without allowing a touchdown in 1978. Pitts went on to play for Bear Bryant at Alabama, where he was an All-American, and later played 12 years in the NFL with the Falcons, Eagles and Patriots. Baker played for Bobby Ross at Maryland and later coached with Ross at Georgia Tech when the Yellow Jackets won the national championship. He's now the defensive line coach with the St. Louis Rams.

Then there's former Poly quarterback Jack Scarbath, who grew up in Hamilton in northeast Baltimore and became one of the best players in college football. Scarbath eventually became a first team All-American quarterback at Maryland in the early 1950s. In 1983, he was inducted into college football’s Hall of Fame. 

City is also well represented in the NFL. Thom Gatewood and John Sykes both played on the same team with Petrides and Schmoke. Gatewood went to Notre Dame and played two years with the New York Giants while Sykes played with the San Diego Chargers. Bob Baldwin (City '62) played with the Baltimore Colts and Ara Person (City '66) with the St. Louis Cardinals. Bryant Johnson graduated from City in 1999, went to Penn State and is now a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. 

Gilman-McDonogh, Round 92

McDonogh’s Howard “Dutch” Eyth, Rich Bosley, Bobby Sabelhaus, Eric King and Lance Clelland. Gilman’s Reddy Finney, Mike Austin, Jim Wilkerson, Jamal Cox and Victor Abiamiri. They are just a handful of the notable players who have made the annual Gilman-McDonogh meeting more than just a football game. 

A series that began back in 1914 with Gilman hosting and beating McDonogh, 35-0, will be played for the 92nd time Saturday at McDonogh as Dominic D’Amico’s Eagles hope to earn another share of the MIAA A Conference championship.

A year ago, McDonogh beat Gilman, 22-16, to earn a share of the crown with Loyola Blakefield and Gilman. Now the Eagles need a win to at least pull even with Mount St. Joseph. The Gaels beat Gilman last Friday, 17-14, to finish their conference schedule at 4-1. McDonogh beat Georgetown Prep last Saturday and is now 3-1 in the conference and 6-3 overall. 

Loyola also has just one loss. The Dons play Georgetown Prep Saturday and Calvert Hall on Thanksgiving Day, needing to win both games to again earn a share of the title.

Like City-Poly and Loyola-Calvert Hall, Gilman-McDonogh is rich in history and outstanding alumni. Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich played for Gilman, as did current Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro while Cox, who along with Ed Trusty helped Sherm Bristow's Greyhounds compete for A Conference championships, went on to Georgia Tech and later played with the Chicago Bears. Wilkerson quarterbacked Alex Sotir's Greyhounds in the late 1970s before moving on to Maryland, where he was a three-time lacrosse All-American. 

Abiamiri, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, and Ambrose Wooden graduated from Gilman in 2003 and both went to Notre Dame, while Stan White, who graduated a year earlier, helped Ohio State become a perennial national championship contender. Abiamiri was Philadelphia’s second-round pick in last spring’s NFL draft. All three players led Biff Poggi's team to an unbeaten season in 2001.

Bosley is one of the most dominant three-sport athletes ever to come out of Baltimore, earning All-State honors in football, wrestling and baseball in the early 1980s. Sabelhaus was one of the country's most heavily recruited quarterbacks coming out of McDonogh in 1994, eventually choosing Florida. King went on to play football at Wake Forest and is now a defensive back for the Tennessee Titans while Clelland, whose brother Lane is a senior tackle for the Eagles and headed to Notre Dame, was an All-State tackle in 1996 who went to Northwestern.

But it is Eyth and Finney whose names are synonymous with a rivalry that began before World War I. Eyth was an outstanding player in college who helped Carnegie Tech upset Knute Rockne's Notre Dame squad in 1927 before becoming the coach at McDonogh in 1932.

Thirty years later, Finney was coaching Gilman, which beat McDonogh, 21-6, in 1962, to go unbeaten for the first time since the early 1920s. Finney coached at Gilman through the 1967 season and stepped down to become the school’s headmaster in 1968. 

Now headmasters Charles W. Britton at McDonogh and John Schmick at Gilman will watch as Poggi’s Greyhounds and D’Amico's Eagles renew a rivalry that will once again have championship ramifications. 

Webster, Unitas Lead St. Paul's

It's hard to miss Bailey Webster. At 6-foot-4, she's more than a head taller than most of her rivals and teammates on the volleyball court, though it's her marvelous ability that really catches the eye.

Behind Webster's superb all-around play, St. Paul's School for Girls beat Archbishop Spalding last Saturday night at Villa Julie College to win the IAAM A Conference volleyball championship and help Kelli Wilkinson's Crusaders avenge their loss to the Cavaliers in the championship game one year ago and their only loss of this season two weeks ago.

Webster's sister Brooks was an outstanding player at the Institute of Notre Dame while Bailey, a junior, is among the best players in the country, earning honorable mention All-American status after a sensational sophomore season. She's being heavily recruited by a variety of major Division I programs, including Stanford and Penn State, and was at her best in this year's title game with 25 kills and three blocks. 

But the St. Paul's win was far from a one-player effort. Bailey Griswold and Jillian Unitas combined for 15 kills while senior Rachel Kelly added 40 assists.

Unitas is the daughter of Christine and John Unitas Jr. and the granddaughter of Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer John Unitas. Her brother J.C. quarterbacked the St. Paul's football team before moving on to Villanova, where he was a member of Andy Talley's Wildcats before leaving the team last month. 

Mercy won the B Conference volleyball crown, beating Lutheran in four games, while Annapolis Area Christian School won the C Conference title with a three-game win over Towson Catholic. 

Devito, Kemp and Frederick Commit

The fall baseball season is over for most area high school programs, and there are a handful of local players who have announced their college plans. Paul DeVito, Archbishop Spalding's ace left-handed pitcher, is headed to Radford University in Virginia while Ryan Kemp of Mount St. Joe is headed to Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia. 

Alex Frederick of Dulaney will play next year at North Carolina-Greensboro. The Lions' senior shortstop hit .403 last year with 19 runs batted in and is one of the area's best defensive players. He played this summer for the Maryland Orioles Under-19 Metro League champions and is a starter on the Dulaney basketball team. He will join former Arundel standout Corey Overholtzer at Greensboro.

Calvert Hall junior shortstop Pat Blair is being recruited by a number of major Division I programs, including North Carolina and LSU, after an outstanding fall season that helped the Oriolelanders Scout Team finish third in the prestigious Perfect Game World Wood Bat Championships in Jupiter, Fla.

Two Oriolelanders teams play in the Scout Fall. One operates in Baltimore and is managed by Orioles scout Dean Albany. The other is in the Richmond-Norfolk area and is run by Lee Banks, who managed a team six years ago that featured B.J. and Justin Upton, David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman

"We combined the teams because it was just too far for a lot of kids to travel," Albany said.

The Oriolelanders team that played in the World Wood Bat Championships featured several Maryland players, including Blair, Austin Poretz of St. Mary's in Annapolis, Hugh Adams of St. John's Prep and Kevin Brady of Gaithersburg High.

Brady and Poretz were part of a pitching staff that finished with six shutouts in the seven-game tournament. The Atlanta Braves Scout team won the 80-team tournament. The Orlando Scorpions finished second while the Oriolelanders and East Cobb, Ga., tied for third.

Blair and Poretz were joined on Albany's regular Oriolelanders team by Calvert Hall's Kevin Lingerman, Severn's Sander Beck, Arundel’s Tyler Hibbs and St. Vincent Pallotti’s Keiran Flannery. Beck is committed to Maryland, Flannery to Indian River Junior College in Florida and Hibbs to Florida State. Lingerman's season ended early because he underwent back surgery.

Issue 2.45: November 8, 2007

next up:

Pressbox Preps Football Top 15

November 06, 2007

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