Brag­ging rights at stake when City, Poly meet for 128th time

Baltimore Sun - - VARSITY - By Kather­ine Dunn kather­ine.dunn@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/kdunnsun

Over more than a cen­tury and a quar­ter of their foot­ball ri­valry, City and Poly have some­times played for league cham­pi­onships or higher play­off seeds. Other years, like this one, none of that is on the line.

Don’t think that makes Satur­day’s 128th City-Poly game less im­por­tant than any of the first 127.

The Knights and the Engi­neers are still play­ing for the most im­por­tant prize of all: brag­ging rights for the next year. For the se­niors, those brag­ging rights will last a lot longer.

“It would be some­thing that would live on for­ever,” said Poly se­nior Barry Amos Jr., whose Engi­neers are look­ing for their first win over City in five years. “As a se­nior go­ing on to col­lege, as a grown-up — I can say I beat City. I can talk to some City play­ers about what hap­pened, talk to my team­mates about what hap­pened, talk to my­fam­ily about what hap­pened. It’s just some­thing that would live on for­ever.”

City coach Daryl Wade played at Dun­bar, but he knows that’s true.

“I know grown men who are still brag­ging about it,” he said.

It’s not just the for­mer play­ers who revel in the glory days. Wade, who had his first win in the ri­valry as head coach last fall, has heard about it at his of­fice at the Baltimore City Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

“I was at a meet­ing [Mon­day] morn­ing, and a young lady who went to Poly, be­fore the meet­ing started, she yelled ‘Go Poly’ across the ta­ble to me,” Wade said with a smile. “She doesn’t even work in the school sys­tem, but she knows I coach City.”

Poly coach Dwayne Green, also a Dun­bar grad­u­ate, said opin­ions about the City-Poly game even come up at his church and at his son’s youth foot­ball game.

“A cou­ple ac­tive alumni from City are a part of that [youth foot­ball] or­ga­ni­za­tion and this sea­son, they say, ‘Hey, don’t come over hear with that stuff,’ be­cause I come over after prac­tice. ‘You can’t wear that shirt here,’ but it’s a fun at­mos­phere.”

As if they needed any more pump­ing up, both schools’ stu­dents and staff are cel­e­brat­ing spirit week lead­ing up to Satur­day’s noon game at M&T Bank Sta­dium.

“I en­joy the tra­di­tion,” Amos said. “I en­joy alumni com­ing back talk­ing to us. I en­joy the pep rally, the fans, ev­ery­body sup­port­ing us, so the out­siders and our fans and the school tra­di­tions means the most.”

The City-Poly game is be­lieved to be the se­cond-old­est con­tin­ual pub­lic school foot­ball ri­valry in the coun­try. City won last year, 42-6, to boost its lead in the series to 63-58-6.

“Grow­ing up in Baltimore as a kid, that’s what you hear about. Poly-City. City-Poly. There’s al­ways an ar­gu­ment which one comes first,” Green said. “I worked in the school for twoyears be­fore I started coach­ing here and so I got a feel for the en­vi­ron­ment and the in­ten­sity of the game, the en­ergy in the build­ing dur­ing the week. It’s a good at­mos­phere and, of course, now with so­cial me­dia, you see a lot of con­ver­sa­tions, a lot of hype.”

For the play­ers, all the hype can make it hard to fo­cus on the game.

Both teams go into the game 5-4 and want only to punc­tu­ate their sea­sons with what they will say is the most im­por­tant win of the year, even in years when they make the play­offs.

“At this time of the year, that’s all you hear about. You feel it,” City se­nior Mark Burn­ham said. “Last year was my first time be­ing up City. I didn’t know how big it was. I heard it on the ra­dio. I see it on Twit­ter, on Face­book. I see it ev­ery­where.”

Amos said, “It’s kind of mind-blow­ing, 128 years.”

It’s tough to pick a fa­vorite this fall. Against their seven com­mon op­po­nents in Baltimore City’s Divi­sion I, where both are 4-3, Poly scored 27 more points than the Knights while City al­lowed 51 fewer than the Engi­neers.

Both lost to divi­sion cham­pion Mervo, but their other two losses were against dif­fer­ent teams. City surged late in the sea­son to beat Dun­bar and Ed­mond­son, teams the Engi­neers lost to, but they fell last week, 8-6, to Dou­glass, a team Poly beat. Poly fell to Mervo, 25-14, last week. Be­fore those losses, each had a chance to win a share of the divi­sion ti­tle.

To Wade, one of the most im­por­tant as­pects of Satur­day’s game is not to be com­pla­cent after four straight wins over Poly. He said his young team will have to find a way to han­dle the Engi­neers’ ex­plo­sive­ness.

Green said he be­lieves his more ex­pe­ri­enced team has un­der­achieved and that one of its ma­jor chal­lenges is to counter City’s size.

For the play­ers, how­ever, it’s just the best time of the year.

Burn­ham said it’s “like a dream” to be able to play on the Ravens’ field. City se­nior Melvin Scott III en­joys car­ry­ing on a fam­ily legacy.

“I have fam­ily mem­bers, un­cles, cousins,” Scott said, “they’ve gone to City Col­lege and played foot­ball and worn that black and or­ange and played against Poly in the City-Poly game, so that’s some­thing to think about when you’re on the field, like just to give you an­other boost when you’re out there.”

Amos’ fa­ther and sis­ter went to City, so he’s aim­ing for brag­ging rights at home, too.

There’s “a lot of ten­sion, a lot of fam­ily com­pe­ti­tion” in his house­hold this week, he said with a smile.

On Satur­day, all the hype and so­cial me­dia ban­ter­ing will end on the field. The play­ers say it won’t be hard to fo­cus then, be­cause there’s only one way to fin­ish this sea­son.

“Ev­ery Poly-City game is per­sonal,” Amos said. “Ev­ery Poly-City game means some­thing. We­couldgo0-9. As­lon­gaswe­beat­City, it’s a great feel­ing, so the play­offs are good, but some­times, beat­ing City’s bet­ter.”

“We still have to beat Poly to make this a good sea­son,” Burn­ham said. “To end it well, we’ve got to beat Poly. That’s like a must.”

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BALTIMORE SUN 2015

City’s Dre’Shawn Win­ston, in white, twists back to the end zone for a touch­down dur­ing last year’s game with Poly. City won, 42-6.

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