Last season, it was a high-powered offense that carried top-ranked Polytechnic to an unbeaten record and the area's No. 1 ranking, but this season, the Engineers' success depends largely on their defense, which includes six starters from last season.
Yesterday, the Poly defense showed that it is up to the challenge by shutting down No. 5 Forest Park and its talented running back, Obie Barnes Jr., to claim a 14-0 victory in a Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference showdown before a crowd of 1,200 at Forest Park.
Poly (2-0, 1-0) limited Forest Park (2-1, 1-1) to 48 yards total offense in the first half and held Barnes to 73 yards rushing on 18 carries for the game. Poly also had five interceptions.
Poly coach Augie Waibel had plenty of game balls for the defense.
"Our two ends, Ron Young and Steven Jones, did an excellent job," he said. "[Defensive back] Antwain Smith intercepted a couple of passes, and we had him doing some special things against Obie Jr. [Linebacker] Tony Jenkins was unbelievable. He did a heck of a job."
The Engineers, who returned no offensive starters from last season, struggled against a tough Foresters defense. Running back Frank Johnson picked up 95 yards on 12 carries.
After gaining a total of 69 yards on its first three possessions, Poly scored on its fourth possession, a drive that began at the Foresters' 34, set up by the first of two interceptions by Smith.
Albert Tyler connected with tight end Kevin Crosby for a 16-yard touchdown with 3 minutes left to give Poly a 6-0 lead. Tyler's run for the conversion failed.
Smith, who also led Poly with eight tackles, ended Forest Park's best scoring opportunity with an interception.
Early in the fourth quarter, with Poly clinging to its 6-0 lead, the Foresters drove from Poly's 39 to the 10. On first-and-goal, fullback Antoine Burrell was thrown for an 8-yard loss. On second down, Green's pass was intercepted by Smith after being tipped by Barnes.
"We sustained good drives in Delaware [a 16-14 victory over Seaford] and scored, and against Calvert Hall [20-0 win] and scored," said Foresters coach Obie Barnes Sr. "Today it seemed like each drive was stalled by us. Poly came to hit, but we hurt ourselves."
Another interception led to Poly's second-half score. Foresters quarterback Dwayne Green tried to throw a quick, short pass, but linebacker Tony Jenkins reached up and snared it at the line of scrimmage, then sprinted 41 yards down the sideline for a touchdown with 8 minutes, 18 seconds left in the game. A pass from Tyler to Crosby for the conversion made it 14-0.
"Coach showed us that play a lot during the week," said Jenkins. "I intercepted it about three times during the week, so I kind of had a feeling for that play. I wanted it."
It seemed Poly was prepared for everything Forest Park wanted to do offensively. The most important thing Poly did was keep Barnes from getting outside and using his speed for any big gainers. His longest run from scrimmage was 11 yards.
"We knew Augie and Bucky [Poly defensive coordinator Bucky Kimmett] would have them well-prepared," said Barnes. "They knew if OJ got outside, he'd be dangerous, so they stacked to the outside. We knew that, and we sent in plays to run inside and trap inside. They were quick enough to recover."
Obie Barnes Jr. said: "They read well. They got on us, and they contained us."
It was a difficult loss for the elder Barnes and his son. Obie Sr. wanted to beat Waibel, who was his coach at Edmondson, and Obie Jr. wanted to give the victory to his father.
"I wanted it real bad for my father because Coach Waibel taught him everything he knows," Obie Jr. said with tears in his eyes after the game.
Obie Sr. held back tears and reassured himself that Forest Park's bid for an A Conference title is far from over.
"It's a long season," he said. "I don't believe anyone is going undefeated in this conference."