They came into this season nearly anonymous. After all, who notices the backup offense on a high school football powerhouse that scores 39 points 2/3 2/3 TC game, produces four first-team All-Metro offensive players and goes 10-0?
Certainly, Augie Waibel noticed. He moved that Poly second-team offense en masse into starting positions this year to replace his graduated juggernaut. Then he waited for the players to prove themselves. After Friday's 22-14 overtime win over third-ranked Gilman (2-2), it appears they have.
"They're new, and yet, not new," said the coach of top-ranked Poly (3-0). "Most of them were 10-0 JV champs in the 10th grade. They were all backups on our 10-0 team as juniors. They stayed together as the second offense and got into nearly every game, so they're not entirely green. They have responded well."
Granted, but losing All-Metro talent like quarterback and Evening Sun Athlete of the Year Chris Lafferman (Towson State baseball), tailback Vernon Smith (Villanova), split end Antonio Freeman (Virginia Tech), and offensive lineman Jack Stewart can change the expectations of players and coaches alike.
Offensive captain Wayne Brooks, a senior swingback in Poly's power-I, recognizes the challenge. "We're not trying to fill their shoes," he said. "We're trying to make our own shoes. Poly's known for defense this year, and we'd like to get some notice for the offense."
Last year's passing game was unusual, for Poly's traditional run-oriented offense is not flashy. Waibel said quarterback Albert Tyler is "not going to throw 75 yards in the air, but he can get the job done. The kids have confidence in him.
"We're not as nearly as explosive as we were last year," Waibel said. "This year we've had to struggle. But we drove 97 yards, plus a 15-yard penalty, really 112 yards," for a first-quarter touchdown Friday. "When you can do that against Gilman, you've done something."
Not that they did it by sheer physical superiority. The impression persists that because Poly, with 1,200 boys, is a large school, the team is always blessed with throngs of huge linemen. Not so. The offensive line starters average 187 pounds, with tackle Erik Thompson the heaviest at 215 and tight end Kevin Crosby the smallest at 160.
"We haven't had a large line in 10 years," Waibel said. "We're not big, but we're quick, and I'd rather be quick . . . Probably togetherness is our strength."
Brooks made key blocks on Gilman's defensive end on two overtime plays when Poly surprisingly ran blocking fullback Donald Odoms. (Tailback Frank Johnson is the primary ball carrier). The first was Odoms' 6-yard gain that set up the winning touchdown; the second scored the two-point conversion.
It doesn't get any easier for Poly. The Engineers play Salesianum (1-1-1) in Delaware Friday at 7:30 p.m. "We beat them 51-14 here last year," Waibel said. "They've scouted us in three straight games . . . We've never scored more than two touchdowns up there in 29 years of the series."
Sounds like another challenge for the offense.