After last year's Loyola-Calvert Hall football game, Cardinals coach Bill Mackley came to a conclusion few would argue:
"It's a crazy game and anything can happen."
Mackley learned that the hard way last Thanksgiving when the Dons of coach Joe Brune upset his Calvert Hall team, 15-12, in the 70th renewal of this traditional high school rivalry. The series record is 32-30-8 in Loyola's favor.
Consider how weird last year's game was before analyzing tomorrow's 10 a.m. matchup at Memorial Stadium (WBAL-AM, 1090).
Loyola scored on its first offensive play, an 81-yard sweep by sophomore Brad Hoag. The Dons never did complete a pass and did not gain another first down until three minutes remained.
At that point, Calvert Hall led only 12-8, despite marching up and down the field more times than its renowned band.
Finally, the Dons rushed six more times for 70 yards and the winning touchdown.
Tomorrow, 11th-ranked Loyola (6-2) is the heavy favorite.
"They should be," said Mackley. "They have an impressive offensive line with players like Grant Pivec and Reggie Thornton. And you can't key on Brad Hoag. They have other people to run the ball. I think this is the best Loyola team Joe [Brune] has had in quite a few years."
Hoag, now a junior, remains Loyola's main offensive weapon. He has rushed for 843 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
"This is always a game of emotions," said Hoag. "The coaches have had us watch films of last year, but asked us to watch them through the eyes of a Calvert Hall player."
What did Hoag see?
"Calvert Hall dominated us and still lost. They [Loyola's coaches] wanted us to see how the Calvert Hall players felt after that game. We think we can win, but we won't be overconfident."
Hoag watched the Cardinals defeat City two weeks ago, 29-8, the same team his Dons lost to, 14-7.
"I was impressed," said Hoag. "The records don't matter for this game."
Calvert Hall (4-5) has suffered adversity all season. A week before the opener, quarterback Luther Alexander broke his finger. He came back to play some defense, then broke his hand. He'll be back tomorrow -- at split end.
Early on, opponents realized Nick Jeppi was the only effective Calvert Hall running back, and it was easy to gang up on Jeppi and beat the Cardinals.
It took time to develop another quarterback, Brian Healy, and bring along the other offensive backs.
Are they ready for tomorrow? Nearly 10,000 fans will show up to find out, and most of them will know to expect the unexpected.
That's why, if you're the betting sort, you won't wager much more than an extra scoop of cranberry sauce on this Thanksgiving Day treat.