The City-Poly football series isn't really as old as Thanksgiving, it just seems that way. But, in its 102nd year, it's as rich in tradition as any holiday family gathering.
The second oldest public high school football rivalry in the country will renew tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Memorial Stadium (Baltimore City Cable channel 44, WBAL-AM 1090). Poly, which won last year, 36-8, after City won in 1987-88, leads the series 49-46. There have been six ties.
With a win tomorrow, Poly (8-1, 6-1) would tie Gilman, whom they beat in the third week of the season, for the MSA A Conference championship.
"It means going out on the right foot," said Poly's senior free safety, Lenard Marcus. "It means the MSA championship, which is our top goal as a team. We've come a long way this year to reach [that goal]. It would mean our season is a success."
For City (5-4, 3-4), there is no championship at stake. But the Knights' senior guard and defensive tackle Joe Holland said, "It's like, erase the whole record, it doesn't mean anything. If you win this game the season is a success."
And the 6-foot, 235-pounder will be playing his final game for the Knights. "It means a whole lot to me," he said. "It's the last game I'm ever going to play for City. I want to make this one count."
Holland jumped from 190 to 240 pounds between 10th and 11th grades by working out daily in the school's weight room. Five pounds lighter now, he bench-presses 290 pounds, but probably won't get bigger. "He concentrated heavily on weights and built up his strength," said City coach George Petrides. "He's very quick laterally." Petrides thinks that Holland definitely can play Division I college football, but his height may scare off recruiters.
A good student, Holland works at a downtown bank in City's work-study program, and wants to major in computer science. "Education comes first," he said. "I'm not looking for someplace big."
Poly's Marcus (5-10, 170) won't be hurt by size at his position. With a 4.0 average in Poly's A course, a 4.6 time for 40 yards, and six interceptions this year (one returned for a touchdown), his numbers appeal to recruiters from all over. Virginia, Georgia Tech and Stanford are on his list and he's considering the Ivy League, too, in pursuit of a chemical engineering degree. "I definitely want to play in college," he said.
Engineers coach Augie Waibel called Marcus "a student of the game. He's one of our captains. He calls our defensive signals and coverages for the secondary and defensive line."
A member of the National Honor Society, Marcus expects to tutor other students in geometry and college algebra when the football season ends. And he'll help his teammates prepare for City in his own, quiet way. "We'll try to approach it as just another game so as not to get anyone nervous," Marcus said.
Though he can look forward to baseball in the spring (he was a starting outfielder last year), tomorrow will be Marcus' last appearance in a Poly football uniform after starting for three years. Most of all, he said, he's enjoyed "my friendships with the players, [and] seeing players who came back [to visit]. Football at Poly really is a tradition."