If there was a surprise in Poly's 27-0 whitewashing of City yesterday at Memorial Stadium, it was not the Engineers' defensive effort.
After all, the path to a share of the MSA A Conference championship had been paved with four other shutouts.
"That has been our job the entire season, get the ball to our offense and keep the other team's defense on the field," said senior defensive end Jelani Rucker, after the second-ranked Engineers improved to 9-1 before an estimated 7,000 fans. Rucker, a 4.0 student who tutors schoolmates in mechanical drawing and calculus, likely will continue his career for an Ivy League college next fall. Temple, Penn, Yale and others are very interested in him.
Rucker, end Deron Young, linebackers Chris Robertson and Derrick Odoms and safeties Tony Jenkins and Leonard Marcus drew special praise from Poly coach Augie Waibel for their steady defensive efforts all year. Marcus, another 4.0 student, played only sparingly yesterday after reinjuring his leg on a punt return.
"We expected to have a solid defense coming into the season, but they still had to work hard and do the job," said Waibel.
The Poly coach did not anticipate how well his new starting offensive unit would do this season.
"Albert [quarterback Albert Tyler] makes us go on offense," said Waibel.
Tyler sure did yesterday, passing for 91 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 55 yards and another score.
Tyler guided the Engineers' junior varsity to a perfect season two years ago and then rode the bench behind senior Chris Lafferman last year.
"Chris and I are good friends, but it was still tough not to play much last season," said Tyler.
That agony was softened a bit by the fact that Lafferman was The Evening Sun Player of the Year and the Engineers went 10-0 to win the A Conference title.
The fact remains, Tyler has been part of only one losing game while in a Poly uniform. That came this season in a 10-0 loss to Loyola and it cost the Engineers an outright title.
"We are proud to share the championship with Gilman," said Waibel. "This is a tough league, week in and week out. We defeated Gilman on the field, but we did not beat Loyola, so Gilman deserves to share it with us."
Poly tailback Frank Johnson, who rushed for 91 yards and scored two touchdowns, said he and his offensive mates felt no pressure to be as powerful as last year's unit.
"We knew we were not as good, so we just had to work together, vary our offense, and keep the opponents' defense off balance," he said.
"We were our own persons and just had to be ourselves," said Tyler. "We were not trying to be as good as last year's team."
Waibel cited the first game of the season as the key to this year's offensive unit.
"We went up to Allegany and beat a very good football team," said Waibel. "From then on, our offensive players believed in themselves."
Just in case, the Engineers' defense allowed no more than one touchdown to any opponent this season and kept getting the ball back for the offense.
With just such an effort yesterday, Poly earned its 50th victory in the second oldest public school rivalry in the nation. The series now stands at 50-43. There have been six ties.