It wasn't exactly worst-to-first, but for City College it was quite a season.
The top-ranked Knights, who finished sixth in the MSA A Conference last season and began this season unranked, completed a perfect (10-0, 9-0) season and captured the league title by holding off surprising Poly, 14-8, yesterday at Memorial Stadium.
"They met every challenge," City coach George Petrides said after the 103rd meeting of the teams. "We had the Calvert Hall game where it was No. 1 [then Calvert Hall] vs. No. 2 [then City] and we won that. Two weeks later we had Loyola, who I feel is the No. 2 team in the area, then we come back and play Poly. That's a lot to ask of them. They met the challenge head on. They wanted to keep that No. 1 ranking and knew they had to win to keep it."
Senior Hari Lymon, a deceptively durable and quick 5-foot-5, 140-pound tailback, ran for 140 yards on 25 carries and scored both City touchdowns on runs of 17 and 11 yards.
The Knights' defense, which allowed just 57 points this season, clamped down on Poly's running game in the second half. City limited the Engineers to 87 yards total offense after allowing 193 yards in the first half.
Poly (5-5, 4-5), which has struggled on offense all season, turned what some thought would be a blowout into one of the more competitive games in the series for a crowd estimated at 8,000. The Engineers lead the series 50-47-6.
"I was shocked," Lymon said of the Poly offense. "They had had trouble moving the ball and scoring in other games so we thought they would have the same trouble here, but they turned it around."
Poly rolled up 280 yards total offense. However, turnovers cost the Engineers two prime scoring opportunities.
In the first half, the Engineers drove from their 7 to the Knights' 24, but the drive was halted when a fumbled snap was recovered by City linebacker Charles Ransom.
Poly drove from its 35 to City's 8 on its opening series, but faced with a third-and-six from the 8, Poly tried a reverse and running back Omar Nixon was thrown for a 9-yard loss. On fourth down quarterback Khary Tucker was stopped for no gain.
Still, Poly managed an 8-8 tie at halftime on Eric Gay's 35-yard touchdown burst with 4:01 left in the half and it remained 8-8 after three quarters. Gay sparked the Engineers in the first half with six carries for 78 yards.
City had scored on Lymon's 17-yard run to cap its opening drive with 10:03 left in the first quarter. The touchdown also snapped Poly's streak of 16 straight regulation quarters without allowing a touchdown. Quarterback Terrence Suber's 44-yard pass to Ransom one play earlier set up the score.
Poly took the second-half kickoff and drove from its 24 to the City 2, but on third-and-goal, running back William Boyd fumbled the ball in the end zone where City's Kenney Williams recovered.
The Knights took over at their 20 and drove 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Lymon took a pitch from Suber and raced down the sideline for an 11-yard touchdown.
City's defense then put the clamps on Poly. The Engineers gained just 13 yards on their next two series and did not get a first down on either. Gay gained 39 yards on six carries in the second half, but 30 came on one carry on the drive that opened the second half.
City tried to put the game away with a 35-yard field goal by Kenyunia Williams with 1:11 left, but his attempt was wide left.
Poly took over at the 20, but on first down quarterback Michael Forstner's pass intended for Ian Smith was picked off by Ransom. The Knights then ran out the clock.
"I knew they would try and go for sideline patterns so I just cut in front of him, said Ransom. "We made big plays when it counted."