In ooze, Poly earns respect, if not title

November 29, 1993|By Phil Jackman

COLLEGE PARK -- The first play was one of those happenings wherein onlookers just gasp, turn to a neighbor and ask, "How in the world did that ever happen?"

Truly, it was shocking the way Greg Kyler moved into the line and met what he had to think was either "Refrigerator" Perry or the Great Wall of China. But no one on Seneca Valley's defense bothered to "wrap up" the Poly running back and, with a spin and a jump, he was off to the races and a 33-yard touchdown.

To that point, midway in the third quarter Saturday night, unbeaten Poly had added about a dozen amendments to Murphy's Law, which states that anything that can go wrong inevitably will. Oy, what a nightmare!

For example, the first two times the Baltimore team, taking part in its first Maryland State Football Championship in Class 3A, attempted to punt the ball, it was guilty of a bad snap; on the second, the punter dropped the snap and kicked it off the ground back to the original line of scrimmage.

Also, there was a fumble, numerous pratfalls as rushers attempted to skirt the end and some specious pass defense, although the latter could not be faulted because no one figured to be passing the ball in weather that could have passed for a Grade 3 typhoon in the Sea of Japan.

Three hours earlier, Damascus (Montgomery County) had whipped Southern (Anne Arundel), 13-6, in the 2A final in a game-long deluge. Imagine what it was like by the time the Engineers and Screaming Eagles came to soggy grips.

After driving 30 yards to a score the first time it had the ball, Seneca Valley seemed content to slug it out in the middle of the field. The decision was seconded and carried when, amazingly, Louis Forbrich lofted a 35-yard field goal out of the ooze and and high through the uprights as the half was about to end. If Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill had been on hand, he certainly would have been screaming, "Helium, helium."

Down 9-0, soaked to the skin, wallowing around in puddles (in their own shoes) and with any sort of decent field position strictly a rumor, Poly started the second half at its own 44 and fumbled. Discouragement had to be running high. But one thing you'll always note about these guys, past, present and future, it's always "we," never "me" or "I."

Continuing to play solidly if not spectacularly given the conditions, the Engineers forced a fumble and recovered. Nothing. Same thing. Almost nothing until Kyler's burst to close the gap to 9-6.

Poly had the upper hand, finally, and appeared to be set to do something with it when it faced a fourth-and-one on the Seneca 38. Adversity hadn't taken leave, however, and sure-handed quarterback Charlie English mishandled the snap and once more the city lads had to dig in and make something happen.

They did. After a blocked punt, Poly was faced with a fourth-and-four from the midfield stripe when the ball was handed to Kyler. He lunged through a hole over left guard, veered left and gave the crowd a look at what sprinter speed looks like in standing water. He was in the end zone and Poly had the lead, 12-9, before most of the Seneca defenders knew he was missing.

Normally and considering his team's long-standing ability to chew up the game clock by grinding out the yardage between the tackles, Kyler's two brilliant forays began to take on the promise of being dramatic clutch runs to be remembered for eons by the fiercely loyal legion of Poly players, graduates and fans.

But after a late punt, one play is all it took to earn the Eagles their seventh state championship spread over four divisions (B, A, 2A and 3A) and 18 years. Earlier, they had lost a touchdown when a receiver flubbed a toss when he was so wide open he could have walked to the end zone.

The winning play was masterfully executed. Quarterback Ryan Miyamoto's fake to Chucky Carter running left was sufficiently bad that every Poly defender moved left toward the wide side of the field as Miyamoto moved a couple of strides to his right. The trap was set.

Seneca Valley didn't want to chance a long heave with the wet, heavy ball, so Carter was only about 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage when his quarterback stopped and fired the ball across the field to him. There wasn't a Poly defender within 10 yards as he was away with speed reminiscent of Kyler's.

Poly had wanted this one badly, this being its first at a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association title, but, as coach Augie Waibel pointed out, "We fell just three points short ++ of our season-long goal." Next time, undoubtedly.

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