Loyola vs. Calvert Hall a gem of a rivalry at 75

November 23, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

"The Kick."

In the history of the longest Catholic-school football rivalry in the United States, no play stands out as more dramatic.

Twenty-five years after a frozen ball went off the foot of Phil Marsiglia and through the uprights at Memorial Stadium to beat Loyola High, 17-14, on the last play of the 1969 Thanksgiving Day showdown with Calvert Hall, he is still living the legacy of the 42-yard game-winner.

"It's the Andy Warhol thing," said Marsiglia, now a pharmacist in Baltimore. "A few years later, I was applying for a part-time job at bTC Sears, and the personnel person recognized my name and asked me about the field goal.

"He was serving in the Army in Germany at the time and had read about this kid in the Stars and Stripes. It had stayed in his memory. It's certainly nice to be remembered for that one moment, rather than to not have had it. I'm still asked about it."

Calvert Hall-Loyola is a game about remembrances, tradition and friendly, if sometimes fierce, competition.

The diamond anniversary game tomorrow morning at Memorial Stadium will supply grist for future tales and flashbacks such as those exchanged last weekend at a commemorative banquet attended by 500 former Dons and Cardinals players and coaches.

Anyone who has participated in this rivalry cannot forget the experience.

"The best thing that happened to Loyola was Calvert Hall and vice versa," said Mike Creaney, a high school All-American at Loyola in the late '60s who went on to become a All-America tight end at Notre Dame.

"Had they not existed together, they would have to invent something. Each drives the other to be better."

With 10 days to prepare for each other, the lead-up to the game is filled with building emotions . . . and sometimes a prank or two.

Pep rallies. Bonfires. Visits from alumni seen at no other time during the year. Signs at the schools exhorting their respective squads.

"One year I was there, we had brought in a huge pile of wood for a bonfire," said Marsiglia. "The next day, when we got to school, somebody from Loyola had sneaked in and burned it all up."

Current Loyola coach Joe Brune -- who is in his 31st Loyola-Calvert Hall showdown -- recalls that one year the Cardinals' band took the worst treatment.

"Our kids can't stand the Calvert Hall band, because we don't have one. So they brought eggs to the game and threw them at them. It was an unpleasantry that a lot of them heard about the next Monday," said Brune.

The fervor has spanned generations.

Calvert Hall's biggest upset was a 13-0 win in 1948, when Loyola was headed for a high school bowl game. The Cardinals team included New York Giants general manager George Young and Joe Carroll, a hero who had a hand in both touchdowns.

"The game then was every bit as intense as it is now," said Carroll. "I came here from Philadelphia, and I immediately realized the Christian Brothers vs. the Jesuits was a big thing."

Carroll later helped to coach at Calvert Hall and then officiated a number of games in the rivalry.

"The game creates a social happening," he said. "Everybody talks about it. It's like Army-Navy. You talk about your record in two breaths. How you did overall and did you beat Calvert Hall or Loyola."

Towson State coach Gordy Combs (Calvert Hall '68) said he has missed only one Loyola-Calvert Hall game since he was in the eighth grade, and that was because the Tigers were in the Division II playoffs.

Combs' son, the starting tight end for the current Cardinals, is named after Brother Andrew Dinoto, a longtime Calvert Hall athletic director.

"We beat them all four years I was in school, so I tease my son about never having done it [Loyola has won the past five games]," said Combs. "Joe Brune lives right around the corner from us, and a couple years ago, when Loyola won the MSA title, he gave 'Bugs' [Andrew] a T-shirt with 'MSA Champs' on it.

"I know one thing. When the game's over Thursday and we're having Thanksgiving dinner, 'Bugs' is going to have to sit across the table from me. So if he doesn't win, look out."

For this game, there is severe pressure on the coach to win. Brune felt it after losing seven in a row to the Hall (1978 through 1984), the longest streak in the series.

"1985 will always be a big game in this series for me," he said. "Bruce McGonnigal had a key interception in the last two minutes, and we finally won.

"This is the one game the majority of alumni gets excited about whether you're 7-2 or 2-7. If you beat Calvert Hall, they all say, 'You had a great year.' "

Brothers play at one of the schools, and then their sons follow. With only a few miles separating them, there is plenty of ribbing doled out by the winning side.

Lou Eckerl, the current Calvert Hall coach, is a Cardinal Gibbons graduate, so he has a different perspective.

"People who haven't been to Loyola or Calvert Hall don't understand that this game is a whole season," he said. "This is like the Super Bowl."

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