Forfeit victory is like no win at all

November 17, 2001|By Gregory Kane

PUT A HUGE asterisk next to City College's "victory" in the 2001 City-Poly game, played last Saturday at what should be renamed Maryland Taxpayer Stadium.

Poly football coach John Hammond's squad gave City coach George Petrides' Knights a thorough smack-around. Poly's offense pushed City's defense from one end of the field to the other. Tech's defense held City's offense to a mere touchdown. When the final gun sounded, the scoreboard read Poly 20, City 6.

The Engineers earned that victory. They worked for it and outplayed their arch rival. To show how hard the Poly team worked and how well Hammond prepared his squad, you need only go back to two weeks before the City-Poly game.

Poly lost badly, 30-7, to an Edmondson High team with a mediocre record. A week later, City outscored Edmondson in an offensive shootout, 44-24.

Clearly, members of City's undefeated squad walked into Maryland Taxpayer Stadium feeling their oats, figuring there was no way Poly could beat them. Had they studied the history of the rivalry, they would have known that Poly teams having a so-so season have knocked off City teams with better records several times.

The reverse also is true. In 1969, City was out of the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference title race. Poly was in a neck-and-neck championship race with Loyola. The only thing standing between Tech and a title was their arch rival.

You know how the tale ends. City beat Poly, 12-6, on Thanksgiving Day. The victory not only denied Tech a championship, it allowed Loyola coach Joe Brune's team to win the title. Icing on the cake for the Knights was that Brune was a former assistant coach at City.

That's the way it is in this rivalry. Previous records go out the window. The team that is arrogant enough to go in thinking a victory is guaranteed sometimes receives a rude awakening.

So it was with City last week. But on Thursday, an odd thing happened. The team on the receiving end of the butt-kicking was suddenly declared the winner. Poly, an investigation revealed, had used a kicker who had played on the soccer team.

A story ran on the front page of the sports section in yesterday's editions of The Sun. Written by reporter Edward Lee, the first paragraph of the story read:

"Baltimore City school officials yesterday ordered the Poly football team to forfeit its victory over City College on Saturday for using an ineligible player."

The story then delved into the murky world of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association regulations, which seem designed to befuddle, mystify and infuriate coaches, players and fans alike. Read carefully from this point. It gets tricky.

According to Lee's story, on Oct. 22, Hammond asked Poly soccer coach Robert Wood if one of his players could be the kicker for the football squad. The player attended his first football practice Oct. 31, right after his last soccer game of the season.

The youngster practiced daily, except Sundays, even on the morning of the City-Poly game Nov. 10. So he practiced Oct. 31, Nov. 1-3, Nov. 5-9 and the morning of Nov. 10. If you add those up, it comes to 10 days. (City policy requires a player to have 10 practices with the team.)

Ah, but those niggling regulations again. Poly played a game Nov. 2. Game days don't count as practice days. So any practice-kicking the young man did on Nov. 2 and Nov. 10 didn't count . He was off by a measly two days.

Mind you, this kid had no effect on the outcome of the game. Poly outplayed City in all facets of football, not just kicking. Had the game been close, and had Poly won by a field goal, this might make more sense. But judging from the final score, Poly didn't even need a place-kicker.

There might be some City alumni cheering the forfeit victory over Poly, but you have to wonder why. As a City alumnus, I can say without reservation that a victory over Poly handed down from MPSSAA officials amounts to no victory at all. The way this rivalry -- one of the oldest among high schools in the country -- works is we celebrate if we win. If we lose, we lick our wounds, take our beat-down like men and hope to do better next year.

Yeah, there'll be all the talk about honor and integrity and how Poly wouldn't be in this fix if the school had simply played by the rules. But there is no clear-cut evidence that Hammond knowingly bent the rules. There is plenty of evidence -- as witnessed by the fans at Maryland Taxpayer Stadium last weekend -- that Hammond had his team better prepared, physically and psychologically, than Petrides did.

A City forfeit victory over Poly? Nah, count me out. I'll take City's victories over Poly the old-fashioned way, where they count.

On the football field.

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