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Though she didn't play, female tackle still made history during Poly-City rivalry game

For some, Jacey Lee's playtime was less important than the fact that there was a girl on the Poly Engineers varsity football team at all. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun video)

Jeffrey Lee got to his seat in M&T Bank stadium more than an hour before kick off.

He wanted to make sure he had a front-row view when his 16-year-old daughter made history.

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Jacey Lee, a junior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, is a member of the Poly Engineers varsity football team. At noon Saturday, the Engineers faced off against their adversaries of more than a century, the Baltimore City College Knights.

Lee was the first girl in the rivalry's 129-year history to take the field during the historic game.

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"It was beautiful, just to see her hit this field," her father said.

The 5 foot 4 defensive tackle didn't play during the game. She's a junior, and she isn’t a starter. Plus, the game was a nail-biter before the Knights eventually pulled out a 22-18 victory over the Engineers.

But for some, Jacey's playtime was less important than the fact that there was a girl on the team at all.

"Whether she plays or not, she's making history in this game," said her mother, Rosemary Lee. "She's the first girl standing in this stadium with the team. I'm so proud."

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Jacey still ran out with the boys, dressed in the same gray uniform and bright orange helmet. She stood with her teammates on the sidelines to cheer during important plays. And she shook hands with all the Knights after the heartbreaking loss.

That was enough to break barriers, said some in the crowd. Jacey started playing football for Poly as a freshman, and was named JV captain the next year. School officials said she's the first girl to make the varsity squad.

Toria Thornes, 41, graduated from Poly in 1994. She can't imagine any of her female classmates being so bold as to sign up to play varsity football.

"Now, if you want to play on the team you can actually play," she said. "She's showing that girls can do it, too."

She turned to her six-year-old daughter, Londyne, who sat beside her in the stadium.

"It shows you that you can do anything you want to do, right?" Thornes asked her.

Londyne stopped eating her dip-in-dots for a moment and smiled. "Yes!" she said.

For Lee Pasarew, Poly class of 1963, having a girl on the football team back then would've been unimaginable. The school didn't even become co-ed for more than a decade after he graduated.

He sat in Ravens stadium Saturday with a group of his old classmates, some rocking class rings and all in shirts, hats and jackets proclaiming their Poly pride.

"A girl on the team?" Pasarew, 71, said. "Wow. If she can play, I'm all for it."

Jacey said she was disappointed she didn't play during the rivalry game, though it was still a fun experience.

And either way, she said, she has next year. Jacey plans to stick with football through all four years of high school.

"Hopefully,” she said, “next year I'll be a starter.”

With City trailing 18-14, Malik Hamm made the last of many big plays in the 129th meeting between City and Poly to help the Knights eke out a 22-18 victory.

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