City's legendary streak

THE BALTIMORE SUN

THANKSGIVING brings an end to the high school football season in Baltimore. But even the best city high school football teams of today can only look with envy on the won-lost record of the old City College teams from 1934 to 1941. Under legendary coach Harry Lawrence, Baltimore's City College varsity football team tallied a 54-game winning streak.

That streak came to an unhappy end in the Orange Bowl on the unseasonably warm (even for Miami) Christmas night of 1941. The team had gone to Miami to defend (and extend) the best high school football record in Baltimore -- and the second best in the country -- against the Miami High School's Stingerees in the Annual Youth Bowl.

"We were really up for that game," Joe Pokorny, a quarterback on that team recalled years later. "We didn't have the money to make the trip but the city was so proud of us and so excited about our defending this 54-game winning streak that The XTC Evening Sun even donated money to help pay for the trip. More than 14,000 people were in the stands in Miami that night, including many Baltimore fans.

Those championship City teams boasted names that will live forever in the annals of Baltimore high school football: Irv Lansman, Eddie Elder, Dick Working, Charlie Rudo, Bruce Pelto, Jack Warfield, Lou Kusouris, Otts Deckelman.

Their accomplishments were awesome: In 1936, City outscored its opponents 126 to 18. In 1938, City racked up 122 points while holdings its foes scoreless.

Despite such impressive numbers, the game against Miami appears to be the most memorable for many players and fans from that era.

"That Christmas night," Mr. Pokorny recalled recently, "was the hottest Christmas in 25 years down there -- 85 degrees -- and we had been practicing in Baltimore in the freezing cold, and on frozen turf.

"The heat and the change in temperature had exhausted us. They only threw four passes! They pulled us to the right and then ran right through us on the left.

"Don Anders, Carl Freed, Tom Smoot, Herb Griffin -- guys who had been heroes in Baltimore -- were looking up hopelessly in disbelief at the scoreboard. Don Anders, end, was carried off the field from heat prostration and rushed to a Miami Hospital."

Miami won, 26-0, ending City College's streak. The mighty City College team had been out-rushed on the ground and in the air 324 yards to 126.

One reason the game that broke City's streak is so memorable to the former players is that it happened just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor and just months before many from the Class of 1942 team would go to fight in World War II. When the old players get together the talk often turns to that memorable game. But any dismay over the loss is tempered by the fact that no other Baltimore City football team has matched that 54-game winning streak.

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