Preparing his team for the grandeur of its annual matchup with archrival City, Poly coach Roger Wrenn told players, "You might not remember who you sit next to in English class, but you're going to remember everything about this game."
Saturday's 121st edition undoubtedly will stir memories for years to come.
Writing one of the most thrilling chapters in a series that predates the Army-Navy game, Poly's defense recovered a pair of late fumbles inside its 10-yard line, including one in overtime that set up Gabriel Ali-El's game-winning 9-yard touchdown run that gave the No. 11 Engineers a 26-20 win before an announced 8,168 at M&T; Bank Stadium.
The win gave Poly (9-1, 7-1) a share of the Baltimore City Division I title with Dunbar. It was a devastating loss for City (7-3, 5-3), which needed a win to supplant Dundalk as the fourth and final seed in the Class 2A North playoffs.
The defeat also spoiled a big day for City quarterback Adrian Coxson, who threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for 143 on 19 carries, including a 92-yard scramble with 2:50 left that forced overtime.
"This was a classic City-Poly game," City coach George Petrides said. "If they could all be like this, the rivalry would continue forever."
Poly, which had already clinched a berth in the Class 3A North playoffs, has won back-to-back games against the Knights to extend its lead in the all-time series to 60-55-6.
The Engineers did it despite playing most of the second half without star quarterback Antoine Goodson, who suffered a dislocated right (throwing) shoulder in the third quarter. It was the same shoulder he had separated earlier this season against Patterson. Wrenn said Goodson's status for the playoffs, which begin Friday, is uncertain.
Goodson finished with 62 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns before giving way to sophomore Darrell Milburn with 5:52 left in the third quarter.
"We just tried to calm [Milburn] down and said, 'Look, kid, you've been practicing all year. You'll be fine,' " Wrenn said.
He got plenty of help from an offense that gained 277 rushing yards, including 116 on 11 carries by junior Ali-El. And with the game tied at 14 early in the fourth quarter, it was Milburn who gave Poly the lead, faking a handoff and rushing 14 yards up the middle for a touchdown.
City hurt its cause, first losing the ball at Poly's 5 on a fumbled pitch by halfback Alfonzo Hawkins midway through the fourth quarter, and then giving it up again on the first play of overtime, when Poly's Dylan Acab stripped halfback Deandre Harris, and teammate Jermaine Boone recovered.
That set the stage for Ali-El, who took the handoff around the left side and followed his blocks into the end zone.
"They told me they were going to give me the ball on the second play," Ali-El said. "They [Poly's linemen] knew it was big and they pushed them all out. I just had to lower my shoulder and get in."
C 8 0 6 6 0 - 20
P 8 6 0 6 6 - 26
P-Goodson 25 run (Chappell run)
C-Griffin 36 pass from Coxson (Hawkins run)
P-Goodson 2 run (run failed)
C-Hawkins 20 pass from Coxson (kick failed)
P-Milburn 14 run (run failed)
C-Coxson 92 run (kick failed)
P-Ali-El 9 run