No titles will be on the line when archrivals Loyola and Calvert Hall meet Thursday morning at M&T; Bank Stadium. Still, there's a palpable buzz surrounding the 90th annual Turkey Bowl that has been lacking in recent years.
It's called parity.
For the first time since 2005, both the No. 13 Dons and No. 10 Cardinals will enter the game sporting winning records, as well as area rankings. That might not seem overly significant, until you consider just how one-sided this series has become in recent years.
Loyola has won six straight in the series, and 20 of 24 dating to 1985. What's more, the Dons - who lead 48-33-8 all time - have entered each of the past three meetings ranked in The Baltimore Sun's top three, and gone on to pummel the unranked Cardinals by a combined 94-10.
Given that, one can excuse Calvert Hall's players if they're already beginning to sense opportunity.
"It's inevitable. The kids pay attention to a great deal of that stuff, not only from the media ... but also the other kids and alumni," Cardinals coach Donald Davis said. "As a coach, it's no different for me [than other years]. Folks think I'm crazy ... but I simply look at the game and dare to win it."
Davis, who played on three losing Calvert Hall teams in the mid-1990s, might finally have the tools to do just that.
Led by senior quarterback Patrick Fitzgerald (558 yards passing, 351 rushing, nine total touchdowns) and sophomore running back C.J. Williams (712 yards rushing), the Cardinals (7-4 overall, 2-2 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference) have scored at least 39 points four times this season. They also pulled a 21-12 shocker at No. 3 Gilman, a team that trounced host Loyola, 56-7.
"We're talking about a Calvert Hall team that really put it to Gilman, and Gilman put it to us," Loyola coach Brian Abbott said. "So we know exactly what can happen if we don't go out there prepared."
One difference for the Dons will be the presence of senior running back Vince Snarski, who has scored 11 touchdowns and rushed for more than 7 yards per carry, but missed three games earlier this season for unspecified reasons.
"They are a different team with Vince on the field," Davis said. "So much of what they do is predicated on Vince's ability to touch the ball and get the ball in the open space."
Loyola (7-3, 1-3) also boasts a huge weapon in senior quarterback Connor Bruns, who has thrown for 1,186 yards and 10 touchdowns.
For both teams, a quick start will be crucial. In fact, the team that has scored first has gone on to win each year since 1985.
"With a rivalry game, records and rankings - that stuff means nothing," Abbott said. "We just need to minimize turnovers and not give up the big play."
Loyola has won 20 of the past 24 games against archrival Calvert Hall. Here's a look at the series since 1985.
Year Winning team Score
2008 Loyola 35-0
2007 Loyola 33-10
2006 Loyola 26-0
2005 Loyola 31-13
2004 Loyola 21-13
2003 Loyola 14-7
2002 Calvert Hall 21-10
2001 Calvert Hall 10-3
2000 Calvert Hall 7-6
1999 Loyola 40-6
1998 Loyola 33-7
1997 Loyola 19-7
1996 Loyola 12-7
1995 Loyola 21-0
1994 Loyola 37-14
1993 Loyola 16-11
1992 Loyola 21-0
1991 Loyola 35-12
1990 Loyola 29-14
1989 Loyola 15-12
1988 Calvert Hall 21-0
1987 Loyola 29-7
1986 Loyola 19-10
1985 Loyola 14-7