Dawsons are spouses, teachers and friendly foes amid storied McDonogh-Gilman rivalry

Lucy and Chris Dawson are raising their daughter, Eleanor, while teaching at two different schools: McDonogh and Gilman respectively. The football teams from these two schools will meet for the 100th time in a rivalry that has already produced a fun story for this family. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun video)

Shortly after they had beaten Gilman in overtime last year, a handful of McDonogh senior football players left the stadium in full uniform, trudged up a hill and piled into a house on the Gilman campus where one of their rival's coaches lived.

The football players were there to visit a baby girl — and one of their favorite McDonogh teachers.


"Oh my god, it was awesome," said Lucy Dawson, an English teacher at McDonogh whose husband, Chris, is a Gilman teacher and coach. "They surprised me and uplifted me, just to see them come in. But then I looked over at Chris and he was kind of white in the face. He was sort of looking at the door to make sure no one was watching them come in."

Chris Dawson, who coaches quarterbacks for Gilman and has taught English there for 10 years, laughs when he thinks about the five McDonogh Eagles hanging out in his living room, excitedly meeting his newborn daughter and visiting his wife, who had been away from her school while on maternity leave.

"It was really sweet, actually. I kidded them about getting me into trouble," he said. "But it was a sweet moment."

The Dawsons, who have been married for three years, are caught in the middle of one of Baltimore's most storied and unique battles. The football teams clash Saturday at McDonogh in the 100th rivalry game between the two.

Chris Dawson will be on the visiting sidelines. Lucy Dawson will be in the McDonogh stands with the couple's 1-year-old daughter, Eleanor. Chris' parents are coming to the game and will be somewhere in between.

"We've had this happen before," Lucy Dawson said. "Usually, they'll come sit with me on the McDonogh side for a little bit, see my friends, see my people, and then they'll go over to the Gilman side."

The parents may sit with one school's fans while representing the other.

"They have Gilman gear they can wear," said Chris Dawson, a former Tulane University football player who wanted to work at Gilman after reading a book about former Greyhounds coach and Baltimore Colt Joe Ehrmann. "I don't think they have any McDonogh stuff."

Juggling the McDonogh-Gilman allegiances has been a bit of a challenge since Lucy moved from Washington to Baltimore to teach five years ago. They currently live on Gilman's campus, but for years their car had a McDonogh sticker on the back.

"One day I went out [to the car] and a Gilman magnet had magically appeared. I was pretty sure I knew who did it," she said.

Her husband, the primary suspect, said he's glad their house has a driveway so the car — which has since had both decals knocked off in a car wash — isn't parked on a campus street displaying outward love for McDonogh.

"That might be why the car hasn't been egged," he joked.

In actuality, he said he's been overwhelmed by just how friendly and respectful the rivalry is. In the week leading up to the big game, representatives from each school go to the other's campus and speak at assemblies. At Gilman it's called "Empathy Day" and the students dress in McDonogh's colors, orange and black.

After the game, no matter the outcome, the two teams stand together, acknowledge the fans and the losing side presents the winning one with a trophy.


"That's what's so cool about it. It's really different," Chris Dawson said. "I've never experienced anything like that until I came here.''

The collaboration between the schools was extended a little further last month, with some help from the Dawsons. McDonogh sophomore Kendall Kurlander, whose father attended Gilman, decided to create a community project leading up to the 100th game.

In conjunction with national nonprofit Playworks, McDonogh and Gilman students spent parts of two Saturdays in October refurbishing three city elementary school playgrounds. The project included painting four-square and hopscotch areas on the blacktops.

Lucy Dawson, who is also McDonogh's upper school character coordinator, assisted with the project and, because there was concern there would be more Eagles than Greyhounds participating, she called on her primary Gilman connection to help. With some gentle prodding, several of the volunteers were Gilman football players.

"It was really a joy," Lucy Dawson said. "Chris and I were at the activities together and the kids could see us coming together in a way much more visible than it has been in the past. That was really cool."

Unintentionally, the Dawsons have brought together faculty members of both schools. Most of their friends work at one or the other, and friendships between the groups have formed.

But the Dawsons haven't removed all sports combativeness from their lives.

Both grew up in North Carolina and they are on bitter ends of the Duke- North Carolina basketball rivalry. Lucy graduated from Duke; Chris grew up in Raleigh as a Tar Heels fan, despising former Duke stars Danny Ferry and Christian Laettner.

That lingering animosity is not going to be settled amicably soon. Chris Dawson said he refuses to raise his daughter as a Blue Devils fan, while his wife wants the little girl to be able to make up her own mind.

"That part has caused a little tension," he said, laughing. "But, otherwise, it's not like we're going to go to bed mad about it."

When it comes to McDonogh-Gilman, however, the couple avoided any tension involving their first child. Since Gilman is an all-boys school, it's expected Eleanor ultimately will attend McDonogh. But what if the couple eventually has a boy? Will he be an Eagle or a Greyhound?

"That's a really good question," Lucy Dawson said. "Part of me hopes he would go to McDonogh, but I think we would both agree that he'd go to whichever school is best for his personality and his interests."