The City-Poly game will move to Morgan State for the 130th edition of the oldest high school football rivalry in Maryland and will be played Friday night.
For most of the past 20 years, the game had been played at M&T Bank Stadium on the first Saturday in November, but the Ravens have a home game Sunday and the grass field could not recover in one day.
Morgan State has hosted the game before. It will kick off Friday at 6 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m.
This is the third major high school football event to move from M&T Bank Stadium since the Ravens switched from artificial turf to natural grass in 2016. The Maryland state championships and the Turkey Bowl between Calvert Hall and Loyola Blakefield also have moved to other venues.
“The bottom line is they couldn’t accommodate us,” Poly athletic director Phil Thompson said. “If it would have worked out, we would have been there. It all depends on the schedule. If it lines up that the Ravens have a bye week or an away game [in the future], we should be able to use the venue.”
City coach Michael Hamilton said his players were “slightly disappointed” when they found out the rivalry game would not be played at M&T Bank Stadium. He said the Knights are looking forward to their first night game of the season.
“It may seem like there’s more people there because it’s a smaller venue,” Hamilton said. “There’s something magical about playing in a pro stadium on a Saturday afternoon, but also now, it’s the typical Friday night lights game which we’re hoping will bring more of a crowd out, because they’re looking for something different.”
Hamilton and Poly first-year coach Marquise O’Neal both played in the City-Poly game and now coach their respective alma maters.
O’Neal is used to change in the rivalry. He was in the first game not played on Thanksgiving Day in 1993. The rivalry game moved that year to the first Saturday in November, the final day of the regular season, because Baltimore City joined the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and began competing in the state playoffs, which begin the second weekend in November. Morgan hosted the 1993 game.
O’Neal said the City players were also disappointed, but the prospect of playing at Morgan, which holds about 10,000 spectators as opposed to 71,000 at M&T Bank Stadium, has grown on them.
“When we found out it was at Morgan, a lot of the kids still like the atmosphere,” O’Neal said. “It’s on a college campus and it closes things in a little bit. It’s not as grand as the Ravens stadium, so it makes you feel closer to the crowd.”
Thompson said Morgan State officials at first declined to host the game because the Bears play there Saturday. However, he said other venues were booked, so after a second request, Morgan officials agreed to a Friday night game.
Thompson said he and City AD Rolynda Contee were thankful to Morgan officials for hosting, because their only other option was to find a high school site, and none in the city is big enough for the crowd drawn to a City-Poly game. As of early this week, between 7,000 and 8,000 tickets had been sold, Thompson said. Last year, an announced 6,014 attended the game at M&T Bank Stadium.
The City-Poly game — and the Turkey Bowl — might return to M&T Bank Stadium in the future, but it depends on the Ravens’ schedule. Last year, the Ravens had two byes and a road game after the City-Poly game, giving the grounds crew plenty of time to get the field ready for the next Ravens home game.
The state championships were moved to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis because four state title games in three days were too much for the grass field to handle. The Thanksgiving Day Turkey Bowl moved last year to Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium and will be played there again this year, because the Ravens play at home three days later.