For players, City-Poly football is more than playoff atmosphere

City and Poly square off for the 126{+t}{+h} time Saturday at noon at M&T Bank Stadium

Daryl Johnson sat on the bench icing his left ankle Monday during Poly football practice.

Grimacing in pain from the ankle, which twisted under the weight of an opposing lineman last Friday afternoon, the senior vowed to be ready for Poly's 126th meeting with City on Saturday at noon at M&T Bank Stadium.

"If I come back Monday in a cast, I come back Monday in a cast, but I'm playing," said Johnson, a defensive end and offensive lineman.

There's no way he'll sit out the biggest game of his senior year. Johnson wants a chance to get back at the archrival Knights for winning the past two years and he wants to be able to tell the story of a great Engineers victory for years to come.

"The Poly-City game has to be one of the oldest traditions in the United States," he said, "and to win a Poly-City game, you remember that for the rest of your life. You can tell your children and your children's children. It's that memorable and I'm grateful I got accepted to Poly and can play in this game, because a lot of people can't get into Poly or City, so this is a very great opportunity."

A few miles away at The Castle on the Hill where the game is known as City-Poly, the Knights feel the same way — except they want to tell the tale of three straight City wins for the rest of their lives.

Poly leads the series 62-57 with six ties, but the Knights won 36-14 last year and their 2012 victory snapped a four-year Engineers run.

"We do have pressure, because we haven't lost yet and we're trying to keep it up and not go our last year with a loss," said City senior Jordan Queen, who moved up to varsity as a sophomore. "The whole school is coming around and all the alumni are coming around saying, 'We don't care about the rest of the season. This game right here is what we need (to win).'"

Saturday's game, which carries on what is believed to be the second-longest continual public school football rivalry in the country, would make the winner's season for the possibly extend it. Both teams are still in contention for one of four berths in the Class 3A East region playoffs. City (4-5) can clinch one with a win. Poly (3-6) must beat City and will need help to advance.

The playoffs, however, are not the main concern this week.

"For me, the City-Poly game means a lot more than the playoffs because of how long the rivarly's been going on and also because of the tradition between the schools," City senior Adam Howard said. "It's usually the biggest game of the season even if we make the playoffs."

City coach George Petrides has been a part of the rivalry for nearly half a century. He played for the Knights in 1965 and 1966 and took over as head coach in 1975. He never lost a game in a Knights uniform and tells his players they will never forget the score of a City-Poly game. His team won 52-6 as a junior, when both teams were undefeated heading into the game, and 42-6 as a senior.

Poly coach Dwayne Green, a Dunbar graduate, is part of the rivalry for the first time, but it's not new to him.

"I've been to quite a few of the games dating back to when I was in high school," Green said. "That atmosphere is a really great atmosphere. The alumni at both schools are really, really intense about the rivalry and it means a lot to both school communities, so I'm excited about it."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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