As the crowd of fans, students, educators and alumni began to swirl into M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 9, it was clear that more was at stake in this football game than a win-loss record and a berth in the Baltimore city championship playoff.
When Baltimore City College and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute meet on the football field in November, it’s about tradition. The City-Poly game is second only to the Boston Latin vs. English High football match-up in Boston among the longest-running rivalries in high school football. The Boston game dates back to 1887, while the Baltimore rivalry got started two years later, in 1889.
“This keeps the spirit alive,” said Donnae Bushrod, City class of 1990. “The City/Poly game is the opportunity to restart the connection that you had with your fellow classmates,”
In the mid-1870’s City was the first high school in the Baltimore area to play football—which meant no other school was on their level. The rivalry began when City and Poly played their first football game together in 1889, but City won the first 12 meetings, from 1889 to 1900. Even today, City students still boast of having the best high school football team.
Both City and Poly held pep rallies and events leading up to the big game, but some pushed the rivalry beyond innocent competition.
Before the November 9 Saturday game, City students used spray paint in one of their school colors—orange—to vandalize Poly’s walls. The culprits marked their territory and wrote, “F___ Poly. City, City, City.”
According to some students, Poly’s doors were also vandalized, but someone removed the writing on the walls just in time for game day.
“[Back] then the battle between the two schools was innocent and fun,” said Bernita Bellamy, 45, Poly class of 1986. “We weren’t into fighting or disrespecting each other.”
Over the past four decades, the rivalry between the two schools has grown beyond the game of football, making the two archenemies in other sports and competitions.
“It’s school spirit, why wouldn’t you attend,” said Jaelyn Moses, 16, a junior at Poly who has never missed a football game. “It’s a lot of fun.”
She said City and Poly students talk a lot of trash, but she believes it’s all innocent fun.
The three-day festivities this year kicked off Nov. 7 with a skate party at Orchard Skateland in Towson, several happy hours at Club 347 and Midtown BBQ & Brew on Nov. 8, and the 4th annual Tailgate immediately after the game at the nearby Hawkeye Construction Parking Lot.
The tailgate drew in several graduating classes ranging from the late 1970’s to the late 1990’s. Among the attendees were former football players and friends who haven’t seen each other since graduation.
Ricky Westbrook, 60, class of 1973, played varsity football for City. He said he comes to the game and tailgate every year and always sees a lot of people he attended school with.
“There is a lot of fellowship,” he said.
He said attending the “Castle on the Hill” has a lot of history and tradition that lie within the school.
“This all began over 100 years ago and it still continues,” Westbrook said. “City has been ranked one of the top schools academically and for athletes in the country, it means a lot for the community.”
Bellamy said the event is an annual highlight that brings a lot of people together for a “lot of love.”
Some of that love may have been lost by the final whistle, as this year, City claimed another win over their arch-rival, 36-14.