By Perry Green, AFRO Sports Editorpgreen@afro.com

The principal of St. Frances Academy in Baltimore has accused its fellow neighboring private schools of racism after at least three schools recently announced their refusal to play St. Frances’ football team this upcoming season in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association.

St. Frances Academy, the only private catholic school in the area with a predominantly Black student body, has developed one of the best high school football teams in the country; USAToday ranked St. Frances the 4th best nationally after it finished the 2017 season with a perfect 13-0 record.

Several Baltimore football teams claim that St. Francis is too good for them to play. (Courtesy photo)

But St. Frances’ success last year has apparently scared off the competition.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Calvert Hall,  Mount Saint Joseph and Loyola Blakefield (all of whom were beaten in lopsided fashion by St. Frances last season) each alerted MIAA officials of its plans to withdraw from playing St. Frances this year.

Both Calvert Hall and Loyola Blakefield cited safety concerns for its withdrawal, claiming St. Frances’ players were too big and strong to safely compete against, while Mount Saint Joe officials mentioned St. Frances’ usage of out-of-town transfer students as it’s reason for not wanting to play the catholic school. St. Frances head coach Biff Poggi is reportedly a hedge fund manager and has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money to pay for many of his transfer players to attend the school, which Mount Saint Joe officials claimed hurts the spirit of the league.

But St. Frances principal Deacon Curtis Turner believes the whole thing is race related.

“Reading the recent statement from Mount Saint Joseph High School and Calvert Hall College High School about our athletic league in general and Saint Frances Academy in particular has exposed a rift in the Baltimore community that many of us know exists, but few of us are willing to address.  My community was angered and hurt by the insinuation that we don’t share the same values as other members. This is particularly harmful coming from other Catholic schools,” Turner said in a long statement released on St. Frances’ Facebook page.

“It should be noted that Saint Frances Academy is the oldest Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  If anything, historically, we should be credited with setting the standard by which a Catholic school in Baltimore should be measured,” Turner continued. “Instead, these nefarious elements seek to destroy rather than build.  They seek to divide rather than unify.  In fact, it is our uniqueness that makes us a great fit for the league and an asset to the City of Baltimore.  We are deeply saddened that others will not see that.”

McDonogh, another private school in the Baltimore area, hasn’t announced yet whether it will play St. Frances this season. McDonogh’s former head football coach Don Damico told the Sun that three of his players suffered fractured bone injuries when they faced St. Frances last season.

“They’re just a way better team,” Damico told the Sun. “They’re bigger, stronger, faster, better. They’re like a college football team versus a high school football team. We’re not deep enough or strong enough to play them. That’s just a different breed of football.”

The MIAA could possibly end up forcing St. Frances Academy to play an independent league schedule. But Turner claims his school tried to play an independent schedule before, when they weren’t a very good team just a few years ago, but they weren’t allowed. He said now that his school has a good team, they’re trying to change the rules.

“That’s never been part of the rules and then to have this happen…our coaches are scrambling to get games,” Turner told the Sun. “It just seems like there are certain rules that can be bent except when it comes to us and now that we’re good, everybody’s like, ‘Why don’t you do this?’ Well, we asked this like six years ago when we were struggling.”

 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor