Gilman-McDonogh Football: 100 Years of Rivalry and Respect

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McDonogh football team, 1916.
McDonogh football team, 1916

UPDATE: Final score – Gilman 35, McDonogh, 28. 

In the world of Baltimore prep school sports, it promises to be the game of the weekend, if not the century.

Since October 12, 1914, this annual football game between two local rival prep schools has occurred almost uninterrupted, save for outbreaks of infantile paralysis and influenza in the early 1900s. So this Saturday, November 7, 2015, as McDonogh and Gilman meet before a large and possibly record-breaking crowd at the John McDonogh Stadium to mark the 100th game between the two athletic powerhouses, it will, in a sense, be business as usual.

Gilman team of 1927
Gilman team of 1927

It’s impossible not to marvel at the sheer length of time the two schools have maintained this annual ritual. Perhaps even more astonishing is the downright civility imbued in the historic competition, which has been referred to as a “respectful rivalry” by folks in the know.

Tackle during 1934 game.
Tackle during 1934 game


Gilman 1943
Gilman, 1943

In fact, the two schools seem to lean on the annual game, especially during commemorative years such as this one, as an opportunity to build community spirit between and beyond the two campuses. In weeks leading up to this year’s game, students from the two schools have undertaken community service activities, including the refurbishing and beautifying of several Baltimore City elementary schools and the stuffing of each other’s buses with items for the Maryland Food Bank and the Donald Bentley Food Pantry. The week before the game, key folks—including the headmasters, football captains, and student body presidents—from each of the two schools visited the other, addressing their rival’s upper school in a good-natured manner. Also noteworthy: students from both schools have demonstrated support for McDonogh junior and Gilman alum progeny Archer Senft, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury this August. On both sides of the stadium, “Archer Strong” bracelets will be on full display.



1950 game
1950 game
1964 game
1964 game

Good-spiritedness aside, both teams have winning on their minds as they converge on Saturday to continue this longstanding series (Gilman leads 59-35-5). Though it might be nerve-wracking for those in the stands, imagine what it will be like for the players themselves, who will be carrying the weight of a hundred years on their shoulders. Here’s a taste of the responsibility, and honor, they feel about participating in the pending game.

1974 game. Gilman won, 26-20.
1974 game

It means much more than just a game. On Saturday, we are playing for all the Gilman football players and students that came before us,” said John Fitzgerald, Gilman senior and football captain. 

Gilman Headmaster Henry Smyth presents McDonogh Headmaster Charlie Britton with Price Memorial Trophy at annual post-game ceremony last year. Photo by Steve Ruark.

Speaking before the Gilman upper school this Wednesday, McDonogh captain Alton Lacks also struck a serious tone:  “This year the stakes are higher because this is the 100th game and both teams want to go down into the history books as the winner and also claim the “A” conference championship in the same day.” Pausing to take a breath, he added: “This rivalry is the best in the country for two reasons: We respect the game and our opponent.”

The game will be held tomorrow at 3 p.m. at McDonogh. For details on the event, including information on where to park, how to join in the pre-game festivities, and more, visit the McDonogh website’s special page: A Celebration of Tradition and Community. To see additional historic photographs, plus uniforms, videos, and more, stop by a joint exhibit at McDonogh’s Memorial Field House on game day, from 1:00 p.m. to halftime.

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