As the opening kick went airborne, there was a strong and cold northwesterly wind blowing across Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood Field.
It was Nov. 12, 1920. The American Professional Football Association, which was renamed the National Football League in 1922, had just started playing games. Women had just gained the right to vote in the United States.
With less than five minutes to play in a football clash between neighboring Baltimore Catholic schools, Calvert Hall’s Louis Walker caught a short pass from quarterback Ray Brooks and took off for the game-winning, 35-yard touchdown that lifted the Cardinals to a 9-3 victory against Loyola High School, now known as Loyola Blakefield.
Walker, who had transferred from Loyola, accounted for all the Calvert Hall scoring that day, including a 25-yard field goal. The following day, The Baltimore Sun described the game as having “the admirers of the respective elevens keyed to the highest pitch of excitement.” Despite numerous fumbles and penalties, “the contest was interesting throughout,” the newspaper reported.
And so began the longest continuous football rivalry between Catholic schools in the United States.
On Nov. 28 at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium, Calvert Hall and Loyola will meet for the 100th consecutive year, an annual tradition that has become as synonymous with Thanksgiving Day in Baltimore as turkey and stuffing. It is known simply as the Turkey Bowl.
“It’s on TV [at 10 a.m.]. It’s on Thanksgiving. Nobody else is playing that day [locally] except Calvert Hall and Loyola,” said broadcaster Scott Garceau, the television voice of the game for more than 20 years. “There are no colleges playing in the state, no other high schools.
“I think when you are a freshman at one of those schools, that’s the game you want to play. It’s the Super Bowl for them.”
Generations of families have played in the game. Legendary coaches, like Calvert Hall’s Augie Miceli and Loyola’s Joe Brune, have coached in it. There is a reason 12,000-15,000 people show up every year to witness it firsthand and make it a regular part of their holiday tradition.
The rivalry has bred respect between the schools, but also fierce competition.
“When you see those colors, red and yellow [of Calvert Hall], your blood starts to boil a little bit,” said Loyola athletic director Brant Hall, who both played and coached in the Turkey Bowl.
There’s a century’s worth of great games, great stories and great memories, and more are about to be made that will be passed down from generation to generation.
“I think you have two great schools with common values that are both committed to excellence in education and athletics,” said 1982 Calvert Hall graduate Frank Kelly, the first of 14 Kellys to come through the school’s football program. “People are passionate about tradition.”
THE OPPOSING SCOUT
Tom Bateman III doesn’t miss a Loyola game. He wouldn’t be doing his job if he did. The coaching staff knows him, and the regulars in the stands would be surprised if he didn’t show up.
The catch is Bateman has no attachment at all to the Loyola program. Since 2013, long after stepping down as an assistant coach at Calvert Hall, Bateman has been providing opposition research for the Cardinals’ coaching staff. The only team he scouts is Loyola.
The son of Tom Bateman II, a World War II veteran and former Calvert Hall coach, Bateman hasn’t missed a Turkey Bowl game since 1950 when he was 4 years old. He played tight end and defensive end at Calvert Hall before graduating in 1964. The following year, he began a long stint on the school’s coaching staff.
Bateman bleeds for the Cardinals more passionately than most. He runs a website, calverthallfootball.com, that details the rich history of the program from 1899 to the present day.
Given the choice between a one-loss season and a championship or a one-win season with the lone victory coming against Loyola, Bateman said it’s pretty easy. It’s the one win against Loyola every time.
For an outsider trying to come into the program, “If you tell me they’d rather lose to Loyola and take the nine-win season, I’d say don’t hire them,” Bateman said. “The outside guy has to know the right answer to that question.”
Outside of the Turkey Bowl, the 73-year-old Bateman has not seen Calvert Hall play a game in person for going on seven seasons.
Every week during the fall, no matter where Loyola plays, Bateman is there, quietly and keenly observing. He doesn’t wear any Calvert Hall colors. The words Calvert Hall don’t appear anywhere on his clothing. The only thing that sets him apart is the video camera he brings with him.
“I am like Bill Belichick. You wouldn’t even know I won the Super Bowl,” Bateman said. “I am serious. I show no emotion. I just film the game.”
The only thing preventing him from being a spy?
“They know that I am there,” he said.
Bateman’s presence has indeed been felt by the Dons. Two years ago, word got down to their coaches that Bateman was filming the hand signals being relayed to the quarterback. So, they used a big towel to obstruct the signals from his camera’s view. Then, last season, they did away with the hand signals altogether.
“It was so funny to me. I am the tail wagging the dog,” Bateman said. “They were so afraid of me taping this game that it probably upset their rhythm.”
Bateman pointed out there is nothing illegal about what he is doing. The game is played in a public setting, and there are plenty of other people with video cameras in hand. Though, they are mainly there to record their children’s games.
Of course, Loyola scouts Calvert Hall games, too, but not nearly as extensively and not on an every-week basis, according to Bateman. The teams also share video with one another prior to their games.
“We play eight or nine games before Loyola. Our coaches can’t be thinking about Loyola until it’s time to play Loyola,” Bateman said. “That’s where I come in [to help]. I am thinking about Loyola every week.”
Bateman has garnered enough respect and good faith in the Loyola community that he is often perched right next to the Loyola icon himself, Brune, when he is filming the Dons.
“Are you here again? Why do you bother us?” Brune will playfully ask Bateman.
“I say, ‘You’re right. I probably shouldn’t have to worry about it anymore,'” Bateman will respond. “I still have to see what trick plays you guys use.”
Two years ago, Bateman was invited to a fundraising dinner in honor of a former Loyola coach. The general reaction he got?
“What the heck are you doing here? This is a fundraising dinner for Loyola,” Bateman said.
As usual, Bateman smiled and took it all in stride.
“They weren’t angry,” he said. “But they did say, ‘You have to stop following us, even at dinners!'”
Bateman added, “I get along with them fine.”
Calvert Hall coach Joe Carlozo Sr. removed the cigarette from his lips and yelled, “O’Brien! O’Brien!”
It was a slate gray day at Memorial Stadium Nov. 27, 1969. There were 13,000 in attendance, and the temperature hovered somewhere in the upper 30s. The game wasn’t on television, but play-by-play man Joe Croghan and analyst Charley Eckman described the action on the radio.
Carlozo was summoning his placekicker, Mike O’Brien, as the 50th installment of the Turkey Bowl lurched toward its dramatic conclusion.
There were four seconds to play, and the score was tied at 14 between unbeaten Loyola (9-0) and Calvert Hall (6-2-1). There was no overtime. A Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference title was on the line for the Dons. A Loyola loss or a tie could have allowed the championship to fall to Poly, which was heavily favored in the afternoon game at Memorial Stadium against rival City.
The Calvert Hall defense had just made a big stop, as the Loyola coach, Brune, had gambled and failed on fourth-and-7 near midfield. Perhaps Brune feared the tie, knowing the championship ramifications. Or perhaps he didn’t think Calvert Hall would have enough time to move into scoring position if Loyola didn’t pick up the first down.
“I was thinking the same thing. We should go for it,” said John Stewart, one of the two assistant coaches for Brune at the time. “We had been holding them pretty good in the second half. Let’s see if we could get into [field-goal] range and maybe win the game.”
The Dons had rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit and pulled even on a 15-yard pass from quarterback John Baer to receiver Gary Appel and then a 1-yard plunge from Baer and the subsequent two-point conversion. But the fourth-down play was stopped, as Calvert Hall sacked Baer for a 7-yard loss.
Calvert Hall took over on the Loyola 47-yard line with 32 seconds to play. After an incomplete pass on first down, quarterback Phil Popovec connected with receiver Gordy Bengel on a 21-yard pass down to the Loyola 26.
There were four seconds left, enough time for one more pass into the end zone or a field goal attempt. But a 42-yard kick was a formidable distance for any high school kicker.
Carlozo summoned O’Brien, who had handled the placekicking duties for Calvert Hall all season.
But team captain Jimmy Bateman — the younger brother of Tom Bateman III, who was the team’s line coach — happened to be standing near his coach when the decision to try the field goal was made.
According to Tom Bateman III, Jimmy Bateman yelled to his coach, “No. No. Not O’Brien. Marsiglia.”
Phil Marsiglia was a 16-year-old junior who had never attempted a kick in a varsity game. He was sitting on the bench, away from most of the rest of his teammates, who were all standing on the sideline in anticipation of the game-deciding play.
Marsiglia’s previous kick of note was the 37-yarder he made to beat Loyola, 3-0, in a junior varsity game the previous season. But he never imagined facing a moment like this.
Knowing Marsiglia had the stronger leg, Carlozo looked at Jimmy Bateman and said, “Yeah, Marsiglia,” and yelled for the junior. Marsiglia walked over to Carlozo and said, “You want me, Coach?”
Grabbing his kicker by the elbow and pulling him over, Carlozo said, “Yes, Phil. You are going into the game. Yes, you are going to make this kick, and we are going to win this game.”
As Marsiglia put on his helmet and buckled his chin strap, he said, “Coach, are you crazy? This is from  yards.”
“Yes, I know it’s long,” Carlozo shot back. “But you can do it. You are going to do it. Get in that game.”
As Marsiglia, a straight-on kicker, ran onto the field, his kicking coach, Dave Shannon, a Calvert Hall assistant, was ready with one last piece of advice. “Hey Phil …” But Marsiglia cut him off. “Yes, I know, Coach. I know. Keep my head down.”
The snap from reserve center Bruce Wills finally came back, and it was high. But Popovec, the team’s quarterback and holder, skillfully pulled it down, allowing Marsiglia to put his foot into it.
Photographs of the kick would later show Marsiglia starting straight at the ground upon impact, just like his coach was ready to remind him.
The ball sailed through the middle of the uprights and easily cleared the crossbar, perhaps by as much as 10 yards.
Calvert Hall earned a 17-14 victory, one of the most iconic in the history of the series.
“Phil had the best reaction,” Tom Bateman III said. “Our team is going wild. Everyone is running onto the field. He simply turned away and walked off the field.
“He wasn’t jumping around like everyone else. He wasn’t jumping into any piles. He just walked off the field. He was being mobbed by everyone, but he wasn’t initiating anything. He was just there.”
The day wasn’t completely ruined for Loyola. City would later upset Poly, 12-6, on the same field to hand the Dons the MSA A Conference championship outright.
On paper, the 1989 clash at Memorial Stadium shouldn’t have been much of a game.
Calvert Hall was 6-3 thanks to the diligent work of its 5-foot-7, 150-pound sophomore running back William Harcum and its defense. Loyola, meanwhile, was 4-5 and on the verge of a second consecutive losing season.
But the first sign this game had an unusual quality arrived overnight, as six inches of snow fell on the area. That delayed the start of the 10 a.m. game by 45 minutes as the snow was cleared off of the field.
“They had to get people from the [nearby] prison to come and clear the snow off, and they weren’t anxious to get it off in a hurry,” said Brune, a 1952 Loyola graduate who won 212 games during his 35 years as the team’s coach (1967-2001).
“Bill Mackley was the coach of Calvert Hall at the time and a good friend of mine. He was beside himself with all of the waiting we had to do.”
Once the game started, Calvert Hall dominated. The Cardinals ran 66 plays to Loyola’s 31 and outgained the Dons, 313-174, in total yardage. Loyola was unable to complete a single pass, and Calvert Hall never punted.
But the dominance was not reflected on the scoreboard. Loyola’s defense would bend but not break.
“It was just a gritty defensive effort,” said John Stewart, by then a former Loyola assistant who had stepped away from the sidelines and was sitting up in the stands, trying to stay warm.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Loyola clung to an 8-6 lead.
Brad Hoag, the Dons’ terrific sophomore running back, had turned the corner on the Calvert Hall defense for an 81-yard touchdown run to give his team the lead in the first half. Loyola converted the two-point try on a run by Chris Murn.
Calvert Hall answered with a 12-yard scoring pass from quarterback Andy Amhrein to fellow senior David Smoot. But the rest of the game was an exercise in frustration for the Cardinals’ offense. On four occasions, they were stopped inside the Loyola 30.
Finally, with 4:43 remaining in the game, the Cardinals were able to cash in for their first lead, as junior tailback Nick Jeppi darted into the end zone from 9 yards out for a 12-8 advantage.
But Loyola, unable to move the ball for most of the day, somehow found the resolve to march 70 yards in six plays for the game-winning touchdown.
The drive opened with a 39-yard run by T.J. Ohler. Then, on third-and-3 from the Calvert Hall 4-yard line, quarterback Craig Ronald faked a handoff to Hoag before running untouched into the end zone with 1:48 to play.
The Dons’ 15-12 upset win “set the tone” for the rivalry throughout the next decade, Stewart said, as Loyola would reel off 11 consecutive victories.
Following the game, the despondent Calvert Hall coach, Mackley, told The Baltimore Sun, “The biggest thing [my players] have to learn is that [the game] is never over.”
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Loyola leads the all-time series, 49-42-8, but Calvert Hall has won nine of the last 10, including a 40-7 rout last season. The Dons, coached by Anthony Zehyoue, are 8-1 heading into this year’s matchup, while the Cardinals, coached by Donald Davis, are 8-3.
The Dons’ only Turkey Bowl victory during the last decade came in 2013 at Unitas Stadium when 6-foot-4 junior Jake Nordhausen barreled through the Calvert Hall line and dove forward to block Jake Soriano’s extra-point try in overtime to preserve a 21-20 win.
“There was some question, did he get off to a false start? He was so quick on the snap,” said Garceau, who was calling the game for WMAR-TV. “He made a great play, shot the gap, leapt and got his hand on the kick to block it and win the game.”
Who will be the next hero to carve his name into Turkey Bowl lore? How will the next chapter of this storied rivalry unfold?
“Playing in the Turkey Bowl, you aren’t just playing for yourself or your team. You are playing the game for the school, alumni and the greater community,” said Ryan Swartz, a senior center for Calvert Hall. “A Turkey Bowl victory always makes the turkey taste a whole lot better.”
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Calvert Hall and Loyola Blakefield
Issue 259: November 2019
Originally published Nov. 15, 2019