A quick start at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday helped put an end to four years of utter frustration for City.
In a game that often defines their entire season, the Knights jumped out to a two-touchdown lead after the first 10 minutes, then held off a second-half comeback bid by archrival Poly in a 20-14 win — their first in the series since 2007 — before an announced 7,194.
"This was our playoff game," City coach George Petrides said. "It was important to stop this losing streak."
The win, in the 124th edition of the game, helped City (6-4) avoid its fifth straight loss in the series, which Poly (3-7) still leads, 62-56-6. Neither team had lost more in a row since City lost 17 straight in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The Knights came out determined to quickly put an end to the latest streak.
On their first play from scrimmage, junior Tayshawn Mayo broke free for a 39-yard run, setting up quarterback Troy Robinson's 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rodney Garvey just 3:04 into the game.
"We came out with a lot of intensity. We had to do what we had to do," Mayo said. "We scored first and put the momentum on our side."
Mayo rushed for 119 yards on 24 carries and teammate Deion Petty scored a pair of touchdowns, including a 13-yard reverse that put City up, 12-0, with 2:41 left in the first quarter.
"We had to set the tone early. We had to show them that this four-game losing streak wasn't going to go on anymore," Robinson said. "We got our fans into it, and I think that was a vital part of the game. That got us amped."
Petrides said: "We knew we had to start off fast and try to take their heart away. It's been a down year for them, and I thought if we got up on them maybe they'd quit. But they didn't quit — they just kept coming back."
Led by running back Stephen Scott (22 carries for 120 yards), Poly fought back to challenge for the lead in the second half, holding City to just 48 yards of total offense over the final two quarters.
The Engineers got within six on Scott's 2-yard sweep to the right midway through the third quarter, but they hurt their own cause with penalties and dropped passes.
After getting the ball back with 5:18 to play, Poly drove past midfield and seemed poised to drive for the tying score. But on a second-and-8 at the 40, City linebacker Shayne Adams stopped receiver Broderick Cook 5 yards deep in the backfield, and quarterback Eric White — unable to find an open receiver on fourth-and-13 — then came up four yards short on a scramble.
"I asked all these guys just to leave it on the field, and they did," said first-year Poly coach Larry Webster, a former player for the Ravens and at Maryland. "We just made a lot of mistakes. [If] we eliminate those team mistakes, I think we give them a better game."
Penalties were a major issue for Poly throughout the first half, including a tripping penalty that helped stall the Engineers' second drive. Following a 5-yard punt, the Knights took over at midfield, and again moved deep into Poly territory on Mayo's 29-yard run on the opening play of their drive.
City then increased its lead to 12-0 when Mayo took the pitch and started right, then flipped it back to Petty on the reverse. Petty went in untouched from the 13.
Down by double-digits in the first quarter, Poly finally began to get its offense in sync by frequently handing off to Scott and mixing in an occasional pass from White.
After driving 77 yards on 14 plays, however, the Engineers stalled at the 2 when Scott ran into a wall up the middle on fourth-and-inches.
Though temporarily deflated, the Engineers quickly got another chance after holding City to a three-and-out, and this time took advantage, with Scott breaking through a hole in the right side for a 15-yard touchdown. White's pass to Quinton Norfleet cut the deficit to 12-8.
The Engineers, in fact, seemed in position to take the lead when Jaquan Malone blocked Cameron Drummond's punt, taking over at City's 11, but Scott fumbled a handoff two plays later, and City's Robinson recovered at the 3.
The Knights then got a huge emotional boost when Robinson sent a short screen pass to Petty, and the senior broke a tackle and sprinted 75 yards down the right sideline for the score. Robinson's two-point pass to Garvey extended the lead to 20-8 with one minute left in the half.
"It's a good feeling to actually be on this side of the fence," Mayo said. "We hadn't won in four years. We played our hearts out all day for the seniors and for us."
Poly 0 8 6 0 -- 14
City 12 8 0 0 -- 20
C-Garvey 4 pass from Robinson (Run failed)
C-Petty 13 run (Pass failed)
P-Scott 15 run (White pass to Norfleet)
C-Petty 75 pass from Robinson (Robinson pass to Garvey)
P-Scott 2 run (Pass failed)