Herman Boone's voice is ringing out yet agin, across the Pennsylvania prairie. It seems that a young man has not carried out his assignment. When you play football for Herman Boone, that is not a good idea.
"Wait a minute! Hold it!" Boone shouts. He positions his nose three inches from the young man's. "What did you come up here for, to eat? You come up here to run! To block! To tackle! I'm not gonna tolerate anything less. Now run it again."
They do. This time, the young man blocks his opponent halfway to Ohio. Herman Boone returns, again three inches away. He is grining. "If you weren't so ugly," he tells the young man, "I'd kiss you."
This is the seventh summer Boone has done his carrot-and-stick act with a football team from T. C. Williams High School of Alexandria, Va. For the third straight year, Boone and 63 of his worthies spent an August week here preparing for the season, which opens Friday.
The setting was the secluded, gothic, densely wooded campus of St. Francis Prep School. There, the Titans of Williams practiced twice a day, ate three times a day, held meetings and skull sessions innumerable times a day and got to know each other all day, every day.
That last may seem small, but in football it is important, and at Williams it is essential.
Six years ago, Alexandria's three senior high schools were consolidated into one: Williams. It is the only place in the city to attend the 11th or 12th grades in a public school.
The result has been a student body that resembles an ethnic stew, and that has led to tensions now and then. But for T.C.'s football team, ethnicity is a kind of calling card.
Where else could one find a center named Fahey, a tackle named Rosenthal, a placekicker named Paspatis, a guard named Colantuoni and a cornerback named Santana?
Where else can a black kid tar an Italian kid with the famous Italian racial slur - and be tarred in return with the famous black slur - and have the whole thing end with laughter and soul slaps?
Where else can a young, black halfback hear country and western tapes for the first time - and admit that he likes them? And where else can a white linebacker offer advice on how to "corn row" hair - and have it be accepted by a black linebacker who is trying to beat him out of a starting position?
It is for these small, human victories - and the football victories for which Willams has long been known - that the Alexandria school board appropriates $3,000 each year to pay for the Titans' week in the woods.
This is the best place in the world to take a bunch of kids," explained Boone, 43, who has been Williams' head coach for six years, "because there's nothing to do."
Not the least of the reason is Spring Grove.
A paper milling town that sits just over a hill from the St. Francis campus, Spring Grove has no movie theater, no ice cream parlor - Great God, not even a McDonald's.
In addition to the usual summercamp stunts - water fights, "Frenched" beds, shaving cream duels - some Williams' players have trundled off in search of three blonde sisters who are supposed to live in the house just beyond the cornfield that borders the football field.
"We snuck over there last year," admitted one senior, ducking his voice so Boone wouldn't hear him. "Nothing happened, but they were sure fine to look at."
In football teams, it is the lack of diversions that makes Spring Grove "the key to a winning season," according to Boone.
"Up here,it's football, football and a little more football," said the coach, a graying, lively fellow who has won 51 of 65 games, including one regional title and one statewide title, during his tenure. "If they ever cut it out, I don't think I'd want to coach any more."
A typical day begins with reveille at 7:30 - only the music tends to be Smokey Robinson, not a bugle.
Breakfast is at 8, followed by a team meeting at 9:30. Immediately afterward, there is assorted running, rolling and smashing until noon.
Only then does the team get a water break, served up out of a garden hose by the manager and resident comedian, Fat Charlie Harris.
A free period follows lunch, which most players fill with pool or table tennis.A second practice begins at 3 and lasts until 5:45. In typical Boone fashion, the last thing the tired playes must do is run 12 40-yard wind sprints, with no resting in between.Then dinner, weightlifting for 90 minutes, a little television and bed by 10.
It adds up to a rather spartan seven days for young men who have left summer jobs, cars, cold beverages and "old ladies" at home. But all say it's worth it.
"We don't have any all-Americans, but we have togetherness, and this is the reason," said Johnny (The Italian Stallion) Colantuoni. "You can't win without making the effort," said Tim Fahey, "and this is where we make the effort."
Where effort will take the Titans this season is, of course, anyone's guess. They will find out early, however, since their first three games are against Fort Hunt, Annandale and Lake Braddock, all said to be loaded.
Boone puts it this way: "We don't have a lot of talent, but we'll sure come after your a-."
Still, just to be certain of that, Boone spent much of the time at Spring Grove kicking the same part of his own team's anatomy.
He ranted and hollered and postured and expostulated. He allowed as how he was "P.O.'d" and "through being nice." He even gave himself a nickname; Father Nature, a man it's not nice to fool.
But three minutes after every explosion, Boone would tell a companion privately how he loved the team, loved their spirit, loved how much they were learning and how fast they were learning it.
"They'll be all right," Boone said. "Sometimes you got to give them a little hell. What I always say is, we may disagree, but we try not to be disagreeable."