The St. John's College High School football team has made no secret of its goal for the current season: winning tre of last year's only defeat.
A 10-1 record and the top spot in The Washington Post's final football ratings would mark a satisfying campaign dfevmost high school teams. But the Cadet's only setback of 1976, a 19-12 loss to highly regarded Gar-Field of Woodbridge, Va., in the season's fourth game, left the Cadets smarting.
"Ever since losing to Gar-Field, we wanted 10-0 (this-year)," said linebacker Nick Celenza, the team's defensive leader. "Everybody's so close with this team. All we talked about was Gar-Field all summer."
"I think the way it is now, if we don't go undefeated, we won't have achieved the goals we set out," said quarterback Blake Junghans, who missed the final eight games last year because of a calcium deposit in his thigh.
The Cadets started 1977 on a high note by travelling south and walloping Gar-Field, 30-0 a rare home defeat for the Tigers. Since than St. John's has rolled over Coolidge of Northwest Washington, 30-7. Good Counsel of Wheaton, 28-0, and Bishop Walsh of Cumberland, Md. 42-10.
The overwhelming success of the Cadets thus far has left coach Dave Waldron slightly apprehensive.
"Even though we have a good team, you never know what's going to happen. There's a little added pressure when everbody tells you what a good team you have," said Waldron, who is in his 10th year as head coach.
Waldron admits, however, that "I'm excited as hell. The potential is there."
Success in football is nothing new to St. Johns. During Waldron's tenure, the Cadets have taken five Washington Metropolitan Athletic Conference titles and a city title in 1972 (the D.C. championship game has since been discontinued.
"I think it's really simple - I think our school is good," Waldron said. "All the activities - the band, the drama club - they're all good."
He said he also puts a lot of faith in his staff of assistants - Jim Laurusky, Larry Raum, Mike Desarna, and Tom Crowell.
Waldron's main coaching strategy is to get all 11 players on both offense and defense involved in every play. With returning starters at 15 of the 22 spots - six or seven players toil on both offense and defense - the coach's job has been made that much easier.
He uses a misdirection offfense, in which the offensive linemen are essential in trying to deceive the defense as to which way the play is going. The Cadets employ a pressure defense in which the emphasis is on attacking the ball rather than on figuring out where the play is going.
"On every (offensive) play, we have three things to remember," said Greg Roberts, an offensive guard and defensive tackle. "Practices aren't easy, but the games are worth it."
The Cadets are basically a running team, led by Tyrone Barber, who has compiled 410 yards and 56 points, second in the metropolitan area. Keven Jez has added 266 rushing yards and Steve Scaggs has totalled 229 yards, despite missing the Bishop Walsh contest. When Junghans has been forced to go to the air, he's completed 22 of 35 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns.
Celenza leads the defense with 36 tackles and 13 assists.
And on this front-running team, once again ranked number one in the Post ratings, there's room for at least one underdog.
"I thought I'd be third string...(until) Andy Wilson hurt his foot," said 5-foot-7, 135-pound junior defensive back Jimmy Fletcher who has impressed his teammates and coaches with this ferocious hitting. "I just did my best to get there (the starting job) . . . and now he hasn't been able to get his job back. Basically, my speed helps pretty much (to compensate for lack of size). People say I hit pretty hard. That's my job.