Victory appeared real enough two weeks ago. Richard James, head coach of the Oak Hill junior varsity football team, had proudly presented the team's first place trophy to Department of Human Resources director Albert P. Russo.
The Oak Hill Tigers were the D.C. public school JV football champs, DHR had announced at its weekly press conference.
After the ceremony. Otto Jordan, director of the D.C. Public School Athletic Department, had commended the Oak Hill coaches on their fine football program.
At Oak Hill, a banquet and dance were held to honor the victors. It was a glorious moment for the jubilant team members, who are confined at the city's maximum security juvenile institution in Laurel, Md.
But for the Cinderella team it was only a moment.
The Oak Hill Tigers are not the D.C. public school JV football champions, Jordan now contends, because there is no JV football league this year.
Jordan said his office didn't have the funds to hire the coaches and officials needed to organize an official league.
"As the season went on most schools played (JV football)."
But, he noted, without a league there is no championship.
Thought he felt the DHR press announcement was inaccurate, Jordan said he didn't think it would have been proper to mention it the day of the press conference.
The matter became a point of contention last week after Roosevelt High School coach Ronald Carter called Jordan protesting the Oak Hill championship. Carter, who says Roosevelt has a better record than Oak Hill, called after reading about the championship in the newspaper and hearing of televison accounts from friends. James disagrees.
"I'm objecting to them saying they won a D.C. public school championship," said Carter. "They're trying to take our championship away from us - if there was one."
Late in the season, Carter said, James asked him if Roosevelt would play the team with the best of record in a JV championship game at the end of the season. Roosevelt was then number one with three games left to play. Oak Hill was number two and Coolidge High School was number three.
"I was all for it," said Carter. Coaches at Coolidge, Anacostia and Dunbar said they also agreed to a championship game.
Carter said he then checked with Jordan's office to confirm that a championship game would be official.
"I told them (the various coaches) they could play among themselves but not for a championship," said Jordan.
His championship dreams gone, Carter said, he decided not to play Oak Hill, but accepted an invitation to play a JV team from Ohio. Carter said Jordan gave him permission to play the game, which Roosevelt won.
A weck before the game with the Ohio team, Carter said, James called him about a playoff between Roosevelt and oak Hill, then ranked first and second respectively.
Carter said he refused the game.
"Since there was no championship there was no purpose for playing Oak Hill for nothing," said Carter.
Oak Hill then played Coolidge High School and won. The Tigers were declared the JV champs by the public school coaches who had agreed to the playoff. Trophies of Oak Hill and Coolidge, as well as salaries for game officals, were paid for with DHR funds, said James.
"Not only were trying to give our team something to shoot for but we wanted to encourage the other teams as well," James said.
Anacostia coach Jackie Robinson concurred. "A lot of my kids were really upset. They were out there playing their butts off and there was nothing to look forward to."
Still, Jordan insists. "No official or unoffical (JV football) championship was played this year."
Russo said he did not know there was no league or that a championship game was not sanctioned by Jordan's office. He said he had understood that the public school teams had played competitive football all season and ended with a championship playoff that Oak Hill had won.
If this was not the case, Russo asked why didn't Jordon tell him about the situation either before or during the press announcement? James asked the same question.
"I didn't want to blow the party, I guess," said Jordan.