Excitement charged the halls of Bell Vocational High School Monday morning following a 14-6 victory over Chamberlain last Friday.
It had been five years since the Vocats had won a football game. And even worse, in that time, the team has scored less than a dozen touchdowns.
Coach Ed Torrence, who had been there through the lean years, was thoroughly pleased.
"It's a real challenge to coach here at Bell because there are so many obstacles to overcome," he said. "Many of the kids we get here would not get a chance to play at some of the larger schools in the Interhigh (League).
"We really have to teach these kids everything when they get here. Some of them don't even know how to put their equipment on. That's what is so satisfying, teaching them to overcome adversity."
Torrence said players at the Northwest Washington school have never been cut from his squad because he couldn't afford to cut; he always had too few players for that. This year's team has 36 players, has worked harder and is a little more talented than his teams of the past, he said.
The Vocats do not have a home field, so they practice on a recreation playground, littered with broken glass, which they share with soccer and baseball teams.
It wasn't always so bad. During the 1960s, the Vocats were a perennial power, including one stretch when they won three consecutive Interhigh titles.
But in 1975, the D.C. school officials ended most of Bell's athletic programs, primarily because it is a vocational school. The entire 10th grade class was transferred to other vocational schools so they could enroll in skills training not offered at Bell. As a result, many potential student-athletes opted to go to other schools where they could play ball. Shortly thereafter, however, the administration reversed its earlier decision and reinstituted interscholastic athletics at Bell.
Anthony Jones, a three-year starter, is possibly the best all-around athlete on the squad, Reed. Jones is encouraged by the victory over Chamberlain.
"We've been really preparing for this season to be a success," said the senior split end, free safety and special teams performer. "Since I've been here for three years, I can more or less keep the players together when they get down on themselves. Win or lose, we are going to be competitive."
Chamberlain has never been mistaken for a formidable power, so the Bell victory has to be taken in the proper perspective. Interhigh West powers Roosevelt, Dunbar and McKinley could prove to be more threatening opponents.
But after five long years of humiliating defeats, let the Vocats bask in their immediate glory. They deserve it.