Watching an Einstein High School football game quickly becomes an exercise in empathy. The Titans try as hard as any high school team, despite knowing deep in their hearts that they will somehow lose.

Last Thursday night, Einstein traveled to Howard County High in Columbia. Howard had lost 10 straight games, but it was nothing compared to Einstein's area-leading 32 consecutive defeats. Each was the weakest team on the other's schedule and knew it.

It took just 10 plays for the Lions to score on their first possession. Before it knew what had happened, Einstein was trailing and waiting for the roof to fall in. But Howard could not capitalize as it fumbled the ball away three times. Finally, with less than 40 seconds remaining in the half, the Titans got a break when Chris Eader ran 48 yards to the Howard 15. On the next play, Eric Shelton threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to John Phillips, but the same combination failed to convert the conversion attempt.

Turnovers dominated the second half as neither team was able to generate much offense. Finally with less than five minutes remaining in the game and the ball on the Howard 14, serendipity appeared to smile on Einstein as Chuck Robinson forced the Lions' fifth fumble. For what seemed several seconds, both teams stopped and looked instead of falling on the ball. Jerold Harrison was the first to pounce, but the ball (and perhaps Einstein's best chance for a victory this season) cruelly squirted away to Howard's Gunnar Myers. On its next possession, Joe Lyons barely missed a potential game-winning 38-yard field goal, but a familiar sinking feeling had already infected the Titans by that time.

A normally phlegmatic man, new Coach Jamie Hunter has already been transformed into a high school John Madden as the frustration of losing begins to take its toll. Despite its 0-2 start (and 33-game streak), there are reasons to hope.

"I just screamed at them at halftime," said Hunter. "We didn't make any adjustments. It was just a matter of execution and Howard only got one first down in the second half.

"We just needed one break and we almost had one with that fumble at the end. We could have won, but we didn't. I just want these kids to know what it feels like to win a ball game," the former Rockville junior varsity coach continued. "We have a few good players, but we're don't have enough at the skill positions to make any mistakes. Each time we get close it seems as if a penalty or a missed assignment just kills us and we're not good enough to convert on third and 15."

The Titans will play Walter Johnson at Good Counsel Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Last week, the Spartans broke an 11-game losing streak by edging Blair, 10-7. (The Titans will play host to Blair Oct. 15.)

WJ middle linebacker Mike Kraus is one of the few freshmen currently starting on a Montgomery County varsity football team. His brother Joe, a Seneca Valley graduate, is a starting safety at the University of Maryland . . . Pete Regala is the new varsity football coach at Old Mill. He replaced Ron Evans over the summer, who'll continue to coach track. Regala coached the school's junior varsity for the last seven years and had a 43-18-1 record . . . Einstein's volleyball coach, Patti Gilmore, will also coach the girls basketball team this season. She was named local Catholic girls basketball coach of the year last season at Georgetown Visitation . . . Montgomery County field hockey coaches have voted to outlaw players from winding up from higher than shoulder level before hitting the ball. It's a move to cut down on injuries but it will force officials to make a lot of tough judgment calls.

Leonardtown and McDonough are both 2-0 and look like the teams to beat in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference. They'll meet on Nov. 5. Gonzaga and St. John's will renew their annual football rivalry on Nov. 12 at Byrd Stadium. The game has been played at several sites in recent years, since being dislodged from Washington-Lee, but this could become its new home. On Oct. 7, the Purple Eagles will visit Massillon Washington High (Ohio), a perennial national football power, but won't play Georgetown Prep. It will be the first interruption in their rivalry since 1945 . . . Defending Maryland Class AA boys soccer champion Bowie might even be stronger than last year due to such freshmen as Chris George and John Stroud, who led the Bulldogs to a 3-0 season-opening victory against Largo last Thursday . . . Chrissy Reese and Colleen McShalley led the Holy Cross girls basketball team to three straight No. 1 rankings during their scholastic career. Five years after high school graduation, they're together again as freshmen coaches for the Tartans . . . Montgomery County rec department is holding registration for its co-ed youth hockey league (ages 6-18). Call for further information.

Top individual performances of the week: Leonardtown's Jerry Short set a school record with an 83-yard kickoff return that led the Raiders to their first victory ever against Thomas Stone, 20-7. Jim Bennett completed 12 of 21 passes for a Howard County record 391 yards and one touchdown to lead Wilde Lake past Douglass, 13-0. Northeast linebacker John Webb had 14 tackles and one interception. He returned the interception 60 yards to help set up his team's first score in a 20-14 victory at Hammond. Magruder's Marco Mattocks rushed for 233 yards and scored one touchdown to lead the Colonels (who've won 11 straight) past Damascus, 13-0. Largo's Rod Metcalf scored four touchdowns to lead Largo past Laurel, 28-0 . . . In soccer, DuVal right wing John Maxwell scored three goals in a 5-0 victory against Suitland.

High Point's two-year starting halfback Daryl Hodges was struck by a car this summer. He suffered multiple injuries and was in serious condition for a while, but he's recovering at home now. He won't be able to play football this season, however.