Gonzaga's junior varsity kicker boomed the ball between the uprights and out onto North Capitol Street. The extra point punctuated the 41-6 victory over St. John's and ended the Cadets' 1-8 season.
The end-of-the-season showdown between the Gonzaga and St. John's junior varsities attracted only a few fans to the field squeezed between the school and the old Government Printing Office. Mostly it was parents -- mothers herding children, fathers in business suits who had left work early to watch their sons play.
The game between the arch rivals seemed a rather inglorious sideshow.
Certainly, the crowd and the game contrasted sharply with the well-attended varsity game at Byrd Stadium Saturday, where bands, full student-body complements and even a little bit of tailgating were all attendent. The only half-time entertainment at the jayvee game was the three touch-football games that broke out when both teams had scattered to opposite ends of the field for pep talks.
The game -- the inglorious sideshow -- is jayvee football. For the majority of the players it is the natural stepping stone to the varsity. But throughout Maryland, the District and Virginia, jayvee football takes on a variety of forms.
Whether jayvee programs will accomadate juniors who do not make the varsity and whether talented sophomores will bypass the jayvee level is a point of major variation.
"A quality athlete is going to be on the varsity as a sophomore," said Annandale Coach Bob Hardage, who moved seven such athletes to the varsity this fall.
Ostensibly, the Annandale program is flexible, and Hardage is willing to juggle his talent to accomodate "the athlete who might mature late."
One such athlete was Kyle Blair. Blair was neither talented enough nor big enough to make the varsity as a junior. But being on the jayvee as an 11th grader provided Blair with valuable playing experience, and an extra year to mature physically. Blair started for the Atoms at guard this season.
"He wasn't very big," Hardage said, "but he put on 15 or 20 pounds since his junior year."
"What happened with Blair is that he worked hard in the off season," said George Mandes, who coached him on the jayvee last season. "I think jayvee really helped Kyle. He got on the weights. It helped him physically and he got a chance to play."
At Churchill High School there is no such animal as the sophomore varsity football player or the junior on the jayvee.
"My entire jayvee squad is made up of sophomores," said Frank Karasinski, the Bulldogs head jayvee coach. "If you're a 10th grader you play jayvee."
Karasinski can recall that Paul Palmer, now a sophomore at Temple University, was kept on the jayvee even though he showed tremendous potential as a 10th grader.
That Churchill has no freshman program makes it more likely that players will need a year of Karasinski's tutelage. "The key word is 'skills,'" he said, after his team had ended its season with a 6-0 victory over Springbrook Saturday. "We stress fundamentals," said Karasinski. "At Churchill, the primary responsibility is to prepare jayvee players for the varsity."
Still, if the jayvee is a developmental stage for many, it is a last hurrah for others. On the last day of the season, Karasinski still had 67 players on his team. Last year, he finished with almost as many. Somewhere the ranks must be thinned. "I guess we have alot of kids playing for the first and last time," he said. "We try to play as many kids as possible to make sure we're not overlooking anyone."
At Carroll High School, where competition for the varsity is nearly cutthroat, Maus Collins echoes the thought.
"Primarily, the jayvee is an opportunity for a lot of kids to play football," Collins said. "Of that crowd probably only 20 will make the varsity. We like to have a lot of participation."
Carroll is also illustrative of another aspect that distinguishes jayvee programs -- the link between the sophomore and the varsity. "He does his own thing," Collins said of junior varsity Coach Tim Breslin. "He uses the same numbers for backs and line. We want the kids to know that when we call a sweep or dive everyone is moving the same way."
At other schools the amount of interaction is greater, particularly in Northern Virginia where many schools' teams scrimmage together during the week and have as many as 10 or 12 sophomores dress for the varsity game on Friday night.
"The first hour of practice is all individual time," said Terry Brown, the jayvee coach at Oakton, who spends that time each day with both teams' quarterbacks and receivers. When Oakton scrimmages the varsity runs its offense and the jayvee will play the role of the scout defense. At the end of practice the teams break up and the jayvee runs through its offense.
But with the emphasis placed on the varsity and the jayvee appearing more as fodder than as a feeder, this format surely leaves jayvee coaches scratching their heads wondering about the premium the program places on winning at the jayvee level.
"The week before the T.C. Williams game the kids didn't get as much attention," said Robinson Coach Gregory Hamilton of his jayvee players. "Trying to put the emphasis on the varsity, you feel like you're slighting them."
But Hamilton concedes, "Our main concern is not so much wins and loses. It's the development of the kids so they can help us next year and in two years."
In some areas, whether or not a school will field a jayvee is the major variable. Because of the on-again, off-again nature of many of the Interhigh's programs, no organized league exists there.
"We don't have a league," said Bob Headen, the varsity coach at H.D. Woodson who is also coaching the jayvee this season. "Certain schools have teams and we just call each other up and arrange games."
Woodson has a jayvee for the first time in five seasons. A lack of coaches was the reason the school was unable to offer jayvee football in the past. Even now, Headen must leave school early to take the younger team to games, and he has to combine workouts and spread his skeleton staff of three among both teams in order to manage.
At Prince George's County's Friendly High School, where the jayvee has won more than 120 games in the last 14 years, varsity Coach James Crawford has combined ninth and 10th graders instead of offering a separate freshman team.
"I have 28 ninth graders and 22 10th graders on the jayvee. The ninth grade class is the largest class in the school. I want them to have an opportunity to play also."
Friendly does not have coaches assigned to the jayvee. The staff rotates through the program. "Every boy on the squad is coached by every coach on the squad," said Crawford. "We only break down in the last 45 minutes for team offense and defense."
Players realize that jayvee is a route to the more exaulted status of the varsity. "It's frustrating because I'd like to play on the varsity," said Pat McDermond, a 6-foot-3, 185 pound sophomore who plays both ways for St. John's. "I was disappointed that I didn't make the varsity, but I like being with a bunch of guys who are my friends. Winning and losing doesn't make much of a difference."