Last week was a difficult one for football coaches Jim Tillerson of Theodore Roosevelt and Willie Stewart of Anacostia, whose teams play for the Interhigh League championship today in RFK Stadium at 11 a.m.
Neither coach was sure his team would be in the championship game until last Friday.
Defending league champion Anacostia lost to H.D. Woodson, 14-0, in the game that apparently decided the East Division champion two weeks ago. But Stewart filed a protest charging Woodson with using an ineligible player. The protest was upheld and Anacostia was awarded first place.
"People were saying I was walking around with the protest in my pocket all the time in case we lost," Stewart said. "That's not true. I got a phone call from a coach who told me about the player. I did what I should have done.
"Sure, I feel sorry for the Woodson kids who worked since August to get to the stadium. They did what they were supposed to do and shouldn't have to suffer the consequences. Woodson was definitely the best team; they beat us fair and square."
That made Woodson's Bob Headen the hardest-hit coach, but Tillerson had no picnic.
After losing to Coolidge in the final game of the regular season, Tillerson was told he would meet the winner of the Wilson-McKinley game in a playoff for the West Division crown. Tillerson prepared to meet Wilson only to find out a day later Roosevelt had been awarded a forfeit win over Coolidge and was the outright West winner.
"Mentally, that's tough on the kids and on me," said Tillerson, in his 15th season as head coach at Roosevelt. "It's tough when you don't know when or who you're playing. But our kids worked hard to get to that game and hopefully this situation will blow over and it'll be a good game."
The cloud over the game doesn't diminish the time and effort both title game coaches have devoted to coaching.
"I've dedicated myself to trying to be honest and fair with my kids," Tillerson said. "I've been criticized (for my game strategy) at times but I prefer to run the ball and everyone knows it. In certain situations, I don't like to throw. I'm like Woody Hayes used to be -- too many bad things can happen when you throw the ball."
Tillerson's conservative attitude has figured in a 105-51-4 won-lost record and six division championships. He has a 3-3 mark in league championship play.
Stewart is almost the opposite. Trick plays, a wide-open attack and devil-may-care approach to the game have helped the gregarious Stewart to a 60 percent winning record and three division and three league championships in eight years.
"I love to throw the football," the Anacostia coach said. "We lost just about everyone from last year's team and our offense has been very inconsistent. We've been saved by big plays. Kevin Martin passing to Quinton Butler (six touchdowns) for the home run has been it. Our defense has played well; they've had to."
Thus, the finale should feature Roosevelt's ground game with Robert (Speedy) Thomas, who has rushed for 1,091 yards and 14 touchdowns, and Anacostia relying on the Martin-Butler passing combination.
They played major roles in a nonleague game won by Anacostia, 14-6.
"We scored twice in the first quarter in the first game, then crossed our legs and begged the defense to hold them," Stewart said.
"We don't plan to change anything from the first time," Tillerson said. "We gave up two big plays in the first game, then held them pretty good. Defenses change your thinking and I might have to throw a little more."