In his senior year, Brady Straub quarterbacked a Northwood High School football team that scored just 13 points. Seven years later, he returned as the head coach and led the Indians to three state championship games and 10 winning seasons in 12 years.
Straub, who spent 19 years as student, coach and teacher at Northwood, may best exemplify the spirit of Northwood athletics, part of a 30-year history at the Silver Spring school that closed last week.
"People said I was crazy when I took the head job there," said Straub, who last year coached Kennedy to the state Class A football title. "In 19 years, they had only had two winning seasons."
Straub had experienced the same problems as a player. From late 1963 through 1965, the Indians were 0-20 with Straub playing much of the time at quarterback.
"It wasn't much fun. Each week it would look like it would be the first game we'd win . . . but we just never did," said Straub, who also starred in baseball and wrestling.
"I'd be upset until the next day or Monday. But I fret about it more as a coach than as a kid. I think now about what it takes to win. I had a simple answer then: score more points."
There were early problems with the athletic facility -- there was no football field, and the track was made of large cinders at the $2.5 million complex which opened with 1,230 students in September 1956.
"It was a nightmare," said Ed Rowse, who spent 23 years as a teacher and coach at Northwood and is now a guidance counselor at Seneca Valley. "But sometimes adversity pulls you together."
Most of the early athletic attention was directed toward the wrestling team, which won won championships in 1963 and 1965 and earned Coach Bob McNelis a place in wrestling's Hall of Fame.
"We weren't very slick in football, but we won the championship in wrestling almost every year. We dominated wrestling. Three hundred to 500 people would pack the gym for a meet," said McNelis, now an assistant principal at Kennedy.
"The most memorable years that I spent in coaching were at Northwood. It was an unprecedented cooperative effort. We had a totally dedicated faculty. We were putting hours and hours of extra (unpaid) time working with the kids. Everybody pitched in and nobody seemed to have a watch on."
There were 30 different colors of paint to decorate the school, but the halls were without the bells that penetrate the halls today. Instead, athletes were used as hall monitors, blowing whistles and directing traffic.
"Any time a faculty member needed something, they went to an athlete," said Rick Grimsley, a 1961 graduate who returned to coach for eight years. "You were something if you were on a team back then. You were put on a pedestal as something special. You went to the Hot Shoppes after the game, and the people cheered as you went in."
As a result, Northwood was abuzz with a great deal of school spirit and pride. Athletes broke out their lettermen jackets as soon as the temperatures went below 60 degrees and the coaches were addressed with a sense of respect that has since been lost.
"No one talked back to the coach," Grimsley said. "Either we respected them too much or we were scared to death."
Football Coach Bill Jones holds distinction in much the same way as the graduating seniors. After a professional football career, Jones became the first football coach at the Silver Spring school. Ironically, he also was the last, after being coaxed out of retirement for the 1985 season.
On a won-loss scale, Jones was unsuccessful in both terms at Northwood, but in the two decades in between, he built a winning program at Wheaton.
The 1985 football team -- like the Jones teams in the 1950s -- exemplified school spirit. But the modern team also showed the frustration of a squad with little depth. Northwood frequently led early and was still in most games at halftime, but the Indians finished with an 1-8 record.
"Of the 24 (players), only one had played on the first string the year before," Jones said. "But they were in every game. That's something they should get credit for."
The closing of Northwood is only the second time since the 1950's that Montgomery County has closed a high school -- Peary was shut down last spring.
As part of the 200-page manual on school closings, students already have met with team representatives from the schools they will attend next year at either Einstein, Blair or Kennedy. Principal Bob Mullis also has allowed athletes to purchase their game jerseys for a dollar apiece and invited alumni to return to get their own memorabilia.
Trophies will be distributed to coaches and to the latest individual winners. A number of other items -- pennants, Indian headdress, and plaques -- have been donated to the Wheaton library for exhibit.
"This is a good thing to remember the years by," said senior Erik Hodges, holding his newly-purchased football and basketball jerseys under his arm. "I knew I would get them. It's kind of sentimental. (Besides), we're special in two ways. We're the first freshman class, too."
The numbers were against Northwood athletes throughout this final year. The ninth grade was eliminated and enrollment dropped to 850 (out of a capacity of 1,800). About 150 of the students were in the ESOL program (English for Speakers of Other Languages) who rarely participated in extracurricular activities because of commuting problems. Yet, as expected, the students upheld the school tradition with pride.
"The kids were fired up this year," said Athletic Director Bob Thames. "Where team depth was important we had great difficulty. But, the kids played and they tried hard."
Some teams fared much better. Northwood won the area cross country championship, the coed volleyball team advanced to the Division III championship game, and the baseball team reached the state semifinals.
Among Northwood's most memorable trophies are an assortment of silver and gold treasure. Included in the display are "Athletic Excellence" awards presented by the Montgomery County Coaches Association for the 1975 and 1976 seasons. The Indians in those years garnered county championships in tennis, basketball, wrestling, football and cross country.
"We just loved the athletes and we were willing to contribute extra," said Rowse. "A bunch of us were really dedicated."
Although he hasn't been connected with the school since 1979, Rowse admitted he still slips and refers to Northwood as if he were still there. A few Northwood mementos around his home offer him more reminders.
Straub still has Northwood items in his home, including a football jersey with his name on the back that he special-ordered during the glory days of the 1970s.
This year marks the 20th-year anniversary of Straub's commencement. But already, there is a hint of sadness in his voice.
"Supposedly, it shouldn't matter to me because I'm an employe of the county," said Straub about the closing. "But I was thinking last year, 'If they close it (the school), I will never be able to come back here.' That takes away a part of my life. I guess it's as they say, 'You can't go home again.' "