Episcopal's football team seemingly had little room for improvement after finishing 8-1 and winning the Interstate Athletic Conference championship last year. This season, however, the Maroon seems determined to squeeze even more out of a season.

Led by a defense that has seven returning starters, the Maroon posted shutouts in its first three games in outscoring Mercersburg (Pa.), Bullis and Sidwell Friends by a combined 96-0.

The Maroon lost to unbeaten IAC rival St. Albans Saturday, 14-0, but even in that game, Episcopal's defense gave up only one touchdown. The other score came on an 80-yard interception return by Ron Batchelor.

"We're excited," said Coach Joe Robinson, who is in his fourth season at the Alexandria school. "We have a senior football club and won the IAC last year. Our goal this year was to be a better football club and, so far, we've done it."

The Maroon defense is led by Murray Williams, a 5-foot-10, 235-pound senior nose guard.

"He is a dominant player in the league and one of the most outstanding players in the metropolitan area," said Robinson. "We have to move him around so people can't find him and stay away from him."

Defensive tackle Mark Miller, who, like Williams, sees double duty as an offensive tackle, has been immovable on the defense.

All four members of the Maroon secondary returned this year. Three are seniors, and 6-2, 178-pound junior Howard Holley was an all-IAC selection last year after intercepting 10 passes.

The offense has been led by quarterbacks Bret Strachan, a junior who Robinson said has major college potential as a passer, and Reggie Howell, who plays best out of the option and probably would have been a starter at T.C. Williams this year if he had stayed in public school.

The Metro Conference, the top private school league in the area, will stage a postseason all-star football game for seniors starting this year.

Players from the league's eight teams will participate, along with invited players from other area Catholic schools. Metro Conference Commissioner Dallas Shirley said Pallotti, Paul VI and Georgetown Prep are among the schools being considered for invitations.

This year's game is tentatively scheduled for Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 28, at 11 a.m. at Good Counsel.

The game will match players from the second-, third-, fifth- and seventh-place finishers this year against players from the first-, fourth-, and sixth-place teams, plus invited players.

Bishop O'Connell Coach Jim Hayes hopes halftime ceremonies at the Metro all-star game will include the presentation of jersey No. 24 to the mother of Carlos Lavarreda, who was killed in a one-car accident on Rte. 66 Sept. 24.

Lavarreda, a senior cocaptain, was a wide receiver, cornerback and special teams player for O'Connell.

The school will name its new weight room after Lavarreda, and Hayes said other measures will be taken to honor the popular student. Hayes said contributions can be sent to the school at 6600 Little Falls Rd., Arlington.

"We will give his all-star jersey to his mother," said Hayes, "because he surely would have been one of the all-stars."