Defensive back LaRon Batchelor's interception of an Episcopal pass and 80-yard return for a touchdown proved to be a key element in St. Albans' biggest football win this fall, a 14-0 decision over the previously unscored-upon Maroon.
As teammates mobbed Batchelor, one of the first to offer congratulations was Tony Robinson, who had blitzed up the middle and forced the quarterback to hurry his throw.
Robinson, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound fullback/linebacker who missed last season with a knee injury, has joined with Batchelor and their teammates to make the Bulldogs 5-0 and leaders of the Interstate Athletic Conference entering Saturday's game against St. Stephen's.
Robinson is averaging more than six yards a carry and 12 tackles a game over the past two games, but one year ago, after Robinson tore a knee ligament in the final preseason scrimmage, St. Albans Coach Dick Allanson wasn't sure he would be able to play again.
"The thing about a knee is that it's not a question of the knee being ready, it's whether or not psychologically you're afraid to get hurt."
With Robinson out, St. Albans finished the 1984 season 5-2-2. "It's really a shame because I thought last year was the best team I ever had," said Allanson, quickly adding, "if Tony could have played."
Robinson was determined to play football again. "It was really difficult watching from the sidelines. I knew it wouldn't be easy (coming back), but the doctor set up a rehabilitation program for me and I worked really hard."
Teammates admit that Robinson, who now uses a knee brace, isn't as quick as last year, and Robinson says that under the Bulldogs' Delaware wing-T (three-back) offense, "I'm not going to run the ball 32 times like in the past.
"We've got a lot more weapons this year," he said. "With two other backs alongside of me, the duties are bound to be more split up."
Complementing Robinson in the backfield are junior wingback Pete Wilensky (18 carries for 192 yards), sophomore halfback Batchelor (48 for 285) and quarterback Hamish Hume (12 of 26 for 265 yards passing and one touchdown). Albans has amassed 1,255 total yards as Hume has also run for 82 yards (four touchdowns).
"Running the wing-T is a lot easier than running the option offense," said Hume. "There aren't as many quick reads. With the option offense, every down is a quick read."
With four runners possessing good speed in the backfield, defensing the Bulldogs has become a major guessing game.
"Who are you going to key on?" asked Bullis Coach Walt King, whose team lost to the Bulldogs, 21-0. "If you look for Robinson, then Batchelor will burn you. If you key Batchelor, Hume could hurt you. We didn't have the talent to take away four threats."
Episcopal was the game St. Albans really wanted to win. Before the season, St. Albans, Episcopal and Georgetown Prep were expected to top the IAC. If the Bulldogs are to be thought of as a major power, they would have to beat Episcopal.
"We played with so much intensity, you wouldn't have believed that St. Albans could play like that," Allanson said. "I had to let the boys onto the field 20 minutes before we usually practice because they were exploding."
The concern now is how to avoid a letdown. "Our goal isn't to get that high again," Robinson said. "I don't think we could if we wanted to. What we have to do now is play precision football, execute and not make mistakes."
"We're doing a lot of misdirection blocking this year," said two-way tackle David Mohler, a 6-foot, 249-pound senior. "We get the defense going one way and we run the other way."
"We've got to be able to run off-tackle for our offense to work," said 5-11, 179-pound guard Charlie Martin.
Switching from the option offense to the wing-T caused the offensive line problems early on. In the first two games, the Bulldogs were called for 14 penalties.
"We were blocking inside the line of scrimmage," Martin said. "Then we switched to blocking outside and it has helped a lot."
"We've got real good chemistry on this team," said Mohler. "Everyone has been together since ninth grade, and that's important."
St. Albans will play Georgetown Prep Oct. 25 at home. A victory would virtually assure an IAC title.
"We've always been known as a good team that doesn't do as well as expected," said Hume. "In other words we always choke . . . This year we wanted to make a change. We certainly have enough talent to win the IAC. Offensively, we feel that we have as much talent as anyone in the city."