Bowie first-year football coach Gary Wrenn has been on the phone for hours. While his wife is out shopping, Wrenn is juggling the phone and his 18-month old son Brandon, who is running frantically around the kitchen. Wrenn is trying to locate some football equipment that has "mysteriously disappeared."

Miles away, John Ricca paces the office at St. John's High School. With the start of football season days away, Ricca is engulfed in paperwork as the Cadets' new football coach and athletic director.

Ricca and Wrenn, both rookie coaches, are two of the approximately 150 metropolitan area coaches who are working on last-minute details before Saturday, the first day most schools are allowed to officially begin practice.

The new coaches' recent career move is the latest step in what seems to be parallel lives. They grew up together in Wheaton; they played youth baseball and football together at St. Catherine's Laboure. Now, in their 30s, they have been given the chance to run high school football programs.

A graduate of Frostburg State, Wrenn, who previously taught at Buck Lodge Middle School, was assistant football coach to his brother Ray last year at Bowie.

Officials at the school decided in the offseason that they wanted a coach who also taught at the school. When it was worked out that Wrenn could teach special education at Bowie, he was also named head football coach. But those matters were made official only two weeks ago.

His first problems were basic. "One of the main things was trying to locate the kids we had on the team last year," said Wrenn.

It is one of the few times in the past week that he has been able to relax. Because he was hired at such a late date, Wrenn is doing things that "a lot of the coaches were able to do in March and April," such as checking on players' grades to ensure eligibility.

"Most of the coaches met with the players at the end of last year to tell them what sort of things such as running, lifting or working out they should be doing during the summer," said Wrenn. "We weren't able to do any of that."

Other preparations have included moving all the pads and sleds onto the field, lining the practice field, cleaning the weight rooms and assigning assistant coaches to their tasks.

"I never really wanted to be a head football coach -- I guess because it takes so much time away from the family," said Wrenn. "But my wife is very supportive about it, so I guess I'm ready."

"And I'm ready to be a football widow for the next four months," his wife Karen said.

Ricca also finds himself in the position of playing catch-up. The former director of athletics for the Catholic Youth Organization of Washington became on July 1 the new athletic director and football coach at St. John's, replacing legendary Joe Gallagher who, starting this winter, will be coaching only basketball.

Ricca, a 1969 Washington Post All-Met defensive end at Georgetown Prep, is the son of former Washington Redskin Jim Ricca.

John Ricca played his collegiate football at Duke and played in the World and Canadian football Leagues, and had brief stints with the NFL Chicago Bears and New York Jets.

Like Wrenn, Ricca found preparing fo the season "extremely nerve-racking."

"It was difficult to put scrimmages together because most teams were already settled, and it was tough to put a staff together at this late date. But I think things are finally beginning to fall into place."

As for Wrenn, Ricca said, "I think it's great that Gary is getting his chance now, but I can't really give him any advice. I mean, right now, I'm looking for advice."

As for the upcoming season? "I think we're ready. But . . ."