Jim Hall knew exactly what he was facing when he took the head coaching job at Bishop Ireton. The school has had very few winning seasons in its 23 years of existence and it was logical for the pessimists to feel another 0-10 or 1-9 season was on the horizon.
"Well, I have to say the kids had no self-esteem or confidence," said Hall, who has been an assistant or head coach in both high school and college for the past 17 years. "That happens when you've been beaten forever. Actually, there was decent talent there, we just had to work and do a lot of repitition work. We won a couple of scrimmages and suddenly they saw they could play a little."
That early shot of confidence has carried over to a shocking 5-0 mark, the school's best record since it finished 6-3-1 in 1974. Ireton blanked Paul VI, 10-0, Saturday for its third shutout.
"We thought at first we would have to be real simple defensively but we've been pretty sophisticated and are using six different sets," Hall said. "The kids are smart and have picked them up."
Hall praises veterans like linebacker Mike Lalli, end John Tolg, linemen Jay Marino, Ezra Andrews and Bobby O'Brien and safety John Pattaglia for making the big defensive plays each week.
"Most of our experience was on defense and most of these kids are coming back next year," Hall said. "Each week, they have shown progress and are going to get better."
Offensively, Hall said the progress has been slower but the unit has shown some signs of improvement.
"We came from behind a couple of times but we know we can't dominate anyone," said Hall, whose son J.C. is the quarterback for second-ranked Courtland. "We have to fight, bite and claw for every point."
Lalli, who also plays tailback, and Derek Fitzgerald have combined to score all 10 Ireton's touchdowns.
Ireton is a member of the Metro Conference but will not compete for the football title until 1989. Ireton plays only three conference members, St. John's (Saturday), Good Counsel and O'Connell. The remainder of the schedule consists of Interstate Athletic Conference and smaller Virginia schools.
"We just thought we needed more time to become competitive," said Paul DeStefano, the school's athletic director and basketball coach. "We compete in the other sports but we knew we had to gradually build our football program. Thankfully, the league has allowed us to do that."
The Nike/Jabbo Kenner Association will sponsor a basketball clinic Oct. 17 at Mackin High School. Coaches who will lecture and give live demonstrations include Flint Hill's Stu Vetter, Crossland's Earl Hawkins, McKinley's Charles Perry, Mackin's Paul Fuqua, Lee's Charley Thompson and St. Maria Goretti's Cokey Robertson. Al Battista will talk about the new basketball rules. The clinic is open to men and women coaches on all levels. For further information, contact Eddie Saah at 654-4822.
Dunbar is seeking a boys basketball game on either Dec. 2, 3 or 4. If interested, contact Mike McLeese at the school.