The frustration of unfulfilled team expectations has been an unwelcome sidekick of all-Interhigh linebacker Maurice Williams for the past three seasons.
His sophomore season -- his first year as a starter for Cardozo -- the Clerks were the clear preseason pick to win the league. Mistakes, injuries and bad luck led to a 5-5 season.
Before last season, the Clerks were once again considered one of the Interhigh's top three teams. Williams, then a junior, was the centerpiece of an experienced defense, deftly replacing All-Met Chris Gibbs as the team's top linebacker. Gibbs had been the defensive star for two years at Cardozo, and Williams lived up to his billing as the heir apparent.
His junior season was a fulfilling one, but only individually. Once again, his team was out of contention for the Interhigh West title long before turkeys were being carved in November, finishing 4-6.
Frustration, once again.
"I can't stand not winning, because every year I always expect us to have a real good team, and then we end up being just average," said Williams.
Once again this fall, optimism and hope filled the air on Florida Avenue. The Clerks knew they had one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the league in junior Allen Johnson. The team was filled with upperclassmen at most key positions and familiar No. 99 was going to prowling the middle on defense.
It hasn't been enough.
Even with the 6-foot, 210-pound Williams having a solid season, the team is off to a 2-3 start overall, 0-1 in the division. One of the Clerks losses was 47-0 to No. 14 H.D. Woodson.
"I really don't think we're as bad as our record indicates" said Williams. "I still think we have time to turn it around and make a run for the playoffs."
The team-oriented Williams has put together some impressive numbers this season. His worst game was against Woodson, and even then he made nine tackles and batted down a pass.
In a 16-14 season-opening loss to Gonzaga, Williams registered 17 tackles, 14 of them unassisted, batted down two balls and recovered one fumble. The next game, a 27-24 loss to O'Connell, he had 17 tackles (12 unassisted), two batted balls and one fumble recovery.
"We played both of those teams really close and we should have won," said Williams. "I get upset because it always seems as though we're just about to do something to win, and then we come up short."
However, Cardozo's third game of the season found the Clerks a winner. The offense sputtered for most of the afternoon, but the defense was spectacular, shuting out Anacostia, 12-0. Once again, Williams led the way with 15 tackles, nine unassisted. For the first time in his senior year, Williams was able to smile when a game was over.
Despite his impressive play, one of the Interhigh's best linebackers hasn't received any college scholarship offers. Not one.
Last season, he recorded a team-record 103 tackles (more than 10 per game). He thought when the season ended, the phone might begin to ring with calls from recruiters.
This season, he is on the way to again breaking the team record for tackles as he has averaged about 14 per game.
The phone still isn't ringing.
"I'm not a real big guy to play middle linebacker," he said. "But if I don't get a scholarship offer, I will certainly walk on to whatever school I choose to attend."
Said assistant coach Michael Steward, "It's kind of hard to believe; I guess no one has heard of him. He's an excellent athlete and works hard. He can easily play at the Division I level of the NCAA. And I still think he'd be a great player in college, too, not just an average one."
Williams isn't letting the lack of offers bother him. For now, getting his team back to the .500 mark is what is really important to him.
"It's my last year, and I really, just once, would like to play for the championship. I'd love it even more if we had to play H.D. Woodson again," he said, grimacing as if in pain. "I sure hope we get a chance to play for the championship, just this once. Sometimes, it can really be frustrating."