Walter Johnson, with four wins this fall, has already bettered the school's football record for each of the past six years. Coach Joe Mencarini, helped by some transfers from neighboring Woodward (closed in June) and some long hours of hard work, has turned the Wildcats program around.

But Mencarini's initial task next year will be trying to find someone to replace his best player, Tyrone Fitch. Some daring running by the senior has allowed the Wildcats to move from a bad team in Class B last year to a respectable team in Class AA this year.

Grouped in Montgomery County's Division II, Walter Johnson is on its way to winning more games than it has in years.

In addition to having a better won-lost record than last season's 3-7, Walter Johnson was in position to win the Division II title, but the Wildcats lost to Rockville, 14-13.

Walter Johnson (4-5 overall, 4-1 in Division II) can still win the division crown should Rockville (4-5, 3-1) lose to Wheaton Saturday.

Although the title doesn't carry with it any automatic playoff berths or prestigious awards, the players are excited merely to be in the running.

"WJ hasn't won many {football} titles and this one would be nice," Fitch said. "Our record is only so-so, but we've had a pretty good year. That championship means a lot right now. We'd be pretty disappointed if we didn't win it."

Walter Johnson closes out the season against Division I power Seneca Valley.

Fitch, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior, has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and has been a step away from breaking several others. He is averaging almost 30 yards per punt return and has caught six touchdown passes. He is the team's best pass defender.

His finest one-game effort came in his team's 33-20 win over Bethesda-Chevy Chase. Fitch caught touchdown passes of 67 and 55 yards and returned a kickoff for another score.

"I like returning kicks and playing split end because it allows me the chance to get in the open field and help the team," Fitch said. "I wanted to show some improvement from last year and I felt I've done that."

Fitch is also a very fine basketball player. The guard will be one of two returning starters from last year's Class B state championship team.

"I guess that will be more of a burden on me," Fitch said. "I hope to contribute just as much and play just as well. I think we will have a good team."

In the Maryland playoff setup, the four region winners in each Class (AA, A, B and C) get automatic berths. The next four teams with the most points, regardless of their region, earn wild-card berths.

Seneca Valley (9-0) has won Class AA Region I and Springbrook has a small point lead over Churchill in Class AA Region II. Springbrook and Churchill play this weekend.

Laurel, which dropped from Class AA to A this season, is in first place in Region II. Defending Class B state champion Lackey, which boasts the area's longest winning streak of 23 games, has a slim lead over Thomas Stone in Class A Region IV. The two teams play Friday at White Plains.

Damascus, which has not been a playoff-bound team of late, is 7-2 and a virtual lock to win Class B Region II.