If Gar-Field's second-year coach Chuck White looked a bit worried upon taking a first glance at his team's 1990 football schedule it was understandable. In game one the Indians faced defending Division 6 AAA state champion West Potomac, winners of 14 straight games and nationally ranked at the close of last year. Looming behind the Wolverines was Bishop McNamara of the always strong Metro Conference.

Though hardly the path a 2-8 team of a year ago would wish to take in trying to turn its fortunes around, White preferred to take the silver-lining approach. He said it as a chance to "find out what kind of football team we had."

He found he has a very good one.

For with two startling victories Gar-Field, the same team that only a few weeks ago was expected to languish near the Commonwealth District basement, is now ranked 12th in the Washington area. Add a victory over North Stafford to open its district schedule last Friday and the Indians have already surpassed their win total of a year ago.

Preseason prognosticators aren't the only ones taken aback by the Indians' quick start.

"I think surprised would be a good {way to describe our reaction}," said White, a 1973 graduate from rival Woodbridge. "We have a lot of people back from last year but I really didn't think that with the competition we're playing we would start out this strong."

The Indians defeated West Potomac 7-0 as speedster Latroy Askew's 62-yard run set up his own first-quarter touchdown and the Indian defense thwarted several West Potomac scoring opportunities, including a first and goal from the nine-yard line on the Wolverines first possession.

"There's no doubt in my mind, if we score that first time we win that ballgame. We could of had them on the ropes but they stopped us," said Wolverines head coach Danny Meier. "And the longer the game went on the more confidence they seemed to get."

The confidence extended into the next weekend as the Indians overwhelmed McNamara, 31-13, on the strength of a defense led by middle linebacker Tom Burrell, two long kick returns for touchdowns by Askew and an excellent performance by William Walker. Walker gained over 90 yards rushing and was outstanding at defensive end.

"He's been a real surprise," said White, who is beginning to enjoy surprises. "He's fit right in at defensive end and is one of our leading tacklers."

It was Askew again in the 30-12 victory over North Stafford. The senior running back rushed for 204 yards on only 12 carries and scored four touchdowns, including a 49-yard punt return.

"He's one of our track guys that came out for football," said White. "He really dedicated himself in the offseason and has turned out to be an excellent running back."

Askew wasn't the only player who displayed dedication. White credits an offseason weightlifting program, in which between 50 and 60 players worked out three times a week, as a key to the success. He also notes the return of many seniors as another positive factor. But Askew feels its not as much the presence of the seniors as it is their approach.

"The difference is the seniors last year played football," said the 5-foot-10, 175-pound running back. "This year the seniors believe they can win in football."

But the Indians are consciously working to keep perspective. They began last season with two victories only to lose their final eight games and White is cautiously approaching each game with memories of that collapse. However, West Potomac coach Meier is one person the Indians have convinced.

"I'd be surprised if they faded this year because of the caliber of teams they've played," said Meier. "They're a good, hard-hitting football team."

It doesn't get any easier for Gar-Field as they face another test Friday against Division 5 state runnerup and defending district champion Potomac. But for now White can join the school in enjoying his team's success while gladly giving out passing grades for his team's early-season performances.

"The school is really excited about what's going on because it's been a few years since they've had a winner." said White. "I'd have to say we're a pretty darn good football team. And we're looking for some good things."