The cheerleaders were there, the scoreboard and public address system worked flawlessly, the light banks functioned without a single burnout and the uniforms and helmets were spotless. It was a Saturday afternoon football game, and a crowd of about 500 looked on.

No, it wasn't a high school game. The scene was Prince George's County Boys and Girls Sports Park in Mitchellville, where the Silver Hill Bears defeated Hyattsville to win the 110-pound championship game of the Prince George's County Boys and Girls Club.

As a result of the 7-0 victory last Saturday, the undefeated Silver Hill Bears will play Montgomery County's Peppermill Pirates Saturday in a playoff game at Good Counsel High School.

Although winning is stressed, supporters say the intent of the Boys and Girls Club competitions goes far beyond that. At a level where the oldest participants are 13 and 14, the underlying purpose is to give youngsters a chance to build social and leadership skills and have fun under adult supervision, an important alternative for youths who face many negative distractions.

"I'd rather see my kid out here on the football field than on the streets," said Riney Brown, whose son plays in the 125-pound league. "At least I know he's here."

It is a huge undertaking that relies on the efforts of parents, sponsors and volunteers.

"I can't emphasize enough that it's the volunteers that make everything work," said Joe Warren, executive director of the Prince George's County Boys and Girls Club and the club's only full-time employee.

According to Hugh Cottington, a sports specialist with the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, about 13,000 children participate in Boys and Girls Club activities in Prince George's County, aided by 3,000 volunteers who run the gamut from coaching to selling hot dogs.

Some parents think the league, and football in particular, are just what impressionable children need.

"Football is like Army basic training," said John Speight, whose son, Kiernan, plays for Silver Hill. "It teaches you a certain amount of discipline, and you can deal with {life} after that."

Hyattsville Coach Ron Crampton is a veteran of the county's Boys and Girls Club, and he returned to coach because of the effect it had on him.

"It definitely kept me out of trouble," he said. "If I didn't play Boys Club football, I don't know what I'd be doing."

Last Saturday, the Prince George's league held championship games for eight levels of competition, which are determined by weight and talent.

The 110-pound championship was the final game, and it began as night and the temperature fell.

Still, a good crowd stuck around to see Silver Hill's Antwyne Robinson carry the ball in for the game's only touchdown with four minutes and 20 seconds left in the first quarter.

There wasn't much in the way of offense, but the tackling was good and the emotions high.

"We hit this way all through the regular season," said Silver Hill coach Earnest Hanley, the operator of a tree trimming service.

Silver Hill's win caught Hyattsville's coach Crampton by surprise.

"In my opinion, I thought if anything, we had probably a stronger offense. But the breaks and the bounces went their way," he said.

Crampton's disappointment was mirrored by his players, many of whom threw their helmets in frustration after the game.

But sportsmanship is one of the club's goals and, in typical fashion, both teams lined up and shook hands afterward.

In addition, Hanley, 43, said, his team often holds team prayers during timeouts to "teach {the kids} right from wrong."

Like the coaches, the players and the cheerleaders, the fans are gung-ho about the games.

Consisting of parents, friends and club supporters, the crowds are enthusiastic and loud.

Cottington estimated that during the course of the day Saturday, almost 5,000 fans attended.

Such an event takes hundreds of people and thousands of hours to prepare.

The cheerleaders, the same age as the players, came from the club's cheerleading program. The lights were donated. The scoreboard was donated by a soft drink company. The referees, who work for a fee, came from the Suburban Football Officials Association. The public address announcer and the scoreboard operator were volunteers.

"You do it for the kids," said Silver Hill assistant coach Andy Interdonato. "That's the reward."