With six players and five coaches, the Catholic University football team took to a makeshift practice field for its first workout under Joe Pascale five years ago. It was 7:30 in the morning, the only time the field was available.

As the team began calisthentics, a priest rushed out of the nearby Theological College, frantically waving his arms, "Stop practicing. Stop practicing," he shouted. "You've waking up the nuns."

That day and for the next week, Pascale scoured the Brookland campus for football players. The fruit of his recruiting effort was a 21-man team, only seven of whom had any experience playing organized football. A year later, Georgetown would rub in a lopsided win by inserting the team manager to score the final touchdown.

Which is to say that Catholic U. has made giant strides in making its modest program the success that it is today. The Cardinals, once a national power that won the 1936 Orange Bowl game over Mississippi, celebrated its homecoming with a 37-2 victory over St. Vincent of Latrobe, Pa., yesterday.

The Cardinals did it with Sam Lofaro, their leading rusher, sitting out this game with a sprained ankle. His brother, Joe, took over with 120 yards and two touchdowns in 15 carries. The Cardinals now have enough quality athletes and depth to win 20 of their past 24 games. They are 5-1 this season.

"My first year we didn't have any subs," said Pascale, who coached Maryland's freshman team in the Roy Lester regime. "It was bad news if anybody got hurt. But we've built a strong foundation. To regress the other way would take a couple of years now."

For instance, defensive tackle Frank Kestler approache Pascale two days before the recent game against Virginia Commonwealth University.

"Coach," he said, "I have to take my dental boards Saturday. Coach, what do you want me to do?"

Pascale told Kestler there was no question what he should do: Take the dental boards, because that's the only way to get into dental school, and that's the reason the 6-foot, 195-pound senior came to CU.

Well, coach was asked yesterday, how much were you burned at that position in the game?

"None," Pascale recalled about the 49-7 victory.

A freshman, 215-pound Jim Hollister from Good Counsel High, waz a more-than-adequate replacement. Hollister was Good Counsel's most valuable player last season. But he was too small for a higher level of college competition.

And that is the essence of CU football, which was elevated from a club team to NCAA Division III this season, Pascale said. For these student-athletes, football is truly an extracurricular activity. There are no student cries about jocks devaluing CU's academic reputation. In fact, the student government finances the $18,000 football budget.

Not that Pascale, who teaches elementary school in Fairfax County as his full-time job, doesn't recruit, because he says he does as much as any other Division III school. NCAA rules prohibit athletic scholarships at this level.

In fact, Pascale figures he exceeds his meager recruiting budget so much that it eats up just about all of his equally meager salary. Pascale said, is a good image and coaching contacts. There are many high-school football stars who are not big enough to be recruited by Division I and II schools.