Coaching at McKinley these days has been both a pain and a joy for McClinton Brown. The soft-spoken Brown, who has handled the track team for many years, always seems to be the man to pick up the pieces to keep the athletic program running.
Several years ago, when basketball coach Walter Kennedy was ill, Brown, also the athletic director, stepped in to coach the team to the playoffs. When the girls basketball team found itself without a coach last year, it turned to Brown, who led it to the playoffs.
So it was no big surprise when football Coach Earl Mayo was transferred during the teacher cutback in the D.C. public schools last year, that the job would be handled by, guess who, Brown.
But it is a big surprise that the Trainers, with only a handful of returning starters, would emerge as the Interhigh's only undefeated team while threatening to run away with their first football title in eight seasons.
McKinley, 3-0 in the West Division and 6-0 overall, can take a giant step toward winning that title today by defeating rugged Dunbar, 3-0 in the division and 4-1 overall, at McKinley at 3:15 p.m.
"This is the one we have to win. We've finally started to run on people after six games," said Brown. "Against Dunbar, we'll have to run some. And knowing Dunbar, they'll be ready for us."
McKinley has not needed to run much thus far. Split end Tracy Singleton has hauled in 34 passes for 701 yards and 11 touchdowns, despite seeing double and triple coverage much of the time.
"I've seen all kinds of coverage. But I just try to get open and look for the ball," said the 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior, who also high jumps and long jumps for the track team.
Brown's game plan the first half of the year had Singleton's name on every page.
"We wanted Tracy to touch the ball as much as possible. He out jumps the shorter defensive backs for the ball and runs by the rest," said Brown. Since he's tough to bring down, we let him run back kicks."
McKinley faced its toughest test last week, barely outlasting Spingarn, 19-18. Singleton scored twice on five- and 21-yard passes from scrambler Kenny Wright.
While Singleton runs his out and up patterns, taking a trio of defenders with him, flanker Gregory LaGone has become Wright's "under man" and come up with some big catches.
"Wright picks up his receivers pretty good. He has quick feet and gets away from the rush," said Brown.
The defensive front of Roderick Tymus, Tom Allen, Antoine Wade and Fred Jones will have its work cut out trying to contain Dunbar's Mr. Elusive, Freddie (Long Gone) Wagoner. The 5-9, '65-pound sprinter has rushed around opponents for more than 400 yards and scored six of the Crimson Tide's 11 touchdowns.
"No one has run on us yet. But I know we have to stop Wagoner," said Brown, "We've given up only about 50 yards a game on the ground."
McKinley is scoring just over 18 points per game while allowing eight. Dunbar lost its opener to Anacostia, 12-8, and has not looked back since. The Tide's defense, led by linemen William Jumper and Clarence Mozon, has allowed only three touchdowns in the last four games.
In other games, St. Albans (5-0) visits St. Stephen's (5-0), 16th-ranked Friendly (5-1) plays Eleanor Roosevelt (4-2) at Largo, Marshall (4-3) journeys to Langley (4-3) in a key Virginia Great Falls game and H. D. Woodson (4-2) meets Theodore Roosevelt (4-2) at Spingarn.