Julius (Reds) Holt, Cardozo High School three-year starting tackle, is furious that the school's marching band receives twice as much attention as the football team.
"We should have had much more support from everyone in the school," said Holt, an imposing figure at 6-foot-3,227 pounds. "I know all the fellows on the team have put out 100 percent and tried their best. I feel I've contributed as much as I could all three years. Of course, when the games are over, all players think they could have done better. Our last game here was not as much as a pep assembly."
Holt was preparing for his final high school game Friday. He was determined to play his finest game and end his less-than-glamorous career on a winning note. Cardozo was 3.7 in 1976 and '77.
"We got off to a bad start again this year (0-6). But we've won two straight and it would be great to win the last game," said Holt Friday. "The returning players would have sort of a streak or tradition to come back to." BEFORE THE GAME
The last practice doesn't go well and the coaches are unhappy. Holt, who agreed the practice was sloppy is chewed out by an assistant coach for failing to carry out blocking assignments. Much of the session is used up working on a defense to stop Dunbar, the Interhigh West Division leader.
Darkness sets a quickly and Coach John Nunn gives a sharp speech about dedication and team togetherness.
Holt, slowly taking off his equipment, takes a long look at the field and begins shaking hands with fellow seniors.
"I owe for three years and I plan to pay my debt against Dunbar," said Holt. "You know, this year really went fast. Any way we could get a couple of extra games or lengthen the season.?" GAME DAY
Holt arrives at school at 8:10 a.m. and has breakfast of two boiled eggs to cartons of milk and a cup of tea. Teammates Willie Hamm and Lamont Edwards sit with the cocaptain and discuss games strategy.
"We won our homecoming game last week (over McKinley, 13-6). No reason we can't call this a homecom-ing game, too," said Hamm, the team's leader in spirit. "This might be Dunbar's homecoming but we'll do the celebrating. They may have the juice (Freddie Wagoner) but we have a team of Juices."
"Yeah," added Holt. "We can ruin their season."
Holt and Edwards walk to the stadium before going to their first-period class. Holt and classmates trade jokes and football talk between English reports and history lessons.
After a big lunch, Holt goes to the locker room. He is one of the first players to dress and sits quietly, talking with senior cocaptains Benrett Herndon and Norman Rucker.
"This is the last one," said Herndon, voted Mr. Cardozo of '78.
The Clerks board the bus in silence and leave for McKinley's field. The game is there because the new Dunbar field has not been approved for use by the D.C. school system.
Holt and the other cocaptains lead the team through calistenics but their cadence is easily drowned out by the larger and more hyped-up Crimson Tide. THE GAME
Holt is first on the field as Cardozo wins the toss and chooses to receive. On the first play from scimmage, he makes a nice block and Herndon, the leading rusher, follows him for three yards. The next two plays net nothing and the Clerks punt.
Holt, who has gone both ways as long as he can remember, shows his speed, chasing down Dunbar's Wagnoner and tacking him for a five-yard loss. Despite Holt's seven first-half tackles, Dunbar moves ahead, 12-6. After Dunbar's go-ahead score, Holt blocks the attempted pass for the extra point.
Cardozo ties the game late in the second period but Holt, blocking on the kick attempt, is clipped and suffers a knee injury.
"I turned to block and this guy hit me under the knee," said Holt, tears swelling. "Give me some ice. It's not that bad."
"They can't hurt you," said Rucker. "We are going out together. Let's go after them."
Holt convinces the coaches he can play and does in the second half in pain. Even Holt's courage and fine performance are not enough as Dunbar wins, 28-12.
"I gave it my best shot," said Holt. "That's all you can do." AFTER THE GAME
Holt's keen swells slightly thus canceling his postgame plans.
"It bothers me a little but it's not that bad," said Holt. "I just didn't want to hurt it any worse because I plan to play in college."
Hold's final-game disappointment didn't last long. The following day was the first day for basketball tryouts and Holt planned to be there.
"You got to keep on punching," he said. "Football is over now. I'm not a ball basketball player. Besides, it'll keep me busy until football starts agains."