Tradition and a quarterback who loves to throw will be Eastern High School's weapons today when the defending Interhigh champion faces Dunbar for the league title at 11 a.m. at RFK Stadium.
"We plan to fill that stadium with footballs," said Eastern Coach Willie Stewart, looking for his second title in the three years he has been head coach. "We've thrown all year and we don't plan to stop now. That's the quickest way to get down the field. If we could, we would throw with both hands."
The Ramblers (6-4) have always done well in the title games. They have won four of the five they have played in, including last year's surprising 13-0 win over heavily favored Theodore Roosevelt.
It took a little luck for the Ramblers to win the East Division title both in 1977 and this season.
A couple of balls bounced the right way in a 7-6 win over Anacostia during the regular season. A rainstorm kept H.D. Woodson from getting its running game in gear in a 7-0 Eastern triumph in a playoff last week.
Eastern players feel the short practice week won't hurt their performance today.
"The extra game didn't hurt us." said quarterback Darryl Lindsay, who has fired 10 TD passes, six to split end Mike Martin. "A long rest can make you lazy sometimes. The game against Woodson, although it was in the rain and we couldn't do much, helped us get our momentum for this one."
Eastern lost its first three games, all nonleague, then won its next five. The Ramblers could have won the East Division crown two weeks ago but were upset by Springarn, 21-20. Eastern, which beat Woodson, 38-0, just three weeks ago then had to face the once-beaten Warriors again.
West Division champion Dunbar has not fared well in its last two RPK appearances. In 1971, Eastern blanked the Tide, 19-0, and Woodson won, 14-0, in 1975.
Coach Luther Banner, whose teams have won three division titles in his 14 years at Dunbar, would like to win the league title because he is "contemplating retiring" this year.
"I'd like to win the last one," Banner said. "But we haven't scored in the stadium yet."
This may be the year the Crimson Tide lights up the stadium's bright lights. Game-breaker Freddie (Juice) Wagoner, who rushed for 1,002 yards and 12 touchdowns, can get Dunbar on the board in a hurry. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound All-Met tailback has caught 14 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns, to lead the team in receiving.
Dunbar rarely passes. Quarterbacks Philip Morgan and Jonathan Kirby have thrown only 119 times, completing 46.
"I can't see Eastern stopping our running attack," Banner said. "We have too many options."
Eastern has surrendered only 33 points in its last seven games and has been especially tough against the run. But the Ramblers have not had to defense anyone with the quickness and running ability of Wagoner.
Strategy? "We'll just pray," said Stewart. "Kidnap him or something."
"If we can't go to Juice, we'll go to someone else," said Dunbar lineman Carl Fogle. "We have other backs who can pound it out. We've got a good line and we're in excellent condition."
If the game is close, Eastern might have an edge in placekicker Kevin Minor. The All-Met linebacker was the league's leading kicker with two field goals and 16 extra point.
"Many of us played at the stadium last year, and that one year of experience should help us play a little better," said Eastern linebacker James Robinson. "We're not worried about Wagoner. We can stop him."