Eastern High School, for the past two years, has won the Academy Award for the best performance by an actor hands down. The Ramblers, in losing seven of their eight nonleague games, played the role of the patsy and lulled their interhigh East Division foes to sleep both seasons.
Eastern then began to pick off its division competitors one by one and subseuqently captured two straight titles and interhigh crowns.
Once again Rambler Coach Willie Stewart is saying his team is "poor and will be lucky to beat anyone." But hardly anyone is listening this time around.
At the other end of town, Roosevelt Coach Jim Tillerson still is smarting from losing the Interhigh title to Eastern in 1977 and coming within a few points of playing for the crown last year, Dunbar beat Roosevelt, 16-14, and won the division.
In his first prepractice speech of the year, Tillerson told his huge group of players "the Roosevelt season will not end until Thanksgiving Day (Interhigh championship) at the (RFK) Stadium."
Unless Stewart finally is telling the truth and Tillerson gets hit by lightning a third time, look for Eastern to meet Roosevelt for the title again.
Roosevelt (8-2) should have no trouble scoring. Returning quarterback Dwight Singleton and running backs William Redman and Lawrence Adkins will find plenty of running room behind experienced tackle James Hillard and guards Keith Cathion and All-League Kevin Jennings.
The defense will be led by strongman tackle Wendelle Battle, who is 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, defensive end Derrick Battle, and linebacker Mike Bigelow.
Coolidge (4-5-1) could be the best team in the division. Sam Taylor, who coached the Colts to two division titles and one league championship in the early '70s, is back after a three year hiatus. The widly, soft spoken tactician welcomed two returning guards, Donnell Lewis (6-2, 220) and Steve Holloway (6-2, 240), running back Horace (Pele) Thompson and hardhitter linebacker Elvin Lawson. The combination could upset Roosevelt.
Mckinley (6-4), always the quickest starter, invariably gets run down in the stretch. The Trainers could last a bit longer this year, with last year's offensive line returning intact. Tackle Bruce Johnson, the Interhigh shop put champion, has built his frame to 6-2, 265. He, along with Steve Short, will anchor the defense.
Dunbar (8-2) may have a problem defending its division title. Freddie (The Juice) Wagoner is gone and Coach Luther Banner will not replace the 1,000-yard rusher easily. All-League tallback Wayne Jeffries, the leading pass receiver the last two years and quarterback Phillip Morgan will do the bulk of the work on offense. Defensively, Bill Jefferson, a 6-3, 275-pound wall, and Darryl Payton probably convinced Banner to reconsider retiring.
Wilson (3-5-2) has built an all-defense, no-offense reputation the last few campaigns. The Tigers don't return enough players offensively to warrant a change of opinion. David Mcgraw and Sampson Jordan will go both ways on the line.
Quickness has always been Cardozo's strength. The Clerks (2-7), who have no size up front, will have to be even faster afoot to better last year's performance. Al Smith will have good receivers to aim at in Chris Flegler and Robert Green. Joe Davis and Quinton Coleman, linebacker Calvin Johnson and Mike Wright are solid on defense.
Bell (0-7) scored only one touchdown last year while surrendering 190 points. Coach Ed Torrance is hardly optimistic this season either, what with many of his potential players being recently transferred to another vocational school. "I have no idea who will play," said Torrance.
Defense carried Eastern (7-4) all the way last year. Returning All-League nose guard Reggie Montgomery, defensive end Sean Majors and linebackers John Chesley and Winfrow Green will be expected to dominate again. Desman Becton and Chris Porter will share the ball-handling duties. If Stewart finds someone to block up front, Eastern will saunter to a third straight division crown.
Stewart mentions H. D. Woodson (6-2-2) as the team to beat in the division. Warrior Coach Bob Headen feels that way, too, despite no returning starters on defense.
Woodson has plenty of speed and an explosive offense. Track stars Darwin Cook and Dwayne Pugh, both 9.8 dash men, will run plenty of fly patterns while mighty mite Greg Williams, a 5-4, 122-pound 4.4 man will be the kickoff and punt return ace.
Anacostia (6-4) always has lived and died by the play of its linebackers. Fortunately, the foursome of Larry Graham, Wayne Green, Milo Briscoe and Tony Howie is intact. Quarterback Joe Berger, a fleet-footed running type, is the key to the offense.
Spingarn (3-4-2) believes it's what's up front that counts. And up front is where the Green Waye is strong. Returning starters Maseo Henderson and Bruce Ruth at guard and tackles Keith Young and Kelvin Campbell will open the holes. Second-year Coach Ken Howell has to find someone to carry the ball.
Ballou (4-6) has plenty of running backs. Kevin Jenkins, Mike Thompson and Timothy Wood will share the burden and it will be a burden if the Knights don't find any beef up front. Joe Lewis, an aggressive linebacker, will lead the team in first hits.
Phelps (1-8) should be much improved this season. Quarterback Danta Martin and fullback Eddie Mcduffie will be counted on to double the Panthers' grand total of 19 points last year. Coach Steve Powell has gone to a wishbone offense and it could help.
Chamberlain (1-9) claimed its long 1978 triumph over Phelps. Unless the Volts dig up an offense (they scored only 14 points last year), they can forget even a win over Phelps this time around.