The team practices at 39th and R Streets NW. The team plays at 3rd and O Streets NW. The coach operates out of 16th and Q Streets NW. The players attend classes at 4200 Connecticut Ave. NW.

The wandering University of the District of Columbia football program happily has settled into a new home of sorts -- the victory column.

Despite all the handicaps and limits that go with small-college football, Coach Ted Vactor, a former Redskin cornerback now in his third year, has directed UDC to a 5-2 record in its first season of Division III play.

And now, with victories the past two weeks over Bowie State and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, a team in Howard University's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Vactor can sit back in his small office and contemplate a better future.

"These last two weeks have been a real big step for our program," says Vactor. "Someone looking at our program now might say, 'What the hell is going on down there?' We're making strides, and we'll get attention."

Vactor's squad defies all odds. He takes an assortment of District players, none of them on scholarship, some without experience playing organized football, and teaches the complex "George Allen system" he learned as a Redskin.

"Our system looks like George's system. We want to play defense in the other team's backfield. We look like the old Redskins," Vactor says. "I'll blitz the other team anywhere on the field. And people wonder why I blitz all of the time. Why shouldn't I with my kids?"

Vactor's "kids" are menancing -- linebackers Richard Britt and Willie Middleton, for example. "Britt could play on anybody's program in the country.Middleton is a Mack man. He'll take on anyone twice his size," Vactor said.

Britt and Middleton lead the "hellified defense," as Vactor calls it, in tackles. While they blitz, defensive backs Vincent Cox and Steve Pettus (four interceptions each), and Willis Wilson and Kelly Putnam do excellent work on man-to-man coverage.

Vactor has gathered a collection of walking memorabilia from the National Football League as assistants: former Redskin Harold McLinton as linebacker coach, former Redskin Frank Grant as wide receiver coach, former Redskin Dick Smith as offensive coordinator, former Bill and Charger Calvin Snowden as defensive line coach and former Redskin Willie Banks as offensive line coach.

"I felt this way: if you're going to have a coaching staff and teach a pro system, they're the best teachers possible," Vactor said.

McLinton and Grant serve as part-timers. In addition, Vactor relies on assistants William Chesley, Rick Jones and Eddie Martin for ties to Interhigh players. Vactor recently phoned around for a quarterback instructor and came up with ousted T. C. Williams High School Coach Herman Boone.

Vactor has had trouble choosing among three freshman quarterbacks, but appartently has decided on Michael Young, who scored three touchdowns against UMES. UDC gets solid running from Michael Currie and Samuel Bens behind an offensive line anchored by center Adrian Bullock.

Most importantly on offensive, Vactor possesses Charles Chisley, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound wide receiver nicknamed "Mr. Catch." Chisley already has 22 receptions for 439 yards and three scores and a 19.9-yard average.

As Vactor eyes an 8-2 season, he looks beyond this year to the possibility of making UDC into a team closer to Howard's level.

"This could have been years ago," says Vactor, talking of UDC's success.

"This school is a diamond in the rough. You're seeing the potential this year. We've got super athletes walking around campus who don't even know they're super athletes.

"This city is full of talent. The big schools take the cream of the crop. But the crop is so vast there's no way they'll clean this city out," Vactor continues. "Our intention is to build this football program solely on athletes from the District.

"We want a first-rate program. I hate to think how far we could go. I would think we're going to need some scholarship money to hold onto good players. We will need more funds, hopefully by next year."

UDC Athletic Director Orby Moss says he is willing to upgrade the program.

"I have an agreement with Vactor that we'll give him three years to show us what he can do with the program. We're willing to finance more and for limited scholarships if the student interest is there," Moss says. "To do that we've got to go Division II. We'll talk about it at the end of the season. Right now, I'm all in favor of Ted. They're all proving themselves."

Vactor's support extends unyieldingly to his players. Before the Frostburg State game, a 24-6 loss, an incident that neither Vactor nor his players will discuss in detail rocked the team. But according to Vactor, the players made the right decision and straightened out a potential disaster.

"That incident split the team and nearly destroyed the program," Vactor says. "It worked out fine. It almost cost us some good players, but the players did what they had to do."

The incident involved a disciplinary problem. One of the players involved is no longer in the program.

"We decided we had to change to keep from losing," says lineman Brandon Green.

"This program has turned around," sayd Bullock, who transferred from Howard two years ago. "We used to practice over in Southwest and didn't even get blocking sleds until the middle of the season. We're still the new kids on the block, but I'm glad I am a part of it."

With a little success, Vactor and his players already see higher goals. For instance, UDC beat UMES, which beat North Carolina A & T, which beat Howard. Can tiny UDC even seriously consider playing Howard?

"They're (MEAC teams) supposed to be better than us. But we beat Maryland-Eastern Shore," Bullock reasons. "We could play with Howard. We've proved that."

"Howard has some advantages," says Vactor. "But I still think we could play with them. We would like the game. It would draw temendous interest, and I think we can do fairly well," he added, sounding as if he knows UDC would do even better than he'll admit.

Howard Athletic Director Leo Miles says the rivalry is possible. "I have to look at it. We're both here in town. It could really develop. First we have to get our Division I-AA schedule squared away, then we'll start to consider it."

Until then, UDC will have to be content to play teams such as Livingston College in New Jersey, the Firebird opponent this weekend. But UDC, which practices at Western High and plays at Dunbar High, could be at a Division II bowl game soon.

While Vactor tries to push UDC to the top, he still is surrounded by a subdued atmosphere, absent at most big-time programs. Monday, for instance, Vactor took his squad to a local steak house as reward for its win over UMES.

"The players conned me into it," Vactor says.

"We begged him," says fullback Samuel Bens.

And what Big 10 coach would put up with sideline frolicking from his players?

"I've got one guy who comes up to me after the game and says, 'Coach, here's some film. You'll like it.' He's taking pictures of the players on the bench during the game," Vactor says, laughing. "He's a real character. I've kicked him off the team 20 times. He keeps coming back."