Raymond van den Bergh arrived here from The Netherlands in mid-August but, unlike most foreign visitors, was not as impressed with the Capitol, Washington Monument or the Smithsonian Institution as he was with the football fields.
"I had never seen a football or a game before coming here," said the 5-foot-10, 135-pound van den Bergh, who will spend his senior year at McKinley Tech as part of a student exchange program. "A friend of mine came to the United States last year and kicked for a school in a place called Norfolk and loved it. He told me when I got here to kick for a team. I know another exchange student is kicking for a team here (Jon Nicolaisen at Coolidge).
Van den Bergh and Nicolaisen are among 14 foreign students attending D.C. schools as part of the Youth for Understanding student-exchange program run by the State Department.
Van den Bergh, an A student, has dedicated his first few weeks here to learning the rules of high school football and kicking field goals.
"I didn't know how the goal posts looked, so I just practiced by myself in the park. I would set the ball down in the grass, kick it between two tall trees, walk and get it and start over again."
When school opened, van den Bergh told Coach Maurice Pope he was interested in kicking. After a few practice kicks using a tee, van den Bergh began making field goals from 20 to 30 yards consistently.
He tried only one field goal in McKinley's first three games, partly because the opportunities weren't there and, partly, because Pope was hiding his secret weapon.
"I knew he would help us and I wanted to save him for the important games in the Interhigh," Pope said. "Inside the 40, we'll get three points for sure."
Pope was right. In McKinley's West Division opener against tough Theodore Roosevelt last week, van den Bergh made four field goals to give the Trainers a 12-6 victory. The kicks were from 22, 32, 35 and 30 yards.
"It was easy because I had good concentration," van den Bergh said, "and a good holder, Steve Crumm, and a good snapper, Aaron Koonce. Plus, I had a good defense (blocking). Everything went perfect."
"The first kick he tried was blocked but he saw his mistake and corrected it," Pope said. "He adds a completely new dimension to our offense. How many teams in our league have field goal kickers?"
Van den Bergh's four-field-goal game was the best single-game effort by an area kicker this season. There have been only seven field goals kicked in the league in the past three years, this season included. In the area this season, Gar-Field's Mark Szklennik leads in the field-goal department with seven. Robinson's Russell Klaus, who has a 48-yarder, and Annandale's Mike Walker, each have four.
McKinley (1-0, 2-2) plays at Coolidge (0-0, 0-3) today at 3 p.m., marking the first meeting between van den Bergh and Nicolaisen. Coolidge, the defending league champion, has lost its first three games by a combined score of 75-12. Nicolaisen, with a 35-yard field goal and a conversion kick, has accounted for four of his team's 12 points.
Van den Bergh has become so infatuated with football he wants to play wide receiver, in addition to kicking.
"I just want to help any way I can," he said.
In other key games today, H.D. Woodson (1-0, 2-2) plays host to 20th-ranked Anacostia (1-0, 3-2) in a game that may decide the East Division championship, fifth-ranked Gar-Field (1-0, 5-0) entertains Stonewall Jackson (1-0, 3-2) in a Virginia AAA Commonwealth District game, McLean (1-1, 4-0-1) visits Herndon (1-1, 3-1-1) in a Great Falls District game, sixth-ranked W.T. Woodson (2-0-1, 4-0-1) plays host to Robinson (1-1, 3-2) in a Northern District game and fourth-ranked Friendly (4-0) plays at 11th-ranked High Point (4-0) in a Prince George's AA first-place fight.
Saturday, second-ranked De Matha (1-0, 4-0) plays at eighth-ranked McNamara (1-0, 4-0) in a Metro Conference game. Reprimand for Stewart
Willie Stewart, the head football coach at Anacostia who was accused of holding an illegal practice and of recruiting violations, has received an official reprimand from Dr. William Brown, the assistant superintendent of Region D, it was learned yesterday.
Stewart said the reprimand was "a fair judgment."
"When I sat down and thought about it, I exercised bad judgment," said Stewart. "I can't be held accountable for the (eight) transferring from Eastern because it was done legally. But the kids working out on their own was a mistake. They shouldn't have been out there."
Stewart coached Eastern to league titles in '78 and '79. A business teacher, he was transferred to Anacostia last year. He continued to coach at Eastern because of the late transfer but was named head coach of the Indians this year.
Eight Eastern players transferred during the past summer and league Athletic Director Otto Jordan claimed Stewart coerced the players into switching schools. In addition, Jordan saw the Anacostia team practicing in uniform three days before the legal starting date and attempted to have Stewart suspended for this season. Jordan has also declared Anacostia ineligible for any football titles.