Washington Federals quarterback Mike Hohensee will probably miss the remainder of the season because of severely strained ligaments in his left knee suffered in last week's game against the Denver Gold, team physician Tony Rankin said today.

Kim McQuilken will start in Hohensee's place against the Arizona Wranglers tonight (10 EDT, WMAL-AM). Hohensee's left knee is still in a cast and he did not make the trip. Earlier in the season, Hohensee missed five games with a fractured sternum and one game with a gastrointestinal ailment.

"There's no way of telling how soon Mike's knee will heal, but with just four games left on the schedule, I doubt if he'll get back in," said Rankin on the flight from Washington to Phoenix.

The report on Hohensee is yet another disappointment for the Federals. And at this point in the season, it is difficult to call a single game or moment decisive.

Difficult, but not impossible. Nine weeks ago the Federals were 1-4, hampered by injuries, but they had not yet made losing a habit. It was a Monday night game against Arizona at RFK Stadium and the team was playing well and a spectacular fireworks show accented a promising performance. But then, late in the fourth quarter, with the Federals leading, 21-15, the most embarrassing sequence of the year took place.

Washington had a fourth and goal inside the Wranglers three. The Federals ran left, right and center but failed to score. Arizona took over in the worst possible field position--their own two.

Arizona quarterback Alan Risher threw a long pass for Jackie Flowers, who seemed to be well covered by two Washington defenders along the right sideline.

The Washington defenders collided with one another, the ball came to Flowers and the play went for 98 yards, a touchdown and a 22-21 lead that remained final. The play is the longest from scrimmage in the U.S. Football League.

Federals Coach Ray Jauch took some guff for trying to get a touchdown instead of kicking a field goal, but at that point he had no reason to believe his team would fail to do something as elementary as carry the ball six feet forward.

He had no reason then to know that something more mysterious than suspect talent hovered in the air like a curse. Now Jauch knows better and, remarkably, manages to prepare his team each week in the face of the preceding weekend's loss.

The Federals have not won a game since they last played the Wranglers. With four games left in the season, the Federals are 1-13 and have lost their last 10 games.

The Wranglers (4-10) have not fared much better. Their losing streak, after last week's loss to the Los Angeles Express, stands at six.

If the Federals are to end their own losing streak and prolong Arizona's, they will have to play well in the absence of two key offensive players, quarterback Hohensee and wide receiver Mike Holmes.

McQuilken played well after Hohensee left the game, completing 22 of 28 passes, and will start tonight. Quarterback Joe Gilliam has also been activated.

With McQuilken at quarterback and running backs Craig James and Billy Taylor playing better together, the Federals will probably run and throw control-type passes.

Leading wide receiver Joey Walters will play, but he has been suffering from a number of minor injuries, as has the other starter, Mike Harris.

The Federals' inconsistent secondary will be tested. Risher, a former standout at Louisiana State, is a rookie and the league's fourth leading passer.

He will throw primarily to Flowers and Neil Balholm. Running backs Calvin Murray and Steve Howell run behind a middling offensive line.

Although Coach Doug Shiveley's Wranglers are by no means a good team they play better in Sun Devil Stadium. Large crowds by USFL standards remain supportive, despite the losing, despite the Arizona heat that is beginning to hit triple digits.