It was lunch period at T.C. Williams High School and dozens of students mingled in the halls discussing everything from the upcoming Prince concerts to grades they expected for this first advisory.
Several male students leaned against the wall outside the cafeteria, discussing their chances of making the varsity basketball team.
Amid all the conversation and noise in the halls, there surprisingly was very little talk about the Titans' football team, ranked first in the area and in the top 10 in the nation in several publications.
The Titans (6-0), in the final year of what Coach Glen Furman calls his three-year plan, indeed are worthy of talking about. Although the Alexandria school has fattened its statistics against schools with a combined won-lost mark of 14-22-1, T.C. Williams has done what good teams do to mediocre and poor teams: beaten them badly.
"I said at the beginning of the season we'd be a very good team," Furman said. "We were 8-2-2 my first year and 9-2 the second year and just missed winning the (Northern) region both times. With 16 of those kids back, I knew we'd have a good team. Actually, this team has far exceeded what I thought they could do."
The Titans have outscored opponents, 202-14, and have five straight shutouts after beating Annandale, 35-14, in the season opener. The next opponent is West Springfield, Saturday at 1:30.
"We have a combination of experience, great talent, speed and a lot of confidence in our ability," said Furman, who was 59-1 as a junior varsity coach at Hammond, a feeder school for T.C. Williams.
"The people in Alexandria are used to having a winner and I knew I had to prove myself," he said. "Right now, we're getting wonderful community support. The way we're playing right now, we'd be very disappointed if we didn't get to the state playoffs."
Furman has many reasons to be optimistic. His players are not unusually big, but they are aggressive and very quick -- 12 players run 40 yards in 4.8 seconds or less. The talent begins with a three-year starter at quarterback, Glenn Williams; two superb running backs, Rodney McNeil and Bren Lowery; an all-Met split end, Shawn McNeil; a very good safety, Larry Bryant, and two fine linemen, Mike Porterfield and Carlton Hallums, in addition to a handful of experienced athletes at other positions. Weaknesses? Very few, if any.
"I wouldn't want to play us. I don't think we have any major weaknesses and preparing to play a team that's strong everywhere is very, very tough," said Porterfield, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound senior center. "When I sit back and see what we've accomplished so far, it's mind-boggling. I have to believe some teams don't want to play us. We know the hardest part of our schedule is coming up but we're capable of playing better than we've shown. As the competition gets tougher, so will we."
Fort Hunt Coach Frank Creneti, who saw his talented team taken apart by T.C. Williams, 42-0, said the Titans are as good as any of the great teams put together in Northern Virginia.
"They have the great balance -- two good backs who can break a play at any time and their quarterback runs the option as well as anyone," Creneti said. "They have an excellent defense and you can't make any mistakes against them. They murdered us."
Williams, a three-sport senior who has a 3.2 grade point average, is the key to the Titans' pitch-and-run offense that averages just more than 400 yards per game. He has thrown eight scoring passes, six to Shawn McNeil, and run for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
"We've worked to reach this level for three years now and we want to dominate our opponents each game," said Williams, who is 5-10, 165 pounds. "We don't want to be in close games. We don't want there to be any doubt that we should have won the game when the gun sounds."
Lowery (6-0, 187) has rushed for 754 yards on 71 carries and scored eight touchdowns. Rodney McNeil (5-10, 165) has gained 763 yards on 75 carries with seven touchdowns. Eight of their 15 scores have been on runs 25 yards or longer.
Shawn McNeil (6-0, 185) is an acrobatic receiver with 4.5 speed who has caught seven touchdown passes (three others were called back because of penalties). In a pinch, Furman inserts him at free safety and, between McNeil and Bryant (6-0, 170), only a roadrunner could beat them to the end zone.
Williams also has a fine kicker, Pete Blumberg, who has made 25 straight conversion kicks and is 26 of 27 for the season. He has only two field goals, largely because the Titans have managed 28 touchdowns.
Furman is so proud of the offense he has to remember to praise his defense.
Bryant, all-region defensive end Kevin Boston (6-1, 190) and tackle Hallums (6-4, 248) have helped limit opponents to fewer than 100 yards a game, and have not allowed a point in 20 quarters.
"The defense has to work extra hard to keep up with the offense," Boston said. "We're much better than we were a year ago (when the Titans allowed 121 points), even though we aren't as large across the front. We changed a few things and have been successful thus far."
Furman knows his biggest tests are still to come. After this week's game against the struggling Spartans (2-4), the Titans must beat Robinson (6-0), W.T. Woodson (5-1) and Lake Braddock (5-1) on consecutive weeks to win the tough Northern District and get into the playoffs.
"We have that good chemistry going for us and each of us knows what we're facing," Furman said. "I've always considered myself a good motivator and everyone on this team is an important part. What's important is that the kids come to practice Monday and it's fun for them.
"If we stay healthy and continue to be as consistent as we've been, that unbeaten season and state championship is definitely a reality for us."