After 27 years of coaching in the D.C. Public Schools, Bob Headen has been at the top and bottom. Intermixed with a very successful record in coaching -- nine years at Cardozo and the last 18 at H.D. Woodson -- are a few reprimands for using ineligible players, charges he still bristles at.

"I don't apologize for anything because I feel I didn't do anything wrong," he said. "I have never blantantly broken any league rules. As far as I'm concerned, it was an interpretation and they {school administrators} made the judgment I broke the rules. Everyone who knows Bob Headen knows my chief concern is and has always been my kids. I want the best for them."

No one can question his dedication to his players or his programs. He has coached football (165-55 record, including 8-0 this season), girls basketball (319-27 and won the first-ever city championship in March), baseball (48-8), softball (8-3) and golf (32-19) but the D.C. native prefers to talk about the more than 100 students he has helped get into college. When the players return home, he says he isn't interested in how many touchdowns or points they scored in college.

"I always ask them what is their grade-point average. That is what is most important to me," he said. "At one point in 1988, I had 33 former players alone playing at CIAA schools. Tailback Rodney Purifoy is the first Interhigh League player ever to play at the Naval Academy. I've had four kids make it to the NFL. But what pleases me most is when I get graduation invitations and when my students return to teach or coach in the system. I have three former players on my staff now."

Perhaps those are three reasons the Warriors are doing so well. Despite having a school-record low of 33 varsity players, sixth-ranked Woodson is closing in on another Interhigh East Division championship.

Woodson (8-0 overall and 2-0 in the division) will play at two-time defending league champion and arch rival Anacostia (3-5, 1-1) Saturday at 1 p.m. in a game Headen says will go a long way toward settling matters in the division.

"This game is very important," he said. "If we win, we have two left" versus Spingarn (1-6) and Phelps (1-5), in addition to a nonleague game against No. 9 Carroll. "We would be in good shape. Anacostia's record might not be that good but look at who they've played. A win would keep them in the race.

"There are no secrets between the teams. {Anacostia Coach} Willie {Stewart} and I have played so many games, we know one another pretty well.

Despite the small roster, Woodson is going through the season without an open date. "We haven't had a week off because we will play 12 games this year," Headen said. "I'm getting concerned about fatigue. Fortunately, we have a number of good athletes; no superior athletes, but a bunch of very good ones. In fact, many of our players are two- and three-letter kids.

"We might have the starting five of the basketball team on the football team now. {Running back-defensive back} Eric Parker, {two-way tackle} Robert Jackson, {linebacker} Anthony Bradsher, {linebacker-offensive tackle} Jose White, {guard-defensive end} Antoine James, {quarterback-linebacker} Antonio Watson and {quarterback-defensive back} Allen Johnson all are good players but they have to play a lot. For a while, James, who also snaps for punts, never came off the field."

Headen is reluctant to compare this team to his top-ranked 1982 squad that went 10-1, outscored opponents by 411-33 and registered eight shutouts, or to his 1984 team that went 9-0 but had to forfeit four games for an ineligible player.

"I thought this team would do pretty good but I'm a bit surprised at the defense," which has allowed 38 points and has three shutouts, he said. "I thought our offense might be better. Actually, most of our players turned out to be better defensive players. That's okay because defense is where many of them will play in college."