After H.D. Woodson forfeited 10 games and the Interhigh East Division championship, Eastern has assumed the role of titleholder and is preparing to take full advantage of its position.

Eastern Coach James Fields "feels good," he said, "but I really haven't adjusted to {receiving the championship} yet. I really haven't had a chance to relax and think about it because I've been trying to get the kids ready to play.

"We're happy. We worked hard all year. And after all that controversy, I'm happy it came out in our favor."

Eastern was awarded the Interhigh East title after H.D. Woodson was forced to forfeit all but one of its victories for using an ineligible player.

Thus, Eastern's loss to H.D. Woodson -- by 21-0 -- was reversed and the Ramblers gained the Interhigh title game with an 8-2 record.

And the Ramblers will not be preoccupied with any criticism of their method of entry into Thursday's 11 a.m. game against 20th-ranked Wilson at Howard University.

"I don't even entertain" that notion, said Fields. "If they want to say we backed in, then we backed in. We just want to get the opportunity to play. That's all we want to do.

"The kids really didn't think about it. That type thing we're not concerned about. We're just going with our everyday procedures just trying to get ready for a football game."

The Ramblers' first appearance in an Interhigh championship game since defeating Dunbar, 13-0, in 1978 is a year behind Fields's timetable.

"I thought last year was going to be our year but we didn't do it," said Fields, whose team finished 8-3 and second to Anacostia in the division. "I thought we had a pretty good team this year but I didn't know it was going to work out this way."

According to defensive back Richard Plater, the difference has been achieving chemistry and maintaining it for the entire season.

"I think it was more unity," said Plater. "Last year we had unity but it was falling apart toward the end of the season. But this year, it kind of stuck together. Everybody wanted it too bad to let it go like we did last year because we felt we should have had {the division title} last year. So it just brought out more desire."

In contrast to past Interhigh championships that featured pass-happy teams such as Cardozo and Anacostia, the Ramblers are a throwback to a ball-control offense complemented by a stingy, ornery defense.

"The defense has played very well," said Fields. "And the offense has gotten the ball in good positions where we could score."