It was billed as the unofficial city championship football game, matching the defending champion of the Washington area's top private school league--second-ranked DeMatha--against the defending D.C. public school champion, seventh-ranked Dunbar.

But after yesterday's 14-14 lightning-shortened tie, neither team felt much like a champion.

Dunbar Coach Craig Jefferies and DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor decided to call the game with 2 minutes 59 seconds remaining after a second lightning strike was seen at Dunbar Stadium. Earlier in the fourth quarter, with Dunbar leading 14-6, the game was halted for 35 minutes after a first strike was seen.

Both teams had lengthy winning streaks snapped. Defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion DeMatha (0-0-1) had won its previous 12 games; Dunbar (1-0-1) its previous 10 games. Also, the Stags' regular season winning streak ended at 22.

In basketball, the WCAC and the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association hold City Title games. In football, though, yesterday's game was the closest there will be to a championship game between the two leagues.

"It's a little disappointing because we feel like we outplayed them," said Jefferies, whose team led 14-3 at halftime. "But I wanted my kids to play well and improve on some things they did last week, and I felt they did that."

The Crimson Tide beat Carroll, 28-24, last Saturday.

DeMatha, which beat Dunbar, 43-14, last season, rallied yesterday on Pat Wolfe-King's second field goal of the game and a four-yard touchdown run up the middle by running back Anthony Riley with 4:26 left. After the touchdown, quarterback Brian Smith threw to tight end Jason Lallis for the game-tying two-point conversion. The drive had been kept alive by a personal-foul penalty on a Dunbar player for a late hit after Smith scrambled but came up short on a fourth-down play.

"It's upsetting," said Lallis, who was playing with a large cast protecting his broken left wrist. "We see that we can come back, but this is not the feeling we wanted. . . . We see a tie as still losing the game."

After DeMatha drew even at 14, Dunbar faced a third-and-15 from its own 27-yard line when thunder cracked overhead and a large lightning bolt was seen, prompting officials to stop the game. As the players headed to the school building, the coaches decided to call the game. They could have waited 20 minutes to see if the storm would pass--as they did earlier in the quarter--but this time there would be no wait.

Jefferies said part of the decision was based on the fact that since WCAC rules do not allow for overtime, the game would have ended in a tie had neither team scored in the final 2:59.