Ballou 45, Anacostia 0
For the last four years the Anacostia football team was nomadic. During that stretch the team played the role of visitor while its home was promised to be remodeled.
But last night, under the glow of new stainless steel light poles, the Indians opened their $3.5 million digs amid the cheers of an estimated homecoming crowd of 500 against defending D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association East Division champion Ballou.
Senior running back Dave Washington gained 186 yards on nine carries and scored two touchdowns as Ballou (5-3, 2-0) spoiled the Indians' return home with a 45-0 victory.
The loss, however, couldn't diminish the celebratory mood and hope for reviving a once-dominant program.
"It felt great from the beginning," said Anacostia senior wide receiver David Sullivan, who had not played at home since arriving at the school. "It felt like when we play out of town in Ohio with all the fans here. It's [the facility] just the beginning of a new tradition."
Since its last home game on Sept. 29, 2000, Anacostia has played 35 road games with the promise of a new stadium. But each year, the funding never materialized and the Southeast Washington school's program continued to decline.
The Indians (0-8, 0-3) have not advanced to the playoffs since 1997; Anacostia played in seven DCIAA championships games in the 1990s, winning in 1995. But the school's outdated stadium was just one of many causes for the growing lack of interest in football among students.
Many of the community's young males were swept up by the gang-related drug wars that ravaged through the District in the 1990s. The city's open-enrollment policy exacerbated the problem as student-athletes transferred to play for other schools.
But city officials hope the new stadium can help attract students to the school not only to play football but compete for its other teams as well.
Aside from a Bermuda grass field and stainless steel stands, there also is a new rubberized track with a long jump and steeplechase pit.
"I think it [the facility] will help build school spirit," said Samantha Gross, a senior and student government president.
Rehabilitation of downtrodden facilities has been the centerpiece in the revival of athletic programs nationwide. In New York City, business leaders have raised $130 million over four years to renovate 44 fields at 60 high schools. As a result, attendance rates and grades among students who participate in athletics have improved significantly.
DCIAA officials will attempt to take advantage of the new stadium by showcasing the venue as host of the league's playoffs this year. Last night, students from four junior high schools were invited to attend the game for free.
"This facility is about the future," said senior defensive lineman Darryl Washington. "But I'm just glad I got a chance to play on this field."