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Monday, October 4, 2010

First middle school game day features new teams, large crowds

At middle schools across the city last Friday, dozens of students excitedly finished their classes and prepared for a special event – their first DC SCORES game day. With clear skies, it was time to finally take the field.

For many students, Friday was a return to the competitive playing field. Some eighth graders have been on a DC SCORES team for four or five years and know what to expect. But for several poet-athletes, Friday marked an exciting beginning, a first opportunity to play on an organized soccer team in a real game. With refs. With the score counting toward standings.

And in front of a large crowd.

MacFarland Middle School girls coach Asa Davis wasn’t surprised by what he saw from his team as they hosted Oyster-Adams. Because of graduations and transfers, Davis had a young and new group of girls who had only practiced for two weeks. So it wasn’t a shock that some of them were still learning the game and its rules. All that mattered on this day was that they played hard and had fun.

By all accounts, that was the case. Oyster-Adams won the game, but you couldn’t tell from the postgame reactions. Davis plans on showing his girls a video of a professional soccer game soon as a learning tool, and he’s excited about the progress his inexperienced team can make.

On the other side of the city, several parents and alumni stopped by Kelly Miller Middle School to cheer on Kelly Miller’s teams as they hosted Friendship Edison. It was a great afternoon for the girls team and first-year coach Molly McGoff. The last couple years, the number of participants on the team has been low.

That’s not the case this season. Kelly Miller’s girls team, in fact, was larger than its boys team and had plenty of substitutes available so that everyone could stay fresh. It should be an exciting season as the teams at the Eastside school improve their chemistry and grow together.

Speaking of new participants, Friday marked the first ever game day for Johnson Middle School. The Ward 8 school was hosted by Cesar Chavez-Parkside and played a pair of competitive games in its debut. Led by boys coach Nate Kellogg and girls coach Ledina Gianfrate, the teams were organized and played together. It should be fun to watch Johnson progress during the fall.

Meanwhile, in Columbia Heights it was a highly anticipated afternoon for Lincoln Middle School. For the first time, both the boys and girls games would feature exclusively Lincoln students. A year ago, there were enough boys to field two teams – a sixth and seventh grade team and an eighth grade squad – but there were only enough DC SCORES girls for one team.

This season, however, the number of girl participants at Lincoln has grown, allowing for the creation of another team. So in front of a large throng of alumni as well as future Lincoln students who attend Tubman Elementary School – a DC SCORES school – there were back-to-back Lincoln-Lincoln games.

Some of the poet-athletes who had never played before said that it was a nice relief playing their first game against classmates, a bit of a stress reliever. All four teams had their moments of glory, too, as they scored at least one goal.

It was just one game day, but Friday’s action provided a glimpse of what is shaping up to be an exciting fall season for the middle schools. Throughout the District, the crowds at the games were large, as alumni and parents showed up in droves to cheer on their teams and add to the energy level that the play on the field was creating.

The fans should come back throughout the season, too, because the games indicated that as all the new participants gel and learn how to work together, the quality of the play will only improve.

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