By MARK F. GRAY, Special to the AFRO
Without tenants RFK Stadium no longer rocks like it did when NFL, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer franchises called it home. However, for one afternoon in mid-September, the venue that played host to so many big games for more than 50 years, will wake up the echoes once again.
High school football takes center stage in the first Events DC Kickoff Classic on September 15 at the venerable ball park in Northeast. Six teams and three games in one day will showcase some of the best high school football talent in the area while celebrating the legacy of the game at the historic venue.
“Playing at RFK is a wonderful opportunity for the student-athletes, schools, and the city as well,” Dunbar High School Athletics Director Dr. Henry Frazier told the AFRO. “It brings back memories from the old days when the DC Championship game was played there.”
Dunbar moved their previously scheduled home game with the Maret School to RFK in order to open the day’s tripleheader. Frazier, who was consulted during the event’s planning, recognizes the value to his program having a chance participate in an event that is more important than wins or losses. As Dunbar looks to return to its glory days of championship success in the DCIAA, they are hoping this is the platform that launches them back into greater prominence locally after several lean years following the departure of legendary coach Craig Jeffries.
“This is a great idea to bring public, private, and charter schools together for a signature event,” said Frazier. “When we first talked there was supposed to be only [one] game played but when Wilson and H.D. Woodson showed interest I knew it had to chance to be something special for DCIAA teams.”
The three game schedule presents a high school football platform that will combine the legacy of interscholastic athletics with the tradition of RFK Stadium. While most of the players only know of its history and the glory years of the District’s pro football franchise playing for championships there, parents and coaches from older generations are being reunited through an event that resonates from the grass roots to the most avid sports in the community.
“It is something that is bringing people from all generations together,” said Friendship Collegiate Academy Head Coach and Athletics Director Mike Hunter. “When the schedule was released you should’ve seen the looks on the faces of the parents and coaches. Naturally, the kids are excited about playing in a building where the [NFL franchise] once played. However, the buzz surrounding the “RFK games” is something that people are all over the city are talking about.”
Archbishop Carroll will represent the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference against Woodrow Wilson in the second game. Historically, they are perennial contenders for championships in the DCIAA and WCAC and their alumni are traditionally avid supporters of their programs also.
Friendship Collegiate plays in the day’s finale against H.D. Woodson in what may be a preview of this year’s D.C. state championship game in December. Both teams are contenders for their respective league titles but this stage for Friendship Collegiate is priceless. The branding for their program is invaluable to a program that continues to enjoy unprecedented levels of success despite their lack of resources.
“These are three marquee games that feature teams with large fan bases who will show up,” Hunter adds. “While recruiting the DMV is on the map nationally, this is something that could spearhead national respect for the quality of D.C. high school football.”
Fans who purchase tickets will be allowed to watch all three games for the price of one.