A Trip Down Memory Lane
I've been at The Post 13+ years, roughly the same time Nick Lynch was at Suitland. He certainly provided some good copy over that time. Looking back through my files, here's an unedited version of a story that ran in November 2004 after Lynch was suspended from coaching in a playoff game.
By Josh Barr Washington Post Staff Writer
Nick Lynch got up a few hours earlier than usual this past Saturday. So did Terrill Williams.
Lynch, the Suitland High football coach, was even more anxious than he normally is on gameday, knowing he had to sit out his team's playoff opener, the result of a one-game suspension for pulling his team off the field last season. "I couldn't sleep, thinking about what I was going to do" instead of going to the game, Lynch said.
Williams, the Suitland defensive coordinator, also was anxious because of what he had to do: Fill in as interim head coach for the day. At 4 a.m., the 35-year-old Williams - still in his pajamas -- was walking outside his Forestville apartment to see what the weather was like and make certain the previous day's rain had stopped. Then he went back inside and played video games before dozing off for another hour.
"I had to get rid of some stress and nerves," said Williams, who compared the feeling to his wedding day in terms of how nervous he was. "I didn't want to make any mistakes or be indecisive in any way" when the Rams played Oxon Hill in a Maryland 4A South Region semifinal that afternoon.
A few hours later, as the sun rose on a blustery day, the coach and his surrogate went about their pregame rituals. Lynch, even though he was not going to coach and still had no idea how he would spend a rare Saturday off during football season, was at a Glenarden barbershop by 8, where his cousin and assistant coach, Glenn Royal, gave him a quick cut. He was at the school by 8:45 to start getting out uniforms and make sure the scoreboard was working.
Unbeknownst to Lynch, he drove past Williams as he pulled into the school parking lot. Williams had not wanted to seem too eager but was ready so early that he tried to waste as much time as possible and still beat Lynch to school by 15 minutes. By 7 a.m., Williams had already shaved his head, trimmed his beard, ironed his red Suitland golf shirt and black gym shorts. He then stopped at Starbucks for a Vanilla latte and 7-11 for a pack of gum, drove around idly and eventually pulled into the school parking, where he laid back in his seat and waited.
"I didn't want Nick to think I was being too anxious," Williams said.
It was that kind of day. Lynch, who had to relinquish control of his team, wanted to do as much as possible to make sure things went right. Williams, who has coached for Lynch since 1996, wanted to do as much as possible to not let down his boss.
Williams, who normally is the team's defensive coordinator, had to worry about all phases of the team and was unable to do as much coaching as usual on the sideline. Lynch, meantime, wound up wandering around local malls and phoning his wife and Suitland boys' basketball coach Tyrone Massenburg for updates every few minutes.
Back in his car - a black Nissan Pathfinder with 138,000 miles and a radio that does not work -- Lynch thought about getting on the Beltway and driving into Virginia, but did not want to stray too far from school, so he settled into the parking lot of a McDonald's in Fort Washington. There, he was talking to his wife with Suitland leading 12-0 in the fourth quarter but punting from deep in its own end when Lynch heard the crowd roar.
While Lynch fretted about a big punt return that might make the game close, Williams could not believe what he was seeing. Throughout the week of practice, Suitland's coaches had talked to players about the possibility of the middle of the field being open on punts and to take advantage if they saw a good opportunity. But on fourth-and-13 from their own 15-yard line? Long snapper Tyrone Washington had snapped the ball to upback Mike Howard, who took off on what would be a game-clinching 85-yard touchdown run, sealing a 19-0 victory that culminated with Williams getting a bucket of water dumped on his head in celebration.
Having learned the game was over, this time it was Lynch who did not want to appear too nervous as he returned to school, getting there about 30 minutes after the final whistle. The first person he saw was Washington, who said the fake punt was not his idea. Howard also denied responsibility, as did punter Navorro Bowman, who noted, "I told them the head coach would kill us if he knew."
Lynch got a brief applause from everyone, then headed to his office to begin dubbing a copy of the game film and begin preparing for Saturday's regional final against C.H. Flowers. Watching the game unfold on a television screen was an unusual experience and Lynch found himself watching his players and coaches to see how everything went.
"It's one of those things that make you have a lump in your stomach," Lynch said. "I've never experienced anything like that and I'll never [again] experience anything like that. ... It wasn't a good feeling to say the least. Especially if things didn't work. I would have been kicking myself."
Williams said he would not have been kicking himself if things did not go well. He told his mother he would be through with coaching if the Rams lost. Winning, though, was a pretty good feeling.
"I had a ball," Williams said. "If it happens again, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. But I don't want it to happen again. Trust me."
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