Poets try to dodge distractions Pompey supporters plan rally at game

September 17, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

When they play their home opener at "Sugar" Cain Field today, their opponent, Poly, will be the focus for the Dunbar football players. But some Dunbar supporters in the stands will have an added agenda -- to demonstrate their support for former football coach Pete Pompey.

"I'm just going to phase everything else out," said Dunbar coach Stanley Mitchell, who replaced Pompey just before the start of the season. "I just want to prepare my guys. To us, this is just another game."

But it is more than just No. 15 Dunbar (2-0) vs. No. 2 Poly (2-0). This will be Mitchell's first home game, putting him before some Dunbar fans who aren't pleased with the circumstances under which he got the job. Those fans are still upset that Pompey was placed on administrative leave last month after allegations that he misused athletic department funds. And those fans plan to express their loyalty to Pompey at the game.

"I wouldn't call it a protest; we just want to show our support foCoach Pompey," said Ray Short, president of the Poet Followers. "It has no bearing on what's going on on the field. This is nothing against Coach Mitchell."

David Lewis, a former Dunbar player who has organized a grouseeking the reinstatement of Pompey, agreed.

"I have no animosity toward the team or Coach Mitchell," Lewis said. "But there's a special quality on the team that will be sorely missed."

Pompey's case is still under investigation by the state's attorney's office. Dr. Walter Amprey, city superintendent of schools, said his office checked with the state's attorney's office yesterday, and that there are no new developments. "We'd like to get it resolved as soon as possible," Amprey said.

Meanwhile, Mitchell has won support from Dunbar players.

"I think he's a good coach," said Jamar Elliott, a senior defensive end and offensive guard. "He really pushes you to your limit. I had heard about him before the season, but I had never met him. He's doing well, and we're not really worrying about what will go on [in the crowd]."

Shamai Butler, a junior center who also played under Pompey, said he didn't know what to expect from the new coach at the start of the season.

"I thought it would be awkward; I thought it would be a different team," Butler said. "But things are basically the same. He's a good coach and he makes sure everyone works hard. He makes sure you're disciplined off the field, as well as on it."

That is what Dunbar principal Charlotte Brown wanted when looking for a coach last month.

"I think he's doing an excellent job," Brown said of Mitchell. "He has not only worked with the students as far as the football program, he has also emphasized academics."

While all appears to be going well, Mitchell said the outsiddistractions have not yet allowed him to settle into a comfort zone as coach.

"Not quite yet," Mitchell said. "I'm getting closer to being at that point, but with what's going on off the field, I'm not where I should be. It's a slow progress."

That progress could speed up if Dunbar beats Poly. The Engineers won the most recent meeting between the schools, 36-6, in 1988.

"Dunbar can start a new tradition and a new pride," Mitchell said. "We have to play this game for ourselves, and for all the former players who have attended this school.

"If we win this game it will be a big win for the team and the school," Mitchell added. "We're aware of the number of male students that Poly has to draw from, compared to us. But I told the kids that they can only put 11 guys on the field at a time."

Dunbar will have 11 players on the field, plus the 12th man in the stands. Yes, there will be fans expressing their loyalty to Pompey. But even the protesters will be there to cheer on the Dunbar players.

"They're 2-0, and we're happy about that," Short said. "We're going to be rooting for the football team most of all. The bottom line is they are all Poets."

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