In 2010, Wes Virgil answered a call that would change one area of southeast D.C. forever.
His friend of more than 30 years, Al Johnson, asked him to assist with the quarterback of the 1 team at Douglass Recreation Center at that time. “Coach Wes” came up to help with one practice and the rest is history.
At the time, the Ward 8 Buccaneers Football program was a shell — one team on the field with barely 17 players and 4 coaches, operating in one of the smallest recreation facilities for the DC Department of Parks and Recreation. From October to December, the team practiced on a field with no lights, using car headlights and flashlights to have practice.
Coach Wes and his wife, Georgette Virgil, came in to revamp the program, not having a full understanding of the mountain in front of them.
In eight seasons, they have accomplished a lot, and lost a lot, too. In 2019, they have lost two former players to gun violence, but also able to see lots of former players graduate from high school, and some attend college. But this year, they were able to put five teams on the field — a huge accomplishment as they battle with other programs to recruit and retain players.
This program started with little respect in their neighborhood, with DPR and other powerhouse organizations like the Woodland Tigers, Watkins Hornets and Beacon House. But through the dedication of four people — Athletic Director Wes Virgil, coaches Algernon Johnson and Mei Ahmadu and General Manager Georgette Virgil — the Ward 8 Buccaneers have commanded respect both on and off the field. It wasn’t easy getting to this day for the Ward 8 Buccaneers, as this organization still plays on a field with no lights and struggles to have dedicated volunteer coaches each year.
Coaches Wes, Al and Mei conduct home visits when players are absent and school visits when players aren’t abiding by the expectations the coaches have set forth. For the coaches, it’s not just about the fundamentals of football, but about growing young men into respectable citizens of the world. For this year’s homecoming, GM Georgette Virgil decided to highlight the role of the fathers for these young players, having all the fathers in attendance come and walk out of the tunnel with their sons — a special moment for both the fathers and the players.
These dedicated coaches don’t finish with their program when football season ends. They understand the need for consistent mentoring and support, so they take the players snow tubing every winter, beach trips during the season and even have played baseball with DPR just to keep these kids active. In 2017, their 12U team won the championship, the first time in their short history.
And 2019 continues to be an exciting season for the Virgils. Their son Wes Virgil II is finally able to play football with Ward 8, as the starting QB for 6U. In their third season with the Buccaneers, they became pregnant with their son, and he has been on the football field since he was in the womb, and everyone in the organization is excited to see him finally be able to play.
The Ward 8 Buccaneers have come a long way from the team who played in donated uniforms from a VA private school to an organization focused of teaching young men the fundamentals of football — and life.