Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 2 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
The 1970 decade got off to a great start for me, I thought I was going to be back to high school football. I was offered a ride to the Pennsbury at Coatesville opener by an older fellow banker who was a great Falcon follower. A beautiful warm late summer Saturday provided what seemed like a long ride from Fairless Hills. The field at Coatesville was not the beautiful stadium of today, but a nice rural-feeling field not far off local Route 30. There were stands, but we stood at the sidelines which was available without fencing. The game was solidly Pennsbury this season, 39-0 as the Red Raiders would have a poor 2-9 season in 1970. I believe this was known as Scott Field, and future all-stater (1972) Able Joe was a sophomore for the Red Raiders and already very good.
In the end I saw four Falcon games and one Morrisville game that season, a total of five. I missed a good Neshaminy club that went 9-1-1 with the loss 6-22 to Liberty and the tie 7-7 with Pennsbury who finished 7-3-1. At least 5 games in one season were better than the 6 games seen all of 1966-1969. Woodrow Wilson also posted a 9-1-1 slate in 1970 and was joining the big time in scheduling and beating Coatesville (48-0), Wyoming Valley West (28-14), Johnstown (43-14), and J F K, NJ (33-22). The Wilson Golden Rams sole loss was to Neshaminy 6-17, and they tied with Bishop Egan 14-14.
I notice that I began marking games “heard” in large numbers in 1970 in my written records. I am sure I listened to games before that on WBUD or WBCB radio, but now that I was not able to attend games I was logging that I had at least listened to them. At least it was involvement, and being to most of the stadiums before, I could get a good mental picture as the games unfolded over the radio. I heard 6 Wilson games, 5 Neshaminy, 6 Pennsbury, and a smattering of other teams as well. Television provided the Bishop Egan-Phila Central City Championship game, won by Central 13-7 which I watched.
Missing arguably the best Neshaminy team pre-state championship era was a big lament of 1971. I wrote an article on this team for a 2015 March edition of Throwback Thursday for easternPAfootball. The Skins went 11-0 winning most games by at least three touchdowns, except the annual Pennsbury match which they did win 21-17; coming from behind. This team put three first-team all state selections (UPI) in end Dale Forchetti, center Chuck Lodge, and QB Pete Cordelli (“Jr” – generation not class). All three also made the AP all-state on three different echelons.
I saw only three games, two Morrisville (9-2 season) and one Pennsbury (9-2 season). But I heard a lot of games on radio. The Section II small school division of the LBCL had gone through numerous changes with teams entering since the early sixties.
But I was obviously by now taken by the big school programs with the big bands, crowds, hype, etc, and was moving away from the small schools. This would continue and grow, but I was glad to see my Bulldogs have a fine 9-2 turn in 1971.
William Tennent made a major change for the 1971 season. They had been locked into a 4-team league with Neshaminy, Pennsbury, and Wilson for most of the time, and recently Council Rock and Bensalem were added; then Council Rock went independent for a short period, leaving a 5-team league. Long and short of it, Tennent was up against it every year, never winning the title, and highest finish was a tie for second with Wilson at 1-1-1 league for 1967. Most of the time Tennent was at the bottom, holding up the rest of the league.
Although I do not believe that the administration at Tennent made a decision based solely on football, Tennent was the first team to leave the old Lower Bucks County League for another league (Council Rock left and went independent for 1968-1970, but came back in 1971); and Tennent moved to the Suburban One League for 1971. Sub One in 1971 was a 10-team league of Abington, Cheltenham, Methacton, Norristown, Plymouth-Whitemarsh, Springfield (Montco), Upper Dublin, Upper Merion, Upper Moreland, and William Tennent.
Tennent maintained its long relationship (rivalry of sorts) with Council Rock for the last game of the season. For the 1971 season Tennent was 0-10, last in the league, and lost to Rock 8-30; go figure. But Tennent would have their day in football down the road, and as I said; I do not think the move was only for football reasons.
In the fall of 1971 we moved out of Bucks County to New Egypt, NJ to accommodate my first wife’s love of horses. We bought an 8-acre farm with stable facilities and began to own and stable horses for others. Now more than ever did I depend on radio for my football interest.
In 1972 I did see one game of one of the best teams to ever come out of the Pennsbury Falcon nest. It was the second game at home with Bethlehem Freedom, a 14-10 Falcon victory. In addition I listened to every other Falcon game on radio except Easton for some reason. This team under Chuck Kane in his third season was the first-ever undefeated Falcon team. Dale Delise was UPI all-state at running back and Ron Dundala was AP all-state at Linebacker. Players from this team ended up playing in colleges – Memphis State, Pitt, Dayton, Vanderbilt, Penn, Franklin & Marshall, Georgia, Lafayette, Indiana U of P, Duke, Dickinson, and Princeton.
But I only saw 2 games in 1972; and 3 in 1973 as distance, along with of all things – a national gasoline shortage – was now another factor in keeping me out of the sport. The 1973 games were all three at Morrisville (8-2 season), as I still worked there and probably tied it with staying in town before going home to New Egypt. I did hear most of the Pennsbury games who posted another fine 9-1-1 season, with one of their best defensive teams ever. These Falcons shut out 8 of their 11 opponents. The three teams that scored on them were Wilson (21), Allen (13), and Bensalem (6). Wilson was the one loss 20-21; the tie was 0-0 with Liberty. They posted a defensive average of 3.64 for the season.
The years of 1974 and 1975 were the only two years to that time in my hobby that I saw ONLY a single game in each year. Unfortunately, there would be two more such years later in my hobby.
Both years it was Morrisville, whose teams were playing decent ball again and the games were intriguing for one reason or another. One was a Thanksgiving game postponed to the Saturday after (1975). With a better record coming in the Bulldogs lost to Bristol 0-9.
I missed another great Falcon team in 1974, 11-0-0 again. I did listen to all 11 games on the radio, not quite the same as being there. This team sent Frank Prior, center, and Randy Wagner, defensive tackle, to all-state (AP).
And in 1975 I missed the turnaround for the William Tennent Panthers and their move to the Suburban One League when they went 8-0-2 and won the league title (8-0-1). They tied Springfield 7-7, but Springfield also tied another league team and ended 7-0-2. Tennent’s other tie was non-league with Council Rock 6-6.
By the 1976 high school football season I was a single man again, living temporarily in Morrisville, and among all the other proceedings going on, I set my sights to have a mighty football season. And I did just that, catching 22 games in person, an all-time record to that date.
But I had for all intents and purposes missed the entire life of the Eastern Big 8 League, which dissolved after the 1975 season. I covered its history as far as the two local teams involved in part 1 for 1966-1969. In 1970 Neshaminy was 2nd (4-1-1) and Pennsbury 4th (3-2-1); Liberty won the title at 5-1. Of course the Neshaminy “team of the century” at 11-0 won it all in 1971. Pennsbury’s first undefeated 1972 season capped it for that year. Pennsbury won it again in 1973 at 6-0-1 league. And another undefeated Falcon squad in 1974 won it again. The last Big 8 title went to Bethlehem Liberty in 1975.
The Neshaminy School District split into two high schools for 1976 with the old school being now dubbed Neshaminy Langhorne and the new school was Neshaminy Maple Point. This split lasted until 1983 and as might be expected, neither school had very good seasons until it was all one again. But it was a new school to follow and it played at the Neshaminy stadium. Likely Saturday nights as I did not yet record dates and days in my records, only home or away.
Opportunities to see games were numerous as all fields did not have lights and Saturday afternoon games were common at Pennsbury, Council Rock, Tennent, and for a period Morrisville. Teams sharing fields had to vary days when both teams were home and this made Saturday nights also possible. Delhaas-Wilson-Egan all used the same field. The two Neshaminys’ used the same field, and Central Bucks East and West used the same field, although I barely knew they existed in 1976; seeing CB East in 1976 for the first time I ever saw any Central Bucks school.
I saw 11 teams I had never seen before in 1976 tying 1965 for the most “new” teams in one season to date. These were St. Pius X (Pottstown), Harriton, Ewing (NJ), Harrisburg, Neshaminy Maple Point, Archbishop Ryan, Central Bucks East, St. Joes Prep, Monsignor Bonner, Cardinal Dougherty, and North Catholic.
I got to Council Rock’s new stadium (opened in 1969) for the first time in 1976, still with wooden bleachers for the last year. I saw an 8-1-1 team and four 8-2 teams in 1976, and these were the best records of any of the teams that I followed.
These five teams were Lower Moreland (8-1-1) at Morrisville (8-2) and the Bulldogs administered that only loss to the Lions 16-14 in a good game. Woodrow Wilson was also 8-2 and I saw two of their games; Council Rock was 8-2 and I saw two of their games, and Pennsbury was also 8-2 and I saw 7 of their games. I saw Harrisburg for the first time-ever; twice; at Pennsbury, a 10-6 Falcon victory and the next week at Wilson, a 42-14 Ram victory. The Cougars must have been tired of two back-to-back trips to Bucks County that year.
I was truly inspired by my return to high school football in 1976. I wrote up some notes on the season which was the first time. Previously all seasons were just the records of the teams.
As an example of my earlier comment about the Neshaminy split, Langhorne was 2-8 in 1976, and Maple Point was 4-6. Unlike we see today with the Downingtown’s or the Council Rock’s to a lesser degree, the division of schools back in the 1970’s definitely thinned the Neshaminy talent.
For the Bicentennial year of 1976, Section II, the small school division of the LBCL was renamed the Bicentennial League for the year and it has remained as such ever since. Teams in it in 1976 were Archbishop Kennedy, Bristol, Jenkintown, Lower Moreland, and Morrisville.
In writing this discourse, I realize that I was still viewing high school football as a hobby with the added touch of keeping records that would build each year, accumulating data on win-loss records, offensive and defensive averages, team versus teams’ records, and so on. Seeing the games in beautiful fall weather, the day games in sun with leaves turning red and gold seemed a magical time and place. The night games were not different until the late-season games brought the necessity of bundling up as much as possible to keep warm enough to enjoy the game. There were still no state championships played on the field and I was not concerned in any way in 1976 of state recognition, realizing that Neshaminy and Pennsbury in our area was recognized statewide and satisfied with that. Neither was I a big follower of players moving on to college from local teams after high school. Those mentioned above were not known to me at the time, but now with the hindsight of recorded history we can plot some of their various courses.
For 1977 I would set a new record of games seen – 27, a mark that would stand for 13 years until I deliberately set out to set an all-time mark, and did. Of the 16 teams I followed, in 1977 10 had winning records and I saw 13 of the 16 teams I followed at least once.
But I did not see Lower Moreland this season and so missed seeing future Neshaminy Head Coach Mark Schmidt as senior center and linebacker on defense.
Morrisville provided a 1977 oddity of note. I saw four of their games, all wins and all shutouts. They were Jenkintown 26-0, Harriton 32-0, Archbishop Kennedy 20-0, and Bristol (Turkey Day) 20-0. To my viewing the Bulldogs were world-beaters. The problem was that they lost the 6 games I did not see them play, finishing 4-6.
Outstanding in 1977 was Bensalem under Coach Bob Hart, a Morrisville and Penn State alumnus. I saw them 3 times including the playoff-championship game held at Woodrow Wilson against Neshaminy. It was a bitter cold, breezy night and these two teams got after one another. In the regular season, Neshaminy had handed Bensalem their only loss of the season so far – big 42-14. But the Skins had suffered a regular season loss to sister school Maple Pt. 0-7 making the championship playoff necessary. You could hear the pads and hits from the opposite end zone! When it was over the Bensalem Owls had won it 12-7. The Champions were 10-1, and they did it with defense. The Owls only averaged 16.1 points per game on offense.
But that team only allowed 7.7 points per game on defense. Take out the one-game 42 points given up to Neshaminy and the defensive average falls to 4.3 points per game.
Neshaminy Langhorne had played for, but lost, the league championship and was 7-4 for the season. Maple Point posted another 4-6 season.
Pennsbury had offensive problems in 1977. They won their first three games 22-0, 14-10, and 20-0, and then their O put up in consecutive games 7, 13, 3, 0, 3, 7 and 7; most un-Falcon like. Their defense kept them in the games and produced a 5-4-1 season, winning two more games, one at 13-7 and one at 7-0.
The first 7 points in the streak above was at home against Steelton-Highspire, a game which I took in; and it rained of Biblical proportions that day. Of all 65 years so far I think that was the heaviest downpour I have ever been to a game in, for the longest duration. It was likely the reason for the low no-win score, a tie at 7, but who knows.
My life was to change again in 1978 when in September I met this girl. The song, “The Second Time Around” would be most appropriate, but for this discourse let’s just say my 1978 season was somewhat less active than the prior two seasons. I got to 13 games, about half the 27 of 1977. Four new teams were seen – Penn Charter, Cardinal O’Hara, Abington, and Valley Forge Military Academy. The latter team had joined the Bicentennial League in 1976.
An anecdote this season was in the third game of the year for Bensalem at home against Bishop Egan. After their 1977 10-1 league championship year and coaching change, the Owls were 0-2 coming in to this 1978 game. I sat on the Bensalem side and the cheerleaders were gathering near enough to me that I could hear the casual conversations among them.
A senior cheerleader said, “last year we were great and I can’t believe now in my senior year we’re screwing it up”! I chuckled to myself, but this young lady was prophetic, the Owls finished 0-11 in 1978.
I was now entering a second down period for my high school viewing hobby for all different reasons than the first time. I took an apartment in Lambertville, NJ in May 1979 and by the 1979 season was again slightly out of the area.
Lambertville held much interest for me in 1979; the girl I had met lived there, and I had played in the Lambertville Senior Drum & Bugle Corps since 1968; and still did at that time. This was not the field competition corps I was in 1961-1963.
I attended four games in 1979 – Bishop Egan 27-0 at Bensalem; Delhaas 0-47 at Neshaminy Langhorne; Plymouth-Whitemarsh 12-13 at Pennsbury; and Archbishop Ryan 35-13 at Archbishop Wood, played at Council Rock High School. It was my first-ever viewing of Plymouth-Whitemarsh.
As to winning games, the 1970’s belonged to Frankford of Philadelphia, not yet in the PIAA, but with a 99-15-2 record.
Locally the C B West Bucks under Mike Pettine since 1963 posted a 90-14-2 record for best in District One; and 4th in the state. Second in D1 and 9th in the state, Ridley posted a 1970’s slate of 81-14-4.
For the first time since the decade of the 1900’s Lower Merion had a losing decade at 42-59 in the 1970’s. Up in District 4 Mount Carmel continued their winning ways finishing the 1970s at 96-18-1, second in the state to Frankford. And the Dawgs of Berwick were just warming up with a 77-34-2 decade and preparing for even greater things.
I was oblivious to all of this in 1979 as I became involved in house hunting for 1980.
Don Black’s various individual high school record books.
Pennsylvania Football News annual resource guides.
Pennsbury High School Football website – history.
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