Throwback Thursday: The Woodrow Wilson Golden Rams 1959-1980
The great influx of population into lower Bucks County from 1950 to 1960 occasioned by the construction of the Fairless Steel plant in Falls Township fueled tremendous growth in local area school systems. The greatest growth was seen in the Pennsbury, Neshaminy, and Bristol Township School Districts. While Pennsbury and Neshaminy did not immediately establish another sport-playing high school (Neshaminy did much later in 1975); it was not so in Bristol Township.
Delhaas High School was only established in 1951 in Bristol Township, and I believe prior to that the Township students went to Bristol High School, but I am not certain. But, population growth by 1959 called for a second Bristol Township High School and this was Woodrow Wilson High School. They were the Golden Rams and their official colors were gray and gold. If you know where Harry S. Truman High School is today, you know where Wilson was. It is the same school, but now greatly renovated, as is the stadium at the same location.
Wilson existed 1959 through 1980 and it was the most successful football program of the three Bristol Township public schools – Delhaas-Wilson-Truman. Delhaas in 23 years of existence was .290 in football; Truman is .246 for 1981 through 2012; while Wilson in its 22 seasons had a .468 winning average. Although short of .500 overall, the Rams, as their nickname was commonly shortened to, had some good teams.
I did not see the Rams all that often, 11 times in their 22 seasons. After graduating high school in 1959, I began to follow Neshaminy as they were starting to be recognized state-wide for the first time and they were a local power for certain. I saw the Redskins’ first 8 of 11 games and the 6th one was home against Woodrow Wilson. The two teams’ shared one thing in common, they both then ran out of the single-wing offense. They were the only two local schools to do so; all the others were T-formation teams. The Rams had only played two games to the Skins five, and were 0-2 coming in. Their first year they only had an 8-game schedule of all of the local Lower Bucks County League (LBCL) schools – Tennent, Bristol, Neshaminy, Pennsbury, Bensalem, Council Rock, Morrisville, and Delhaas. All were league games; the LBCL was now a 9-team league. Richard Northrup was the first Rams’ Head Coach.
While Neshaminy was the clear favorite then, and they won this game 59-0, Pennsbury was growing (8-3) this season; but otherwise anybody could beat anybody on a given night. Wilson went 1-7 their first time out, with their only win being a 33-19 win over Council Rock. But Rock beat Bristol and Tennent; Tennent beat Bristol and Delhaas, but Delhaas had 5 wins; and Morrisville was 8-1, only losing to Neshaminy. That’s the way it was in the late fifties, most teams could win any game, except maybe against Neshaminy.
With a big 11-game schedule in 1960, the Golden Rams were only 1-9-1; again beating Council Rock, and getting a tie with Bristol 6-6. Oddly, I saw both the win and the tie, and that was all.
Lou Sorrentino became the new head coach in 1961 which was the first year of a big-school and small-school split of the LBCL into two sections. The big school section was Neshaminy, Pennsbury, Wilson, and Tennent. The Rams improved to 3-7-1 but their three wins and tie were to small-school cross-division foes Morrisville, Delhaas, Bristol, and (tie) Bensalem.
In 1962 the Rams were 3-6 but their first two losses were forfeits (unexplained in my notes) to Bristol and Bensalem, smaller schools they might have had a shot at. I saw the Thanksgiving Rams-Bishop Egan game that season, won by Egan 47-14.
The Wilson Rams turned the corner in 1963 and posted a fine 8-2 season. They had a great end in Gary Steele, who went on to play at Army, and a fine back in Paul Horwatt. On April 10, 2014 Paul was inducted into the Bucks County Chapter of the PA Sports Hall of Fame (football & basketball); as was Mike Carey (football), another name we are familiar with; but with no connection to Wilson. Two future head coaches were on the Wilson staff, Walt Snyder who became legend at Council Rock and whose name is on that stadium today, and Pat Picarello who would coach at Wilson. I saw the Rams-Pennsbury game at Falcon Field won by Wilson 14-7. I saw the Neshaminy game at Neshaminy won by the Skins 20-6. And I saw the Morrisville game at Wilson won by Wilson 53-0. Wilson won both offensive 34.5 ppg, and defensive 7.6 ppg honors among the ten teams I then tracked. This would be the top offensive average in school history, but the defense had one year a bit better much later on.
The Rams were again 8-2 in 1964 and were only beaten by Pennsbury (9-1) and Neshaminy (9-0-1). The Falcons potent offense that year beat the Rams 45-14, but the Neshaminy loss was only 9-2.
In 1965 the Rams again only had two losses, but they had three ties, to end 5-2-3. One tie was with Pennsbury 0-0. Their losses were to Bishop Egan and Neshaminy.
The 1966 Rams gained the satisfaction of a tie for the Section I title with Pennsbury at 2-0-1 league. Both Pennsbury and Wilson ended 8-1-1; both beat Neshaminy and Tennent league and tied each other 14-14. Pennsbury lost to Allentown Allen 20-13 and Wilson’s only loss was to one of the great Egan (12-1) teams 9-0. Wilson also had wins over Allentown Dieruff, Salesianum, DE, and Chambersburg this season, so had upgraded to a major schedule.
Both 1967 (3-7-1) and 1968 (3-6-1) were down for Wilson, but opponents on their schedule included J. F. Kennedy of New Jersey, Allentown Dieruff, Chambersburg, Ridley, and Harrisburg John Harris; along with local Bishop Egan in their best era ever, so the Rams were in high level competition.
Coatesville, Johnstown, and Hazleton made the 1969 Wilson schedule. The Rams finished 5-5, losing to Coatesville 16-12, Johnstown 19-14, and beating Hazleton 30-20.
The 1970 Rams posted the best record in school history and first 9-win season at 9-1-1. They had a dynamic offense through their non-league first 7 games. They opened at home beating Archbishop Wood 49-0. Out at Coatesville the Rams won 48-0. They had to go up to Wyoming Valley in District 2 next. They managed a win over Wyoming Valley West, 28-14. Johnstown was entertained at home in a game I heard on radio won by the Rams 43-14. Abington was handled out there 44-14. Next, at William Tennent the Rams went over 40 points for the fifth time in six games winning 42-6. This cascade of scoring had me interested, but I could not get to games in this era and I listened to their last five games on the radio. They hosted J. F. K. and won 33-22. They might have been a favorite at Neshaminy this year as they were 7-0 with all that offense, while Neshaminy was 6-1 and not scoring as much as the Rams. Nevertheless, the Redskins had the top defense around, and won the game 17-6 really shutting down the Rams high-powered offense. They next hosted Pennsbury and only scored 7 points. But they shut out the Falcons and won 7-0. Bensalem was handled 28-6, and then against Bishop Egan the Rams could only manage a tie 14-14.
The Rams then settled into a low period of five seasons 1971 through 1975 without winning records. I was in my lean years for high school football all of this time and did not see any of them. In 1976 I was able to return to high school football and I saw the 1976 Rams twice. They went 8-2, losing only to Norristown 20-12, and Council Rock 16-15. I saw them beat Harrisburg 42-14 and Neshaminy Langhorne 27-6. The 1975-1982 seasons were the split Neshaminy School District with two schools, Neshaminy Langhorne (the original), and Neshaminy Maple Point. The single league loss to Council Rock cost the Rams the title as Rock was undefeated in the league in 1976.
The bottom dropped out for the 1977 Rams and they went to 2-8, their worst record since their second year of existence in 1960 at 1-9-1. I saw a 12-6 loss to Norristown in their second game of the season. After 5-6 (1978) and 5-5 (1979) seasons, the Rams, along with sister township school Delhaas, both faced their final season in 1980, knowing they were history after that.
By the record and scores at each school, it appears that they took an entirely different approach to their school closing. But, it was probably because that other than the seniors, all the Wilson students would be at the same school in 1981 and just calling it another name (Truman), whereas the Delhaas students would be losing their school forever.
The Delhaas Tigers posted the worst year in the history of their school for the last. They were 0-11-0 for the first time ever; and their scores were 0-49, 0-20, 6-27, 0-47, 0-34, 0-49, 0-28, 0-57, 8-34, 0-29, and finally 0-48 against Wilson. They scored only 14 points in 11 games for 1.3 ppg, while yielding 422 points for 38.4 ppg.
Wilson went the other way in their final season and gave it an all-out effort. They tied their most wins in a season at 9, and went 9-4 and were just defeated for the league championship in a playoff game with Pennsbury 13-10 in double overtime. They were somewhat lacking in offense scoring 12.5 ppg, but made up for it with a defense only yielding 6.9 ppg; the best D in the school’s history. They shut out 4 opponents and held 3 others to a single score. The most they yielded in a single game was in a 20-0 loss to Norristown.
Several years ago in a cleaning mode I gave away stacks of old game programs; but kept a lesser stack of chosen ones. I did not know I would ever be writing articles about my viewing history, and lament the fact I disposed of perhaps a hundred or more programs. They would have been handy to add names and thus additional interest to these narratives.
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