January 23, 2011

Recollections of Division Avenue High's 1960 football season

It was a memorable year for coach Jerry Jewell and his Blue Dragons team

John Kinstrey 1961 wrote the following as a comment on one of our blog posts.

There were several of us who played football for the Levittown Bears - a so-so town team - during our freshman year when the ninth grade (class of 1961) boys team went undefeated. Our sophomore and junior years showed some improvement but it was the magical summer preceding our senior year when we realized we would be playing the same teams our freshman whacked three years earlier in the coming season.

We were psyched. Wrote a song about coach Jewell to the Maverick tune. Mohican haircuts. Borrowed dad's car and cruised the turnpike. Al Baldwin and Carl Kielbasa led illegal conditioning drills throughout July and August and we all showed. We'd "pig out" at a new place called McDonald's near Island Trees High School. We just knew it was going to happen. Everything seemed right. We felt like champions. And at season's end, we were.

Jim Urban 1961 wrote the following as a comment on one of our blog posts.

Jewell was a tyrant who knew very little about football at that time. DAHS history shows that he was a good learner. John Kinstrey's right. The 1960 football season was a great one. Most of the guys had played together for four years, running the same offense. There were no real individual standouts, but what a team!

Frank Barning asked Jim if he had additional memories of that season and this is his reply:

I absolutely love football. In my mind, no other sport even compares. I am not sure why I feel this strongly, but I assuredly do.

When I was a kid in elementary school and junior high, I would play football from the end of baseball season until the beginning of baseball season. I never played basketball. Baseball, then football, then baseball. I'm sure this accounts for why I was such a horrific basketball player.

I never played organized football - no Red Devils or Levittown Bears for me. Probably, because there was some financial aspect associated with playing for those teams. Hell, I never even had a Tonette in elementary school because it cost 25 cents.

In frosh year, I broke my ankle early in the practice season and never got to play on that great freshman team. In sophomore year, I was attending Clarke High School on a scholarship that I was talked into accepting. So, I didn't get the opportunity to have my butt kicked by the varsity teams Division played that year.

In my junior year, I won the starting quarterback position on the varsity team. Gary Parker was my backup. I had a slight problem holding onto the ball however, and following the first snap in the first game of the season, I became Gary's backup.

Then came senior year. We knew that we would be good. We had toughness, speed, power and desire. We held voluntary, but illegal, summer conditioning drills without our coaches. I don’t know if these drills had any impact on our performance, but the attendance indicated that we all were thirsting for the season to begin.

One thing I recall with a smile. I smoked even then. Jewell saw me several times and warned me that we would have to complete a 3-mile run before we would be able to join the team. On a beastly hot day in August, we began our mandatory run. It was so hot and humid that Jewell cancelled the run after a short while. But, Ernie Villatore and I had already gotten our second wind and were successfully pacing each other around the track. Jewell stood with his jaw agape as we completed that run with ease. I never heard any more about smoking.

Our record that year was (I believe) 7-1. We lost our first game. This was a huge shock and disappointment. Great Neck South no less. We were truly dumbfounded. But oh how we rebounded.

Several of us played both offense and defense. As I recall, John Dilberger, Al Baldwin, Bob Bonacci, Carl Kielbasa, Bill Goldhammer, and I. Perhaps Jim Judson and Ed Thomas also played both ways. Then there was Ernie Villatore, Jerry Labie, Corky Cybriwsky and Mike Gurr going one way or the other. That’s it for my memory folks. Help! Anyone?

We played Plainview, Oyster Bay, Wheatley, Floral Park (I think), Herricks, Levittown Memorial (first time ever), and one more team that I can’t recall. Except for one game, we kicked the crap out of them all. And, we trounced Memorial 37-6.

I met my beautiful wife at a party following the Memorial game. If ever there was a case of love at first sight, this was it. I wondered why we had never met before until I discovered, several months later, that she had just turned 15!

I can recall with total clarity several of the successful plays we ran during that season and can even feel some of the “hits.” It was a wonderful time in a life filled with wonderful times. Perhaps I have answered my own question about football.

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