August 29, 2011

Division Avenue High School's first varsity football team; the 1957 season wasn't pretty

Click on photo to enlarge


In the fall of 1957, Division Avenue High School had it first sophomore class. As a result, the Blue Dragons were permitted to field a varsity football team. I recall that the schedule included a couple of junior varsity teams from larger schools and varsity squads from small or new schools.

We were at a distinct disadvantage in not having juniors and seniors, players with varsity experience. The results were not particularly good, but it was a start. The first head coach was Al Tarney, well respected and gone prior to the next season.

The picture here was provided by Tom Paturzo Baker who played some football but was best known for his skill as a wrestler. Part of the problem, as in the previous year when the first ever freshman team represented Division, was at the quarterback position. According to Baker, "John Shibilo was the first-string quarterback. He ran all the ground plays out of the wing-t formation. Pete Cybriwsky was also a quarterback that year because he could throw the long passes. The coach would call plays for both quarterbacks and they would alternate plays."

Few passes were completed and the major offensive threat was running back John Koehler. He and lineman Ken "Tiger" Ganim emerged as standout players.

Jim Anton, a freshman at the time and a follower of the football team, had this to say: "All I can remember was it was like little boys, sophomores, playing against seniors who looked like grown men. Some of them were probably old enough to drink at bars."

There was some good news for the Division football team in 1957. There was an excellent freshman team (mostly members of the class of 1961), which would reinforce the varsity in 1958 when a full schedule against other varsities was played and Jerry Jewell became the head coach. Ganim, now a junior, was an all-league guard that season.

Among the best players coming up in 1958 would be Carl Opitz Kielbasa, Ed Fagan Thomas, Ernie Villatore, Bill Goldhammer and finally a quarterback who could throw the ball down the field, Gary Parker. Several other talented players would join the team that in 1957 had been young, small and basically served as cannon fodder. Don Davidson, a lineman on the team, commented that " It was painful in that we did not know that we were going to be cannon fodder."

On the bright side, the games were well attended and the Blue Dragons had really good cheerleaders. "We're from Division and we couldn't be prouder . . ."

1 comment:

Frank Barning said...

A classmate wondered if the football team played Carle Place with the great Matt Snell when we were at Division. I told him that I doubted it, but one never knows.