50 years later, memories still fresh for the 1972 St. James Bulldogs – Delco Times


There were black and white photos from 50 years ago.

As footage of the game played, spectators cheered as if the long runs, touchdown takes, quarterback sacks and interceptions had just happened.

After so many of these plays appeared on screen, someone was yelling “play that one again.”

The school fight song was sung, smiles were everywhere and sometimes tears were shed at the mention of deceased coaches and teammates.

For one afternoon, it wasn’t the 2022 high school football season. At the St. James High Alumni Association’s Doghouse on Saturday, it was 1972 once again.

For those lucky enough to have been members of the St. James High football team in 1972, it was another chance to see teammates, remember coaches and players who died, and share at relive the memories of an undefeated season that ended with the Catholic League Championship Game at Villanova Stadium and the Philadelphia City Title Contest, which took place at Franklin Field.

The highlight of the afternoon was the screening of “The Little School That Could”, a half-hour video about the 1972 St. James Bulldogs produced by Dan Huber, who was an underclass at St. James when the 1972 team dominated the Catholic League.

“You made history,” Huber told the players in attendance. “I just have to say it.”

The video’s opening story was directed by Ray Didinger (St. James Class of ’64), whose decades of writing about the NFL earned him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Memory is a curious thing,” Didinger begins, pointing out how a fullback or receiver will remember things differently than a lineman might remember what happened. “What lasts over time is the shared sense of accomplishment.”

For these St. James players, it was the chance to undo all four losses the Bulldogs suffered in 1971, including a last-minute loss to Archbishop Carroll and the Thanksgiving Day loss at the hands of the long distance rival. Chester High.

The play that had everyone on their feet and cheering as it was recounted on screen was the reverse double pass that resulted in a touchdown in the Catholic League final against Bishop Kenrick after the Bulldogs regained the locker room at halftime behind coach Chappy Moore. Knights.

Quarterback Kevin Dare handed the ball to Tony Serge, who seemed to have no chance of escaping Kenrick’s linemen before handing the ball to Bill Warrington. Before long, Dave Kasarsky came running the other way, and he took a stint from Warrington.

While all of this was going on, Dare had drifted out of the backfield and was in the clear behind Kenrick’s defense, who intended to stop St. James’ back running with the ball.

“I threw the ball as hard as I could and got buried,” Kasarsky recalled. “I really couldn’t see Kevin and I didn’t know if he had caught it. As I was trying to get up I looked at our fans and they were going crazy. That’s when I knew something good had happened.

Dare didn’t just catch the ball, he entered the end zone intact for six points on a play that he says “was one of the greatest moments of my life.”

The late Bob Ewing was the St. James assistant coach who designed the piece.

“I knew we had to do some kind of gimmick and I tried to tell Joe (Logue, the head coach),” Ewing says in an interview that was done before he passed away in 2021.

“We walked through this room in the parking lot of St. Robert’s (the school behind which the St. James training ground was). No matter how many times we tried it, we couldn’t get the pass.

On the Villanova court, the play was a success, helping St. James advance to the Philadelphia title game by defeating Kenrick, 29-27.

City’s league game was played on a bitterly cold December afternoon on the icy artificial turf. St. James outscored Philadelphia Public League champion Frankford, 42-0, and shortly after the conversation began, people had just seen the best high school football team that had ever played in the county of Delaware as well as the Catholic League of Philadelphia.

“I dropped a few balls thrown at me that day,” said Bill O’Connell, an All-Delco defensive back who returned for the reunion and to see his son, Kevin, coach the Vikings. of Minnesota during their Monday night football game against the Eagles.

“I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t catch the ball. My hands were so numb and I couldn’t feel anything.

Anyone wishing to view “The Little School That Could” video can do so at https://vimeo.com/745155535.

After City’s title game ended, all of the Bulldogs felt the joy of ending a perfect season.

“We were playing in the golden era of St. James football,” said Joe Gallagher, an All-Delco and All-State lineman who had a long career as a college football coach at Haverford High after having played at the University of Tennessee.

“From 1969 to 1972, St. James played for the Catholic League championship three times. Much of our team’s success has come from the teams that have played before us. And what great coaches we had, men like Joe Logue, Bobby Ewing, Joe Howanski, Bob Nugent.

Jim “Jake” Clough was one of the gigantic linemen who crushed defenders by opening holes for fullbacks Tony Serge and Dave Lansberry, who had both rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 1972. He explained how Howanski was a tough man who once softened while giving the team a pep talk.

“He talked about never giving up,” Clough said. “He mentioned that his sister, who had cancer, never gave up. It’s something I will always remember.

O’Connell recalled meeting Frank Ryan, one of the greatest athletes to wear a St. James uniform, called when Ryan coached the freshman football team and all the players who were seniors in 1972 were freshmen.

“He looked around and told us he saw enough talent that we could be a fabulous football team,” said O’Connell, who worked for the FBI after college.

“He told us we could be the best football team St. James has ever had if we worked hard and didn’t do anything stupid.”

Gallagher introduced Ray Gionta (St. James Class of 1971), who in 1970 became the only Bulldogs player named to the All-Catholic League first team in offense and defense.

Gionta spoke of the disappointment that followed a 7-6 loss to Bishop Egan in the 1969 Catholic League Final, which inspired him to write a short poem called “The Toe”.

After reciting his poem, which unfortunately ends in a missed extra kick, Gionta led all the former St. James players in a rousing rendition of the school fight song.

Gallagher wanted to thank Gary Barnes, center for the 1972 All-Delco offensive team, for his work in organizing the reunion and compiling some game footage from the 1972 season.

“He did such a good job,” Gallagher said. “We are all so indebted to him for what he has done.”

Before the end of the afternoon and the farewell, there were more photo sessions.

As a group of defensive linemen posed, O’Connell, who had 12 interceptions in 1972, looked at them and remarked “I was blessed to play college football because those guys helped me out. TO DO.”

As Gallagher mentioned in one of his not-so-brief remarks, the 1972 St. James Bulldogs, who played several years before Fred Shero coached the Flyers to two Stanley Cup championships, were living up to Shero’s famous saying: “Win today and we’ll walk together forever.”

Fifty years later, these St. James Bulldogs proudly continue to walk together.

Harry Chaykun, who retired as a full-time member of the Daily Times sports team in 2011, covered the 1972 City Championship game for The Times with the late Ed Gebhart.

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