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Written by: Billy Splain on Monday, June 15th, 2020
ROW 1 – Line Coach Gene Harr, Gary Harris, Ray Wooley, Tony Jackson, Jack Stacey, Don Greco, Tom Moore, Gerry Pia, Warren Gregory, Larry Patterson, Bert Kerstetter, Bob Keister, Asst. Coach Dan Sekeres ROW 2–Head Coach Larry Bruno, Tom Krzemienski, Bill Heistand, Stan Kondracki, Joe Nameth, Tony Golmont, Ernie Pelaia, Cliff Main, Wayne Peterson, Larry Lyons, Don Pelaia, Biff Holland, John Kaercher, Bill Leech, JH Coach Bruno Campese ROW 3 – Asst. Coach Abbie Walton. Jim Seaburn, John Pavkovich, Larry Combs, Terry Krivak, Tom Bozic, Bill Marconda, Ron Sanders, Mike Smakosz, Marcus Gibson, Clarence Hedge, Brad Booth, John Thompson, Harold Hamilton, FAculty Mgr. Bill Ross ROW 4 – Jim Cockfield, Harry James, Karlin Rvan, Larry Hayden, Mike Bembnowski, Rich Stockunas, Mickey Wooley, Elton Gamble, Jim Chiodo, Greg White, By Morgan, Tom Sakraida.
Western Pennsylvania is known as the “cradle of quarterbacks” – many great ones have been nurtured on the fields of the WPIAL over the years. In 1960, one of the all-time best led his team to the pinnacle of scholastic football. That year, Joe Namath and his Beaver Falls Tigers devoured a tough nine game schedule and were declared WPIAL AA champions, the only perfect record AA team in the vast league.
Beaver Falls had struggled in 1959, but the maturing of Namath, combined with the impact of Coach Larry Bruno, sent the Tigers on their way. Veteran observers – even game officials – marveled at the skill and dexterity – the sleight-of-hand ball handling – that enabled Namath, working with his great end, Tom Krzemienski, and the rest of this superb team, to dazzle the WPIAL world.
The first serious test for the team was to come at New Castle whom the Tigers had not beaten in nearly 40 years. Before the game that night, Bruno expressed concern to Namath about punting with a sore ankle. The quarterback is reported to have told him, “Don’t worry, coach, we won’t have to punt.” Beaver Falls didn’t and won 39-0.
Against undefeated Ambridge the next week, the Tigers were sluggish and the tough Bridgers took a 6-0 lead. Later in the half, Namath was tackled hard while rolling out and thrown on his right shoulder. He was hurt and Beaver Falls still trailed. Despite the injury, Namath hit Tom Krzemienski on a 54 yard cross-field pass-run play to tie the score just before halftime.
The team doctor examined him in the locker room. He told the doctor and his coach that he could still throw. Despite the injury, Namath came out for the second half and moved the Tigers ahead 19-6. Ambridge scored again, but Namath led Beaver Falls to a clinching touchdown and a 25-13 victory. He had completed only three of 15 passes in the game, but each completion was key to the win.
Monday, the injury was diagnosed as a slight separation – the shoulder was wrapped each week and Namath played at full tilt the rest of the year.
At Butler, the Tigers faced another unbeaten AA challenger, but with Namath in good form, Beaver Falls rolled 26-6. Another major rival, Aliquippa, was beaten, 34-7, with Namath at his best, completing nine of 18 for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Then neighbor Ellwood City was swept aside, 26-0, and the last hurdle to the WPIAL crown had been cleared.
Namath played with confidence without arrogance. He believed in his own abilities and those of his teammates. He called most of the plays himself. If a play didn’t work as well as he thought it should, he would rerun it immediately.
Both Namath and Krzemienski won first team All-State honors. Namath had passed for 1511 yards and 12 TD’s and run for six more. Krzemienski caught 54 of Namath’s 85 completions and scored 10 touchdowns. Namath’s passes also went to fine end Tony Golmont, as well as halfbacks Bo Hayden, Whitey Harris, Harry James and Butch Ryan.
The halfbacks, along with Fullback Bert Kerstetter, ran hard all year. Hayden was the leading scorer in Beaver County with 103 points.
Center Jim Seaburn anchored the offensive line. Most of the Tiger starters went both ways. Namath was kept on the sidelines for most defensive downs, but he went in at safety at critical times.
Coach Larry Bruno had the come to a losing Beaver Falls program the previous year. In just his second year, the Tigers reached the top.
Bruno is a native of East Palestine, just over the state line in Ohio. He had a fine career at Geneva College in Beaver Falls and played in the 1947 East-West Shrine game in San Francisco. He became a coach, first at Monaca, coming to Beaver Falls in 1959. His life was interrupted by Army combat service in World War II, including two years in the South Pacific.
In 1961, following the great 1960 season, Beaver Falls was perfect again. Butch Ryan, Namath’s 1960 understudy as well as a key halfback, became every bit as vital to the Tigers’ success. He was the talented all-around quarterback – the key defender – the team leader. He scored 11 touchdowns, passed for nine others, and kicked 15 PAT’s and a field goal.
That field goal provided the winning points in a 16-14 triumph over Farrell to preserve the Tiger’s two-year winning streak. In that same game, Ryan returned an interception for one score and ran a kickoff back 85 yards for another
Ryan was named to the 1961 All-State first team at quarterback, the first time QB’s from the same school had been selected in successive years. 1961 Beaver Falls lost out to the WPIAL’s Gardner point system, however, as Monessen and Wilkinsburg, two other unbeaten, untied squads, played for the AA championship.
The 1960 Beaver Falls super starting lineup included:
E 52 Tom KRZEMIENSKI 6-1 190
T 62 Stan KONDRACKI 5-11 195
G 72 Bill HEISTAND 6-0 180
C 82 Jim SEABURN 5-11 185
G 74 Ernie PELAIA 5-10 175
70 Larry PATTERSON 6-0 175
T 64 Terry KRIVAK 6-1 195
E 54 Tony GOLMONT 6-1� 165
Q 19 Joe NAMATH 6-1� 175
H 21 Karlin RYAN 5-10 177
12 Gary HARRIS 5-7 150
H 22 Larry HAYDEN 5-11 160
20 Harry JAMES 5-9 170
F 18 Bert KERSTETTER 5-9 170
HARRIS, despite his small size, was a genuine “tiger” at linebacker. 17 Tony JACKSON was also a yeoman defender.
1960’s magnificent Tiger record:
43 MIDLAND 13
39 SHARON 0
39 NEW CASTLE 0
25 AMBRIDGE 13
26 BUTLER 6
33 FARRELL 18
34 ALIQUIPPA 7
26 ELLWOOD CITY 0
40 NEW BRIGHTON 6
It’s regrettable that this great squad was able to play only nine games – today, this team might have marched right through the playoffs to the state title and played as many as 15 games.
As the Tigers kept prowling in 1961:
27 NEW BRIGHTON 14
12 SHARON 0
6 NEW CASTLE 0
34 AMBRIDGE 12
20 BUTLER 6
26 ERIE EAST 6
16 FARRELL 14
32 ALIQUIPPA 14
34 ELLWOOD CITY 27
34 PITTSBURGH SOUTH CATHOLIC 14
Joe Namath’s career at Alabama, in the NFL, and after is well known.
Ten of the 1960 Tigers won college scholarships including Namath; Krzemienski who starred at Michigan State; Ryan, a defensive standout at Iowa; Kerstetter, a key player at Princeton; and Golmont who had a fine career at NC State.
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