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Great PA Teams: WASHINGTON 1923 @WashHighFB @javandspeed

Written by: on Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

 

We are pleased to run a series, Great PA Teams, by the great Hal Wilson, a long time contributor to PA High
School Football. Hal has written many stories in the past for PAFootballNews dating back to
our print days.


The 1923 Washington team photo


“Little Washington”, located 27 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, has a long history of fine football. During the great early era under Coach Hank Day, Washington had a phenomenal record. with perhaps the finest Little Presidents team fielded in 1923. The legendary Day’s mighty machine blazed through a tough eight game regular season schedule without being scored on and then buried undefeated Pittsburgh Allegheny 60-0 in a WPIAL playoff. Washington was then supposed to play the winner of the New Castle – Turtle Creek playoff game for the WPIAL championship, but when that game ended in a 14-14 tie, the Syracuse Cup Committee awarded the WPIAL crown to the Little Presidents.

Washington is a handsome old city with a downtown skyline. Streetcars ran until 1953 – a time when Washington was the smallest city in the country with streetcars operating. “Wash High” shares the city with Washington & Jefferson College, who are known as the Presidents – hence the Little Presidents ( or Prexies ) nickname.

The Washington team had compiled a great record from 1915 to 1923. The nine-year record was 63 wins, only four losses, and ten ties. Three of the losses were in regular season games – to Beaver Falls in 1916; Greensburg, at that time a non-WPIAL team, in 1917; and Bellaire, Ohio, in 1921. Washington was involved in three WPIAL Championship games prior to the 1923 Allegheny playoff. In 1917, Johnstown was played to a scoreless tie at the Point Stadium in the Flood City. In 1920, the unbeaten Little Presidents defeated Pittsburgh Fifth Avenue, 14-7, at Duquesne University.

In 1922, Washington was unbeaten and untied in the regular season – but edged 7-6 by Wilkinsburg in the WPIAL Championship game on a bad snap and missed drop kick before 10,000 at Forbes Field. Washington led in first downs 13-4 but its only score came on an 80 yard run by George Drury.

The 1923 team was studded with veterans. Nine starters returned led by Captain Steve Day. Paul Liston, a great end in 1922, was moved to quarterback. Philip Berry took over at left guard. Day was a superb blocker and defender. Fullback Steve Drury was another fine defender backing up the line as well as a devastating runner. End Bill Langfitt handled the kicks for goal after touchdown. Guard Farmer Ashmore, short and stocky, was a junior starter.

The 1923 season began with a 71-0 rout of Connellsville. Local rival Canonsburg was beaten 26-0. After six games the blue and black Little Presidents had not only been unscored on – they had not yielded a first down. In the seventh game, a strong Tarentum team came to College Field where 2500 saw Washington overpower the visitors in a 50-0 rout. Day scored three touchdowns and Drury two. Tarentum did not have a first down.

The biggest game of the season came on Thanksgiving Day against mighty Parnassus, winner of 16 straight, and a team expected to thoroughly test the Little Presidents. The Allegheny Valley team brought a special train of fans from the New Kensington area. Prior to kickoff, the teams had agreed on alternate 15 and 12 minute quarters.

As the game unfolded, although out weighed 5-10 pounds per man, Washington demonstrated complete superiority and the visitors were crushed 37-0. Parnassus did, however, make one first down.

The Syracuse Cup Committee then established its playoff format. Allegheny in Pittsburgh did not appear interested in playing – Allegheny supposedly hadn’t practiced for two weeks. Suddenly, a few days before such a game would be held, Allegheny agreed to come to College Field. It was revealed that Allegheny had been practicing secretly with the aid of Dr. Marks, an assistant at then major college team Carnegie Tech.

All of this was to no avail as 5000 saw the Little Presidents paste the North Side Pittsburgh team 60-0 with a devastating display of running and passing. Drury scored five times. Allegheny did make three first downs, each at a different point in the game. Allegheny’s star back was a Rooney, possibly a relative of Steelers patriarch Art Rooney’s family. The Syracuse Cup Committee acted after the New Castle – Turtle Creek tie and Washington had another WPIAL crown.

One 1923 All-WPIAL selection had Ashmore and Drury, as well as Allegheny’s Rooney, on the first team. Langfitt, Berry, Martin and Day were honored on the second unit.

The Little Presidents awesome 1923 lineup:

E Bill LANGFITT 153
T Foster “Fox” WERLING 155
G Philip BERRY 156
C William GREED 150
G John “Farmer” ASHMORE 150
T Gerald “Bub” MARTIN 152
E James DILLARD 148
Q Paul LISTON 155
H Steve DAY (c) 150
H Clark BAKER 145
F George “Bullet” DRURY 160

When Greed’s shoulder injury ended his season after six games, Roland Hamilton at 150 took over the center duties. Among key reserves, Bradley McGregor, a bigger man at 160, was an able line replacement. Bill Viehmann and Banks were fine running backs.

Wash High’s phenomenal 1923 record:

71 CONNELLSVILLE 0
25 CANONSBURG 0
18 MONESSEN 0
31 PITTSBURGH FIFTH AVENUE 0
60 MONONGAHELA 0
76 CARNEGIE 0
50 TARENTUM 0
37 PARNASSUS 0

WPIAL Playoff

60 PITTSBURGH ALLEGHENY 0

Washington had another powerhouse in 1926. After a season opening 33-0 romp over Burgettstown, Washington faced Greensburg, for many years one of the top powers in Western Pennsylvania football. Wash High had never beaten Greensburg but, on this day, Washington scored twice in the first half and shut out the Brown and White 13-0. Only Charleroi, in a narrow 7-6 Prexie victory, could score on Day’s squad. The Little Presidents then battered Wilkinsburg 26-0 in the WPIAL title game, witnessed by 8,000 at the new Pitt Stadium.

The 1931 team was Hank Day’s last at Washington and many still consider it his best. The team won seven straight, giving up one touchdown – to Aliquippa in a 54-6 rout when third and fourth stringers were in the game. The Gardner Point System unfortunately placed Washington third behind Clairton and Midland. No
playoffs were scheduled. End Sam Mawhinney and back Robert Anderson were named to the All-WPIAL first team.

Tiny East Washington High School had a perfect undefeated, untied and unscored on team 8-0-0 team in 1927. Its final victim was much larger enrollment Trinity who outweighed East Washington by 17 pounds per man. Trinity made the season’s closest approach to the EW goal on a pass, reaching the 36. The Hilltoppers got no further and East Washington won 7-0. East Washington became part of the Washington School District in 1966.

Parnassus was merged with New Kensington in 1931, nearly doubling the size of the community and school.

LeRoy “Hank” Day was born on December 29, 1892, on a farm near Prosperity in southern Washington County. He then attended Morris Township High School, graduating in 1911. At W & J, he went out for football but could not become a regular player for the nationally known Presidents. He did, however, watch and learn. A year after his 1915 graduation, he became head coach at Wash High.

After the all-winning 1931 season, Day became head coach at W & J, but the Presidents were in the process of deemphasizing football and successful teams were difficult to establish.

Ed Garbisch, a W & J and West Point All-American, was a star of Day’s first Washington team, along with Charles West who quarterbacked the W & J Presidents in their scoreless tie with vaunted California in the January 1922 Tournament of Roses – now Rose Bowl – game.

Wash High had a fine team in 1952, coached by Emil Dupke. Unbeaten and untied, the Little Prexies lost a heartbreaker to Aliquippa, 13-12, in the WPIAL AA title game at Pitt Stadium.

In 1963, under mentor Dave Johnston, Washington had a perfect record and a No. 1 rating state-wide in the Saylor ratings. Unfortunately, West Mifflin North and Butler had more Gardner Points and met for the AA championship. Powerful Uniontown had beem beaten on the Red Raiders home turf.

In recent years, Washington, now a smaller school, reached the 1993 PIAA AA title game at Altoona, losing to Dallas, 31-7. In 2001, the Little Presidents won the AA crown at Hershey Park with a 19-12 win over Pen Argyl. Dan Mozes, later a consensus All-America center at West Virginia, was a mainstay of the title team. Guy Montecalvo who had played for Johnston was the Wash High coach.

The ability to use ”Fight on to Victory, a History of Washington High School Football, 1901-1993” by the late Bob Robertson as a reference for this article is acknowledged and appreciated.

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