The veterans on the roster were John Yankovich, John Parfitt, Ed Jones, Cal Herring and Rich Rainic from Coaldale; Charlie Williams Jr., Bill Jones, Len Fredericks, Jim Malkin, John Mikulski, John Cipyak, Tim Mongi and Jim Johannsen of Lansford; Bob Benek, Frank Michalik, Stan Bankus, Ed and Lou Vermillion, Steve Figura and Greg Davidyock of Summit Hill; Rich Evanko Tom Pituch, Mike Kusko, Paul Skodacek and Angelo Malaska of Nesquehoning.
Yankovich (Coaldale) wound up with 15 touchdowns that year to capture area individual scoring honors.
Let's take up where we left off the last time. If you recall, I wrote that Panther Valley was getting ready to launch its historic first season on the gridiron.
The year, 1964. It would also be the new jointure's first venture into sports. Basketball, for both boys and girls, volleyball, wrestling, cross country and golf would follow, and in the springtime, track, baseball and softball.
For me it was only the third time I had a front-row seat to report the birth of a new football program in the Carbon County-Panther Valley area. Before that, there was Marian in 1954 and then Jim Thorpe in 1955.
Now Panther Valley.
After going through the drills, and with nearly two dozen lettermen returning from the 1963 Coaldale, Lansford, Summit Hill and Nesquehoning squads in camp, enthusiasm was high throughout the valley.
Coach Rich Davidyock's team completed preseason drills successfully and was anxious to get it on.
There were preseason scrimmages but we were not allowed to report them back in those days, so the excitement was mounting.
Actually, it was an era for jointures. As a result, the Southern Division of the Eastern Conference had two less teams than in 1963. The Anthracite Region's athletic structure was being reshaped. The division had lost five old members, including Lansford, Coaldale and Summit Hill, who were charter members, and gained three new ones.
Panther Valley chose Saturday night for its home games, joining several other Eastern Conference schools such as Bloomsburg, Blue Mountain, Berwick, Shamokin, Frackville and West Hazleton.
It wasn't anything new for Lansford, which had been playing Saturday nights. But Summit Hill and Nesquehoning both played at home on Saturday afternoons; Coaldale booked its home games on Friday night and sometimes Thursday night.
The team was based under the lights at Lansford Stadium and its first foe was Marian. Actually, of the four schools making up the new jointure, the Colts had only faced Lansford and Summit Hill in the past.
Sports pages printed the following outlook summary about the new jointure:
PROSPECTS -- A senior squad, experienced and conservatively deep with good chance of winning most of its 11 games.
CHIEF ASSETS -- Seasoned, speedy backfield, with good passers and receivers, plus plenty of outside running power and a quick, sturdy line if injuries heal.
CHIEF PROBLEMS -- Injuries to key players, size in the backfield, learning the zone switch pass defense and defense in general.
TYPE OF ATTACK -- Wing-T.
The veterans on the roster were John Parfitt, John Yankovich, Ed Jones, Cal Herring and Rich Rainic from Coaldale; Charlie Williams Jr., Bill Jones, Len Fredericks, Jim Malkin, John Mikulski, John Cipyak, Tim Mongi and Jim Johannsen of Lansford; Bob Benek, Frank Michalik, Stan Bankus, Ed and Lou Vermillion, Steve Figura and Greg Davidyock of Summit Hill; Rich Evanko Tom Pituch, Mike Kusko, Paul Skodacek and Angelo Malaska of Nesquehoning.
Marian was coming off a 1-8 season, having lost the last game of the 1963 season to Summit Hill, after opening the season with a 12-6 loss to Lansford in Lansford stadium.
Now the Colts were about to return to LHS stadium to take on the new jointure. They were relying on veteran quarterback Dennis Boyle and the team's top scorer Joey Colanecco, both of Lansford.
Boyle and Jim Shober would be alternating at quarterback and fullback for Marian. Colancecco and Tom Vacarro would complete the Colts backfield.
Even though Marian, under Hugh `Wink` Gallahger, in his 10th season, had welcomed its largest school enrollment and a similarly record turnout in football, the Colts weren't being given much of a chance in the 1964 opener.
As predicted, the jointure was awesome, coasting to a 31-0 victory.
I wrote in the opening paragraph of my game story: `A bright new grid juggernaut was born last night in the valley of legendary football.`
Continuing, I said: `The new Panther Valley jointure transposed the traditions of Coaldale, Lansford, Summit Hill and Nesquehoning high schools into a single, slick machine that rolled over Marian with ease.`
A curious crowd of 6,000 jammed LHS stadium for the historic event that left little doubt as to the success of the new school jointure in football.
Marian, which went 0-7-1 the rest of the way, had the misfortune of being the first to face the Panthers, although many others were easy prey as well. Panther Valley flattened Frackville 27-0 the following week; then dropped two of its next three starts before routing Schuylkill Haven 46-0.
The Panthers lost their next three games but won their last two including a season-ending 52-0 rout of St. Clair to finish 7-4.
As expected, Yankovich, who scored twice (once on a pass from Williams) against Marian, wound up with 15 touchdowns that year to capture area individual scoring honors.
Williams scrambled for eight TDs and also connected on six touchdown passes, using five different receivers. It was obvious the new jointure had indeed jelled.
In all, it was a most satisfying start for the new program. A huge testimonial dinner honoring the team was held on Jan. 25, 1965, in the Lansford Amvets.
Lehighton won the area's mythical title with a 9-1 record, best in school history.
But Panther Valley enjoyed continuing success in the years that followed. The 1965 team finished 6-4. Then came the two best seasons as the Panthers compiled a school-record 9-1 mark in 1966 and followed at 9-2 in 1967.
After their first losing year in 1970, Panther Valley surged back at 7-3 in 1971 and 8-2 in 1972.
As they say, the rest is history. Everyone is aware how high school sports goes through ups and downs, but that first season started Panther Valley on its way to a rich legacy in football.