Coaldale's 11-0 Football Record in 1962 was Due to Pure "L.U.C.K."

(Article Submitted by Mike Panchura, October, 2012.)

Fifty years ago, a team of young men brought pride and fame to the Borough of Coaldale.

The Coaldale High School 1962 football team, under the leadership of Coaches Geno Poli and Tom Raymer, achieved the fourth undefeated and untied season in school history as the Tigers rolled to an 11-0 record culminating with a 14-7 hard-fought victory over arch-rival Lansford.

A couple of years after that season, I was privy to a conversation conducted by a group of guys from Coaldale and Lansford about that 1962 team. The conversation took place at Repko's Bar in Lansford, where at the time one glass of draft beer cost 10 cents. As you can imagine, after about a dollar's worth of beer, the conversation grew somewhat noisy and heated.

Although I don't recall the specifics of that conversation or precisely how it ended, I do remember that the conversation began when one of the Lansford participants vociferously proclaimed: "Coaldale's 11-0 football record in 1962 was due to pure luck."

As I reflect on that conversation nearly 50 years later, I have finally come to the surprising realization that the Lansford guy who made that proclamation may have been right when he said that Coaldale's 11-0 record in 1962 was due to pure luck. However, the 11-0 record was not due to pure "luck" as he had meant to define that word. Instead, the 11-0 record was due to pure "L.U.C.K.," i.e., the acronym "L.U.C.K.", where L = the LEGENDS of Coaldale football, U = the rallying cry UNACCEPTABLE, C = the CHEMISTRY among the members of that team, and K = the team's All-State halfback, Ed KASSAK.


The members of that 1962 team knew they were not only responsible just to play hard and to try to win every game. They knew they were also responsible for upholding the strong traditions of Coaldale football that had begun 50 years earlier in 1912 with the creation by James H. "Casey" Gildea of Coaldale's professional football team, the Coaldale Big Green.

The Big Green, aka Big Greens, won three consecutive Anthracite League championships in their heyday and were comprised of LEGENDS such as "Honeyboy" Evans, Vince Gildea, Joe Garland, "Blue" Bonner, and many others.

The members of that 1962 team also knew about the other LEGENDS who preceded them starting with the first Coaldale Tiger team in 1921 and including the three undefeated and untied teams of 1922, 1930, and 1934. They knew the names of the Tigers like George Welsh, "Gid" Gildea, "Pistol Pete" Sachon, "Teeler" Jabbo, "Herman" Horoschak, Greg Posta, and so many others, who provided thrills and wins for Coaldale football fans over the years.

The members of that 1962 team always knew that the LEGENDS of Coaldale football—The Big Green and previous Coaldale Tigers--were always watching over them, and they inherently knew they were expected to live up to the previous football success of all those LEGENDS.


In 1959, Coaldale suffered its first winless season in school history, going 0-10. As the 1960 season approached, the rising seniors on the team got together and decided it was their responsibility to begin to lead a comeback from that disappointing 1959 record. Those seniors—Moe Burns, Donny Popik, Tommy Sopko, Bob Heisler, Mike Danchak, Evie Evans, Jim McCartney, Jerry Donovan, Bill Evans, Bill Hedesh, Dan Moyer, Bill "Cubsy" Zweisdak, and Joe Terry—took charge and began to motivate the team to prepare for the upcoming season.

I recall that Moe Burns spoke one day to a group of the team"s underclassmen as they congregated on a corner "up town" in Coaldale. Moe asked the group if they had been working out. When one guy replied, "Not yet," Moe lit up, and for 20 minutes, he provided a pep-talk that may have rivaled Knute Rockne’s "Win One for the Gipper" speech at Notre Dame.

Moe concluded his speech by telling the younger guys, "Our 0-10 record of last year is UNACCEPTABLE. It is UN-FREAKING-ACCEPTABLE." Well, actually, he did not say "FREAKING," but he did utter a similar-sounding adjective and he did succeed in getting everyone’s attention. The guys started working out immediately and the 1960 team eventually went on to finish with a more respectable 5-5 record.

The Tigers improved further to a 7-3 record in the 1961 season under the leadership of senior players Larry Trubilla, Jack Evans, Bob "Scubs" Urban, Rich Duval, Tom Durich, and Bob Cheplick.

Thanks to the leadership of those seniors on the 1960 and 1961 teams and to the rallying cry "UN-FREAKING-ACCEPTABLE" (or words to that effect), the comeback from that 1959 season was truly underway and the blueprint was in place for the 11-0 season about to occur in 1962.


The 1962 team consisted of members of the classes of 1963, 1964, and 1965.

The vast majority, if not all, of those young men were born in Coaldale Hospital, located a block away from the Coaldale football field. In their formative years, they grew up together. They attended the same schools from Kindergarten through high school. They attended the town's churches, all of which were within a few blocks of each other. They played Little League baseball and Church League baseball with and against each other. They roamed the streets of Coaldale with each other. They went Halloweening together. They "robbed" cherries together. They hung out together on the various street corners and outside the restaurant and movie theater "up town" on Phillips Street. They swam together in the summer in the pool at the east end of town and at Lake Hauto. They laughed together, and they "made lugs offah" each other.

By the time the 1962 season rolled around, this team (see roster below) had great CHEMISTRY that was further enhanced by the leadership skills of Coach Poli and Coach Raymer.


Throughout history, most undefeated and untied teams usually have one person who is the franchise player, the spark plug, the straw that stirs the drink, etc. That person on this 1962 team was Ed KASSAK. A member of the class of 1963, Ed had a fabulous season in which he excelled on offense as a halfback and on defense as a safety. He won the Panther Valley scoring title, earned a berth on the coveted Big 33 team, was selected as the Schuylkill County Scholar-Athlete, and reaped All-State honors for his extraordinary efforts.

If you were a player on that 1962 team, or a fan, and if you ever have the opportunity in the future to engage in a conversation about that team with some guys from Lansford, and if they try to tell you that the 11-0 record was due to pure luck, then now you know that you can reply as follows: "You"re damn right that 11-0 record in 1962 was due to pure L.U.C.K.: LEGENDS, UNACCEPTABLE, CHEMISTRY, and KASSAK (L.U.C.K.)."


Team members in the class of 1963 were:

Joe "Babe" Popik – As the team's senior manager, Babe was a tremendously hard worker who kept the players outfitted, hydrated with water, and loose with his contagious sense of humor. Walter "Herk" Fedora – A speedy halfback and safety, Herk made numerous outstanding runs on offense and tackles on defense throughout the course of the season. Bob Cipko – As a linebacker and running back, Bob was as tough as nails and, through his sense of humor, he made a superb contribution to team morale. Tom "Tucker" Moyer – As middle linebacker and fullback, Tucker was in the middle of literally every play over the course of the season, and his mental and physical toughness were legendary. Norm Nesterak – A brilliant student of the game, Norm was a 145-pound guard who out-thought and out-played his opponents and opened holes for the backs on every play. Rich Miller – A natural and influential leader, Rich was a tough defensive end/cornerback and a crafty receiver who was always open because of his innate ability to run precise pass routes. Bill Edwards -- A cool, calm and collected leader, Bill directed the Tiger offense as its quarterback and displayed equally great ability as both a runner and a passer. Tom Sabol -- Described as a watch charm guard, Tom at 140 pounds was tough as a bulldog and his energy and spirit made him a mainstay of the offensive line.

Team members in the class of 1964 were:

Ken Hoffman – A tough and talented safety on defense, Ken added versatility and skill to the offense as a left-handed passing quarterback. Jay Hoffman – A strong and smart lineman, Jay added brawn and brains to the Tiger line on both sides of the ball. George Hoffman – One of the fastest runners on the team, George excelled as a safety on defense and as an accurate-passing quarterback on the Tigers high-powered offense. Bob “Wick” Winsko – Perhaps the fastest runner on the team, Wick dazzled his teammates and opponents with his long and flashy runs from scrimmage and on kickoff returns. Martin "Kod" Kodlick – A fierce tackler, Kod had an innate ability to find the ball on every play and, when he hit an opponent, the opponent knew he had been hit. Bob "Bogie" Griffith – A tough and strong 60-minute Tackle, Bogie contributed leadership on the field and humor off the field to help solidify the team's chemistry and success. Andy Sotak – With his enthusiastic and unparalleled work ethic as an end on both sides of the ball, Andy provided a great example for his teammates to emulate. Joe Pisanick – A quick, smart and tough guard, Joe added depth and experience to the Tiger offensive and defensive lines. Tom "Coogie" Terry – A 2-way lineman, Coogie"s strength and ability contributed to the team's success on the field and his singing expertise contributed to the team's esprit de corps. David Danchak – A tough, hard-working end, David played a significant role in shoring up the Tigers" defensive line and opening holes for the Tiger runners. George "Perky" Priggins – A strong and tough end, Perky had great pass-catching hands on offense and he demoralized defenses with his ability to deflect blockers and run down ball-carriers.

Team members in the class of 1965 were:

John "Junior" Parfitt – A nearly immovable Tackle on both offense and defense, Junior also shined as the team's kicking specialist. Cal Herring – A strong and hard-working player, Cal directed the offensive line as a center and shored up the defensive line as a middle guard.

Rich Rajnic – A dedicated and hard-working guard, Rich added depth and ability to the Tiger offensive and defensive lines. John Molotzak – A smart and talented lineman, John excelled as a blocker from his center position on offense and as tackler in the middle of the Tiger's defensive line. John "Sonny' Yankovich -- A shifty and speedy halfback, Sonny delighted fans and befuddled opponents with his flashy and tough open-field running. Bill Benyo – A tough and dedicated lineman, Bill added depth and talent to the Tigers "strong offense and defense."

(Article Submitted by Mike Panchura, October, 2012.)