Throwback Feature: Memories of the first perfect season (1965)
Salamanca Press - 1996 Football Preview
It has been 30 years since the Class of 1966 graduated and left their mark in Salamanca High School Football history. In the fall of that senior year was when names like Bob Nugent, Terry DeBoy, Jim Wright and Dennis Bowen (yes, that's President Bowen now days) roamed the field at Veteran's Park and took the Salamanca High football program to new heights.
During the 1964 season Salamanca Head Coach Joe Sanfilippo led the Warriors to their first unbeaten season in school history, but the 1965 team was one step better - becoming perfect Warriors - finishing with an 8-0 record.
If we lost a game that year ('65) they should have fired the coach," exclaimed former Salamanca coach Joe Sanfilippo, now retired and living in Jamestown.
The only blemish for the '64 team was a scoreless deadlock against division rival Falconer. Despite the tie, Salamanca was able to capture the Southwestern Conference championship while finishing with a 7-0-1 record, racking up a school record 266 points.
In the 1964 finale, the Warriors dismantled the Kane Wolves 30-0 in front of an estimated 2,000 fans at Vet's Park. After the game coach Sanfilippo and backfield coach Pat Carroll were soaked under the showers by the entire Warrior team. Sanfilippo would later be named 'Coach of the Year, after the '64 season. Salamanca's previous best record was 7-1 back in 1958.
Fifteen seniors ended their careers with the Warriors in 1965. After, the final game a crowd of students - who had attended the game made their way to the high school to greet the team for one final time. Inside- the Salamanca school, coaches Sanfilippo, Roger Crandall and Athletic Director Louis Foy avoided the showers, but were hurled into the swimming pool following Salamanca's first perfect season.
"I never needed to give the kids pep talks because they were already mentally prepared for each and every game. Those Salamanca teams back in the '60s were all great teams. At one point we went unbeaten for four years before we lost to Olean by one point," said Sanfilippo.
Sixty-two players, 17 more than in 1964, reported to Sanfilippo's five-day tryout session for the 1965 season. Sanfilippo was beginning his ninth year as the Warriors mentor and the Salamanca team returned only five starters and 12 letterman.
Before the '65 season got underway there were some doubters from the local media who thought that this team was good as the previous squad, players on the other hand proved the media wrong as they were stronger than ever during the 1965 campaign. At one point after the 1964-65 seasons, 21 former Salamanca players were playing football at the college level.
"We had a great team that season. After the opening kickoff, you could usually tell we were going to win the game just by looking at how many of the opponents' bodies were laid out on the field. When an opposing player got hit by a Salamanca player they remembered it for quite some time because it stung so much," said former Salamanca player Tom Milanowski.
Of the five starters returning were 6-foot, 175-pound Walt Eddy who would become one of Salamanca's starting ends, and center Tom Myers who would be switched to tackle to make room for returning letterman and center Dave Greene. Senior Tom Scott made the move to tackle from his guard position as Junior Dennis Bowen took over the lineman's chores.
"We had a great line that season, even former '65 end Rick Johnson said once, "I'm not your end, I'm your outside tackle," Sanfilippo recalled - when contacted by the Press.
"I was the one who was supposed to be quick with my hands. Every now and then the coach would call a sweep and I was able to be the lead blocker. I used my blocking knowledge from my days with the former Killbuck Panthers team under coach Joe Oliverio," said '65 quarterback Terry DeBoy.
Leading the five returning starters were senior running back Bob Nugent and fullback Jim Wright who were two of Salamanca's most durable running backs of all time. Nugent would be names the areas Player of the Year and go on to lead the '65 team in scoring with 36 points on 6 touchdowns. While Nugent was running his way into the record books, Wright was right on Nugent's heels in scoring that season with 35 points. 11 of Wright's points would come from extra points as he led the league with his placements.
"The team had a hellacious running game with Nugent, Wright and Stellabuto," said Terry DeBoy, who quarterbacked the unbeaten squad.
The other six returning lettermen were senior guard Myron Wilson who previously had played at tackle in '64; halfbacks Brad Brown, Craig John Ken Drugg; fullback Bob Oldshield and DeBoy who threw six touchdown passes including four versus division rival Gowanda on the road.
Sanfilippo also received help from two transfers that year as Jim Stellabuto, from Johnsonburg, Pa., was a key addition to an already potent backfield and Johnson, formerly of Little Valley, took over the first team end chores.
"Even before the first practice of the season began, we were all in top shape. Tom Lockwood would take the players behind Jefferson School during the summer and would prepare them for the upcoming season by running a few plays," said Milanowski.
"Our team was so good that year that anyone of our second or third string players could have started for just about any other team in the area," said Milanowski.
Other members of Salamanca's first perfect season team included: backs Steve Taylor, Gene Oyler, Tom Milanowski and Dan Drugg; tackles Fred Lankow, Dan Ludwick and Dennis Wujastyk; center Carmen Vecchiarella; guards Dick Meissner, Tom Rapacioli, Tom Jackson and Mike Stratton; quarterback Chuck Crist; ends Tom Prybylo; John Dugan, Ross Peters, Tom Fluent and Robert Cooper.