Jewell recalled as great leader of early ‘70s Salamanca football teams

High school football players in the 1970s did not dare to change Joe Sanfilippo's play calls. Except for Jay Jewell.

Starting his senior year as quarterback for the Salamanca Warriors in 1971, Jewell’s team trailed Albion, a much bigger school, 7-6, midway through the fourth quarter. When Sanfilippo sent in a run play on a crucial down that Jewell “knew was not going to work,” according to his classmate and teammate Jud Foy, he made a different call: play-action pass.

“He looked at us in the huddle and told us Jay was changing the play to which we were all shocked,” Foy recalled. “But he called for a play-action and hit Stu Davis, our tight end, on a post that was so wide open for the winning score that it was incredible.”

The pass put Salamanca ahead as it went on to win 15-12, the first and closest game in what turned out to be a perfect season: 8-0. Jewell’s teammates weren’t the only ones stunned by the play call.

“The assistant coach of Albion, who knew Joe very well because he used to coach at Little Valley,” Foy said, “came into our locker room at the end of the game and asked Joe, 'Who the hell called the pass?' To which Joe responded it ‘sure to hell’ wasn't him. But Jay knew if we went with the play, we weren't going to win this game. And he had enough guts and confidence in himself to change it and win a game for us. Then we went on to go 8-0 after that. That's the type of leadership Jay had.”

Jewell, age 65, died last month on Aug. 14, in Mount Joy, Pa., due to complications associated with cancer, according to his obituary. A three-sport athlete who went on to play four years of basketball at Salem College (now known as Salem University) in West Virginia. He twice made the Big 30 All-Star football team, in 1970 and 1971, and his teams only lost two games in that span.

— To Foy, the story of Salamanca’s 1971 opener tells the story of Jewell’s leadership.

“Jay knew it was the right thing to do because they were putting eight in the box every single play because it was raining out there,” Jewell said. “Joe doesn't throw the ball on dry days, let alone in the rain, but Jay knew it would work. He just told Stu Davis, 'Just don't drop it.'

“That just was unheard of in Salamanca. (Sanfilippo) was the Woody Hayes of high school football. When Joe sent a play in, you ran that play. But Jay had enough