1973 Pennsbury Falcons
LBCL/Big 8 Champions
Record: 9 - 1 - 1
Head Coach: Chuck Kane
7 Shutout Wins, plus a Scoreless Tie (8 Teams were held scoreless)
Fewest Points Allowed (Pennsbury era, since 1949) - 40 (3.6/11 Games)
1973 Defense: A Record-Setting Team for the Ages
By Michael J. Ramsey
DE: Frank Torok, 88, 6-5, 220 “Menacing Morrisville Mauler“, Torok terrorized opposing offenses, as he did to foes in the swimming pool as the 100 yard LBC breastroke (100) champ; later walked on at Penn State and made the team.
DT: Cliff Stout, 71, 6-0, 250 Meanest man in the whole darn Levittown; girth and grit.
MG (MLB): Warren Knop, 67, 6-2, 205 Tremendous athlete; started as junior on the legendary ‘72 squad and later at Duke on the DL; fantastic teammate as well.
DT: Mike Caine, 76, 6-4, 220 No one messed with “Big Mike“ Caine. 19-inch arms, could strict curl 120 for reps.
DE: Dave Guertin, 82, 6-3, 195 The right size for DE...a “Blonde Californian“ transplanted to Fairless Hills
LB: Keith Bangor, 51, 6-1, 175 Cat-like quick and leading tackler as a junior.
LB: Rich Coradetti, 30, 5-10, 185 The “Whatever it takes” grappler.
CB: Butch Giehl, 23, 5-6, 155 The undersized dog who played big when it counted.
MM: Bob Bowden, 22, 6-1, 185 The other returning starter and possibly the best all- around athlete to roam the halls of PHS; also an all-state baseball pitcher and stalwart guard on the hoop squad.
FS: Neil Tanicello, 16, 5-9, 170 Clever player with a knack for always being in the right place at the right time.
CB: Tim Fitzpatrick, 17, 6-3, 165 The other Junior starter, the “Irish Assassin“; went on to star as a corner at the University of Cincinnatti.
One Point and One Man Away
One point and one man away from eternal fame; such was the fate of the 1973 Pennsbury Falcon football squad, remembered by many as possibly the most talented group of all time.
The point and the man came early, as deemed by destiny, on a dreary early September afternoon in Levittown, Pennsylvania. In the season opener at Woodrow Wilson High School, six miles down the road, Pennsbury was undone by a shock and a rock.
The rock was Vince Thompson, 6-1, 230 lb. fullback for the Wilson Rams. The shock was the 21-20 final score in favor of Thompson and his teammates.
Thompson rocked the Falcons by rushing for 181 yards that day and scored all three of Wilson´s touchdowns. This stellar player later went on to set the University career rushing record at Villanova (before his mark was bettered by Brain Westbrook in 1997-2001) and three seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.
The one point and one man lingered in the heads of the Falcon players, reverberating and underscoring “what could have been.“
The Team had to move beyond this disappointment.
After the travail with Thompson, the Pennsbury practice sessions the following week took on an intensely penitent mood with nary a smile nor a laugh to be seen or hearas the team took every punishing workout to heart.
Bethlehem Freedom players paid a painful price for Pennsbury’s penance the next Saturday at Falcon Field and were pulverized 40-0, never getting beyond their own 40-yard line.
Rebounding from that initial gut-wrenching shock, the PHS defense buckled down brutally, allowing the nine remaining opponents on the schedule a meager 19 points, seven of which came against the second squad “D“ and two of which came on a safety. Virtually every defensive record on the books in Fairless Hills and Lower Bucks County up to that time period had been eclipsed. ‘Twas the year the term “defense“ was truly “redefined.“
Allentown-Allen was next, hammered 31-13, but managing to put some points up on the board. Such a “feat“ did not occur the rest of the way against the first team Falcon defense.
The stage was thus set for what was “expected“ to be the toughest contest of the year against the equally rugged and large Bethlehem Liberty Hurricanes. The result was a once-in-a-generation 0-0 draw, with both defenses virtually obliterating the opposing offenses. Boring? Yes. Impressive? Ditto.
The remainder of the season was basically a display of brute force with the Birds beating up on befuddled foes, rarely giving them room beyond midfield. The final game with archrival, Neshaminy, was won without further drama by a 13-0 victory over the ‘Skins.
Offensively, the Falcons were led in ‘73 by all state offensive guard, Dave Oppenheimer, massive tacklers Gary Stadanlick and Marcus Duda, along with crafty QB Robert Crouch and the “Artful Rodger, the Dodger“ Strandburg at HB.
The 1973 Falcons hold Two Pennsbury High School Records in the history from the 1949 merger of Fallsington, Yardley, Lower Makefield, and Falls Township:
The Most Shutout Wins: 7, 8 Teams held Scoreless
Fewest Points Allowed: 40 (3.6/11 Games)
AUTHOR’S NOTES: Bob Bowden (P) and future Perfect Game MLB pitcher. fullback on the 1972 team, Len Barker (N), battled on the mound in May 1973 aside the legendary “Heartbreak Ridge“ Stadium in Langhorne. Both threw two-hitters and registered massive K-counts, with Pennsbury emerging the victor, 1-0, after an error and a wild pitch, arguably the best pitching duel in the history of LBC.
FALCON NEST EDITOR’S NOTE: The author of this article which was written for the Ground and Pound website is Michael J. Ramsey, former sportswriter and a sophomore teammate/member of the 1973 Falcons.