The Falcon Flew

By Michael John Ramsey

1974 was a year that really wasn’t supposed to happen and has somehow been lost in

the shuffle over the decades, something remembered fleetingly like two guys at a

reunion talking about whatever happened to “good old so and so” and forgetting about

“so and so” a minute later when the waitress comes by to take the orders for the next

round of drinks.

1972, 1985 and now 2006 are the years that stick in people’s minds when it comes to

Pennsbury Football. But not only did 1974 actually happen, events actually happened

in 1974 that never had before and never have since.

After going 11-0 and edging arch rival Neshaminy in a game that came down to

seconds and a controversial call in 1972, the Falcons went 9-1-1 in 1973, boasting a

defense that gave up less than five points a game. The 1974 Orange & Black squad,

though touted as one of the favorites for 1974, was not expected to come near the

feats of either of those teams. They surpassed both.

In 1974, Pennsbury finished once again with an unblemished 11-0-0 record; this time

around capped off with the State Championship in the sportswriters state wide poll,

ahead of Western PA powerhouses Upper St. Clair and Gateway, who tied in their

season finale. (At that time there was no playoff.) The Falcons had flown, their quest

complete, the first and only state championship in the history of the school was in the

bag, the rings ordered.

But the Birds flight was not without some turbulence. Yes, the most prolific offense in

school history averaged 36.6 pts. per game and soared past numerous PHS and Lower

Bucks County records in the process. The largely untouted defense had kept

opponents to 6.3 pts. per game and posted four shutouts en route. The mean difference

of more than 30 pts. still stands as a school record today, but the numbers don’t tell the

whole story. It was not an easy season.

Three close games told the tale of the season. At each of these critical points, the

Falcons came back from behind to win in the second half.

The first juncture came relatively early, on an Indian Summer evening in Bethlehem,

Oct. 4, 1974, when Big 8 Rival Liberty spent the majority of the first half ripping apart

the Falcon defense, amassing huge chunks of yardage in route to a 10-3 halftime lead.

It didn’t look good for Pennsbury; 3-1 was lurking ominously in the background. But the

second half told a far different story: the Falcon D held Liberty to minus yardage, kicker

Vincent Giordano enjoyed a perfect three for three night with field goals, and electing

tactically to take a safety late in the fourth quarter, PHS won 16-12. The first, and

possibly biggest test was complete.

The second “test” was sprung upon the Falcons sooner than expected when the

Council Rock Indians raided Falcon Field in late October. With star halfback Billy Austin

sidelined with an injury, the PHS fans watched, mouths agape, as CR linebacker Mike

Rennie ran back an interception 55 yds. for a TD, and the heavily-favored Birds went

into the half-time dressing room trailing 7-0. Despite an early PHS TD, things didn’t get

much better in the second half as Indian scat back, Bart Terroni, raced down the

sidelines for what looked like the winning TD. Only a superhuman effort by monster

man Wayne Buder to chase him down at the two, and a “once-in-a-lifetime” goal line

stand by the Falcons defense saved the day. Austin, hobbling, came in, sparked the

offense to a touchdown, and the Falcons escaped, scalps intact, 14-7.

The third examination came a week later in the ominous confines of the Easton Red

Rovers home playground on the middle Delaware. As usual on such Friday evenings, a

belligerent, “vivacious”, volatile home crowd had come out to watch the equally rabid

Red Rovers maul their unlucky visitors. The boos, spit and bottles came tumbling down

from the stands as the Falcons walked out for the opening kickoff. “Look, there’s

number 40…that boy’s fast,” pointed out one of the more “observant” of the Easton

horde as he spotted Austin among his teammates. “But he ain´t gonna be so fast after

we git done with him.” Shades of the Southern Appalachians and “Deliverance” came

to mind. This was not a pleasant place.

Things were extremely unpleasant for Pennsbury in the first half as the Rovers fullback,

a bearded barbarian “bowling ball,” 5-9, 217 lb. Bill “the Wolfman” Heilmann ripped

through the Falcons for 76 yards and a TD, leading the rabid dogs to a 10-0 intermission


Still frothing at the mouth, but out of breath, the Dogs got tamed in the second half,

however, as the Pennsbury O executed perfectly under the expert play-calling of

offensive coordinator Bob Buckanavage, and the Defense kept a tight line on Heilmann

and his canine comrades. They didn’t score, the Birds rolled off 17 unanswered points

and won, 17-10. Key play was a delay pass out of the backfield to “sixth man” halfback

Chris Klein. As they departed, the Falcons were still met with a few jeers, but the

majority of the hostile crowd actually gave these Birds an appreciative ovation….this

was a team with guts.

Eight and O, and ranked in the State top five for the first time, the Falcons still had one

big obstacle left….and that obstacle lurked close to home, across town as a matter of

fact, in the form of the down, but never out Neshaminy Redskins. After ripping Reading

and Delhaas, the orange and black stage was finally set as the arch-rivals from

Langhorne appeared up close and personal at Falcon Field on Nov. 23, 1974. Pennsbury

was 10-0-0. Neshaminy 4-5-1, but everybody the least bit familiar with Lower Bucks

County Football knew you could throw those numbers out the proverbial window.

The Skins came to play, and despite a few bad breaks, hung tough in the game behind

the passing of Harry Ullrich. By mid third quarter, it looked as if the tide had turned Red

and, unbelievably, the horror of 1971 was going to repeat itself (NHS comeback win).

That possibility came to an abrupt end as Pennsbury* blocked a Redskins punt at

midfield and ran it back for a touchdown. 28-7 and the second perfect record in three

years was as good as in the books.

On that Saturday at noon, Pennsbury was ranked number three in the state, behind

leader Upper St. Clair (1) and Gateway (2) both also undefeated and untied at 10-0-0.

Three hours later, the Falcons believed themselves to be on top as long-time stadium

announcer Bob Keyes announced the 6-6 tie end result between the two Western

Titans. Those suspicions were confirmed the next Tuesday as the UPI Final Poll came

out in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Pennsbury had won their first and only state football

championship in the now 60-plus year history of the school.

Here’s a few of the Falcons who flew that year…the coaches and the line-up as it

appeared on the season’s final day:











SE: Jeff Maracani, 84, Sr., 5-9, 170: The 9.9 hundred yard sprinter was the league’s

leading receiver and a constant deep threat.

OT: Kevin Lohr, 70, Sr., 6-2, 225: Big, reliable and consistent.

OG: Tony Soriero, 67, Jr. 6-0, 255: The “I-talian Tank, one of four junior starters, a brute

force. (In Memoriam)

OC: Frank Prior, 50, Sr., 6-3, 230: First-team all-state center on everybody’s list. An animal.

OG: Dave Lerch, 66, Sr., 6-3, 190: Lightest offensive lineman, had best technique, also

swam for PHS.

OT: Martin Sierocnski, 72, Jr., 6-6, 240: “Big Ski,” all-stater in 75 and future Penn State

three-time letterman.

TE: Scott Krysa, 80, Sr., 6-2, 175: The amiable “Kree” had great hands and blocked

above his weight class.

HB: Billy Austin, 40, Sr., 5-8, 160: Nicknamed “The Jet” for good reason, a multiple threat

who led the county in rushing and scoring. Courier Times “Player of Year.” All-state

return specialist.

FB: John Rinald, 31, Sr., 6-0, 195: Great blocker, good runner, nice guy.

HB: Terry Fitzpatrick, 43, Sr., 6-2, 185: The “workhorse” in the backfield. Great nose for

the goal line. A bruiser.

QB: Joe Crossin, 11, Sr., 6-3, 175: A great guy with a rifle arm. Led the league in passing.

Multi-sport athlete who looked like he came out of a Tom Sawyer book.

HB: Chris Klein, 32, Jr., 6-1, 190: All star wrestler, the first man off the bench for the

Falcons. Did everything well.

K: Vince Giordano, 75, Jr., 6-2, 220: Following in his brother John’s footsteps, Vinnie

was nearly perfect in 74, best foot in the league.


DE Bob Epperson, 88, Sr., 6-3, 202: “Ep” was the Rock of Gibraltar for the Falcons, Mr.


DT: Randy Wagner, 74, Sr., 6-4, 245: First-team all-state tackle, the “Ratman” was

imposing for opponents and a deceivingly clever all-around footballer.

MG (MLB): Mike Ramsey, 64, Jr., 5-10, 190: Another junior, made the big plays when it

counted. Deceiving strength.

DT: Jon Horovitz, 87, Sr., 6-4, 200: Moved in from DE and more than rose to the numerous

occasions. Most improved player on team.

DE: Buddy Reichard, 82, Jr., 6-3, 190: LBC “Player of the Year” in 75 and “Sack King.”

Quickest first step of any lineman in eastern PA.

LB: Keith Bangor, 51, Sr., 6-1, 185: The “Hippie Linebacker” led the team in tackles and

captained the defense. Very difficult to block.

LB: Jeff Smith, 34, Sr., 6-1, 200: PHS version of the “Bionic Man,” ran a 4.5 40 and bench

pressed 350 lbs. Another all star wrestler, a bone-crusher.

CB: Timmy Fitzpatrick, 17, Sr., 6-2, 170: Twin brother of Terry. Great athlete who could

cover people and hit like a ton.

SS: Wayne Buder, 13, Sr., 5-9, 160: A clutch player and smart guy, went on to graduate

from Cornell.

CB: Kenny Johnson, 15, Sr. 6-0, 162: The best athlete at PHS. Johnson’s value to the

team can be measured in the fact that he played the four last games of the season with

his broken right arm in a cast! Irreplaceable.

FS: Bob Cooper, 21, Sr., 5-11, 172: “Steady” Bob played centerfield with poise. A stopper.

P: Johnson: averaged 39 yds. a punt, none blocked.


° Scored more than 40 points in six games

° Led LBCL and Big 8 in total yards, yards rushing, yards passing and points scored

° Led LBC and Big 8 in least points allowed.

° First and only Pennsbury team to have three 1st team all-state players.

° Interior offensive line average size: 6-3, 230, biggest up to the date in the state.

° Individual league leaders in six major offensive categories: rushing (Austin), scoring

(Austin), passing (Crossin) and receiving (Maracani), field goals made (Giordano) and

PAT (Girodano).

*Falcon Nest Editor’s Note: The Pennsbury player who blocked, then recovered the

punt and ran it in for a Touchdown was the author of this article, Michael J. Ramsey

1974 Pennsbury Falcons


Big Eight Champs

Undefeated (11-0) 3 Shutouts

Head Coach: Chuck Kane