George Guido: Valley’s ‘Dirty 30’ 1996 football team to be honored
Saturday, September 18, 2021 | 8:19 PM
Usually, being called the “Dirty 30” is anything but complimentary.
But for Valley’s 1996 football team, it was a tag of which to be proud.
The only Vikings team to post an undefeated regular season (9-0) in the school’s 55-year history will be remembered Oct. 1 at Valley Memorial Stadium when the current Vikings host Freeport.
Center/inside linebacker Jeremy Enciso of Arnold got the ball rolling over the summer.
“We posted on Facebook that the 25th year was coming on, and we started tracking people down to have a reunion,” Enciso said. “I’m shocked that 27 of the 32 will be coming.”
Plans are to introduce the team before the kickoff.
In 1995, Class 3A Valley started the season as the No. 3 team in the state and the No. 2 team in the WPIAL. Things didn’t work out as well as the Vikings finished 5-4 under coach Ray “Whizzer” White.
With heavy graduation losses, it was thought Valley might be in for a rebuilding season.
But the ’96 Vikings would have none of it. The season opened strong with a 41-13 victory at Derry.
In Week 2, a major challenge took place on the road at Kiski Area. With the remnants of Hurricane Fran soaking the Alle-Kiski Valley, Davis Field, which never drained well in the first place, hampered both offenses.
Valley trailed 7-0 going into the fourth quarter, and the strategy became simple: give the ball to running back Brandon Williams. The junior standout slogged to 112 yards on 27 carries. Quarterback Steve Lacinski’s 1-yard sneak put Valley on the board. Later, Lacinski passed 25 yards to Pat Matyas for the touchdown.
Valley was so muddied after the game that White’s wife, Pat, called the team the Dirty 30.
“That is the most soaked I’ve ever been,” team manager Kenneth Grabowski said on the team’s Facebook page. “I remember the bus driver making us take off our cleats and shoulder pads, and we had beaten a Quad-A school.”
Valley finished the regular season with wins over Knoch and Burrell to go 9-0. The conference champs were rewarded with a first-round bye, but the week off hurt the Vikings.
Mt. Pleasant played keepaway, holding the ball as long as it could, limiting Valley to just 17 offensive plays in the first half. Valley managed to take a 13-7 lead on a 78-yard touchdown run by Williams, but Mt. Pleasant answered with four consecutive scoring drives to put the game out of reach 35-21.
White, who died in 2015, always thought the off week got the team out of its rhythm.
“We won 13 in a row overall, still a school record,” Enciso said. “It was a special team. Most of us grew up together starting with youth ball when we were 5.”
Williams finished the season with 1,911 rushing yards. He led the WPIAL in rushing in 1997.
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