Quaker Valley set to honor ’67 football team in Hall of Fame

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Monday, September 18, 2017 | 11:00 PM


Fifty years later, the memories remain strong for the 1967 Quaker Valley football team.

One of the best teams in the school's history and champions of the Black Hills Conference, the Quakers missed a chance to compete for a WPIAL title because of their lone loss in their regular-season finale. But with a chance to reunite last weekend for their induction into the Quaker Valley Sports Hall of Fame, there were far more good memories than disappointing ones shared by the former players who took part in the festivities.

“There were nine seniors on the team of 65 guys; one has passed away, and two we were not able to get a hold of,” said Tom O'Neill, who was a senior guard and linebacker in '67. “The other six of us got together for lunch the other day, and that lunch lasted about 4 12 hours and nearly all of that time we were talking about Quaker Valley football.”

There was plenty to reminisce about for that '67 team — a group predicted in local papers to finish last in the conference, O'Neill recalled.

The team, coached by Quaker Valley Hall-of-Famer John Nusskern, opened with a nonconference win over South Park and then proceeded to shut out their first three conference opponents, Bellevue, Fort Cherry and Western Beaver. The team gave up just 56 points in conference play and continued to win until the final game against Hampton, but that one loss cost the team a shot to be in the final because two other Class AA teams, eventual champion Burrell and runner-up Freeport, posted 10-0 records.

“We still can't figure out how the system didn't allow us in there, but we still enjoyed every minute of it,” O'Neill said.

Among the highlights of the season were a 26-21 win over West Allegheny and a road win at then-biggest rival Moon, which had almost as much action on the ride home as during the game.

“Moon was our biggest game, and everyone thought we were going to get clobbered,” O'Neill said. “Then after we won, we were leaving and coach told us to put our helmets back on the bus. As we were leaving, people from Moon were throwing rocks, bottles, all sorts of things at the bus. It was definitely a different time.”

Among that Quakers team was senior fullback and Black Hills Conference MVP Greg Smith, who died about two years ago, O'Neill said. Two other players, Jim Roolf and Ken Alvania were first-team all-conference selections, and Roolf joined Smith on the all-WPIAL team.

One could fill a book with stories from that season, ranging from the team's first trip away to football camp and three-a-day practices at St. Francis (Pa.) to having one of the area's first soccer-style kickers by having a foreign exchange student fill the role. But a few more memories were made this weekend, when the team was honored before the Quakers' 45-21 win over Beaver that took the team to 4-0.

The coach of the current Quakers, Jerry Veshio, was a sophomore on the '67 team. And while he wanted his players to help recognize the squad being honored, the pregame moment spontaneously grew.

“I brought the team over after warm-ups, just to meet and greet the guys from the '67 team. They told our guys good luck, and just like that, the seniors on our team, our captains, went over to shake hands with every one of those guys,” Veshio said.

“After they did that, now all our kids are going over to shake hands with them. As a coach, of course, I'm also thinking this is the end of our warm-up time and we've got to get going, but it was really was a touching and connecting moment with those guys from 50 years ago, and our guys were able to come out with a win with them there.”

“That was really first class what they did,” O'Neill said. “That meant more to us that night than anything else.”

Veshio credits that '67 team's senior group for helping Quaker Valley football have a nice run of success during his playing years. The Quakers also lost just one game the next year and only two in Veshio's senior season.

“Back then, sophomores didn't even dress or travel for away games, except for maybe three or four from our class that might play,” Veshio said. “But we loved mixing it up with the older guys in practice that year, learning from them and being on the field with them.”

Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com

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