- November 23, 2022
Looking Back 50 Years To the First Football Game At the New Williamsport High School Football Stadium
The year was 1972. It was the year of the great Agnes Flood, the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics; Richard Nixon would overwhelm George McGovern in an electoral landslide; Nixon went on state visits to both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China that year. The new Williamsport High
The year was 1972. It was the year of the great Agnes Flood, the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics; Richard Nixon would overwhelm George McGovern in an electoral landslide; Nixon went on state visits to both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China that year. The new Williamsport High School opened in January, and on September 9, 1972, the Williamsport High School football team played its first game at its new stadium “on the hill.”
I remember that inaugural game 50 years ago very well. It is hard to believe it was that long ago. I was an equipment manager for the football team, along with Larry Vaughan and Jack Coleman. It was quite a thrill to be a part of, even in a very small way — the opening of the brand, spanking new football stadium that had lights. The old West Third Street Stadium that the Millionaires moved out of following the 1971 season did not have lights, but it certainly had a lot of great memories attached to it.
Some of the elements of the new stadium were still a work in progress. The new locker rooms that were to be located next to the stadium were not ready yet. A temporary, jerry-rigged facility was used near what I believe was the north end zone. Both teams would go back into the high school gym locker rooms, change, and get ready for the game. The temporary locker room was used at halftime. I know it took us a lot of work to load and unload equipment to take down to the stadium. The practice fields at the high school weren’t ready yet either, so the team did a lot of its practicing and preparation down at Roosevelt Junior High School.
A preview for the public, the press, and parents of the team of the new stadium was held on Wednesday, September 6, 1972, three days before the opening game with Altoona.
More than 1,500 people, including members of the Williamsport School Board, came out to see Coach Bill Ruddy and his coaching staff conduct a light workout under the lights to help acclimate the players to their new home. The same night, the newspaper had bold headlines about the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
Everyone was excited about showing off and seeing this brand-new facility. My fellow managers and I made sure everything was just so with regard to the players’ equipment and that there was a sufficient supply of game-quality balls for the players to use in their workout. The players were very proud to be part of this historic occasion.
On game day, Saturday, September 9, there was even more anxious anticipation by all of us associated with the team. That night there was a very large crowd of more than 7,000 on hand, larger than many games at the old West Third Street Stadium.
The game was a defensive struggle. There was a sense of pride and hope that finally, after 13 years, Williamsport would be able to defeat Altoona. Altoona scored the first touchdown, but then the Millionaires tied the score at 6-6 behind the tough running of bull-like fullback Larry Hostrander, who scored a touchdown late in the third quarter. Everyone felt a surge of euphoria with Hostrander’s touchdown. Unfortunately, the try for an extra point was blocked because of the confusion caused by an injury to quarterback Bill Simon.
The Williamsport defense thwarted the rugged Altoona offense, yielding only one first down in the second half. Altoona had future New Giant standout lineman Brad Benson on its team that season. The game ended in a 6-6 tie.
Several years ago, the late Tom Shivetts, who was the quarterback and receivers’ coach of that Millionaire team, reminisced with me about that first game, and he recalled to me some of his memories of that historic night.
“I remember thinking how different the new field would be from the old West Third Street Stadium,” Shivetts said. “The new stadium would be located in a natural bowl and would have lights. The whole atmosphere was going to be different, and we were going to have to get the players acclimated to playing their home games under the lights,” Shivetts told me.
He remembers the team being one that had “good but undersized players” that were very dedicated to winning games.
“We had a lot of players that were somewhat light on both sides of the line but hustled a lot and had a good work ethic, like Bobby McCullough, just to name one,” Shivetts said. “We had a bruising fullback in Larry Hostrander. We had a good coaching staff, but unfortunately, the leadership at the top, head coach Bill Ruddy wasn’t the best. I think we could have had a better team with better leadership. That 1972 team was a much better team than our record indicated. We lost several tough games by small margins such as two or three points.”
Unfortunately, that opening night tie with Altoona was the closest the ’72 Millionaires would come to victory as they lost all the rest of their games. I agree with Coach Shivetts; I remember that team as a great bunch of guys who had a lot of pride in their play. It was a frustrating season for these players who knew they were better than their record indicated. Still, they helped to inaugurate the new Williamsport High School Stadium in a memorable and tenacious way.
Several years ago, the Williamsport High School Stadium was renamed “STA Stadium” as a part of the naming rights craze that has been so lucrative for various public entities.