Laura Lamar '62 championship team honored at Homer-Center game
High school teams have been playing football at Homer City's Memorial Field since 1946, and one of the greatest teams ever to grace that turf was the 1962 Laura Lamar Wildcats. Homer City High School became Laura Lamar High School in 1952 and stayed that way until 1966, when the school was re-named Homer-Center.
In a ceremony before tonight's Homecoming game, Homer-Center School District will recognize members of the '62 squad, commemorating the 50th anniversary of a team that finished 8-0-1.
H-C Superintendent Charles Koren said the occasion will provide a “cross- generational connection of men who exhibit friendship, cooperation, industriousness and achievement, not only on the field of competition while they were in high school but also in life.... We as a school community are excited to welcome back those who helped pave the way to make Homer-Center the great place that it is today for education and activities.”
The 1962 Wildcats outscored their opponents by a combined 261-7, with the lone touchdown against them coming in a 7-7 tie at Windber. While many other games were cancelled due to torrential rains that eighth Friday of the season, Windber thought the poor conditions would work to its favor and the strategy paid off.
What made the season all the more remarkable was that Laura Lamar played up in class, and Windber was no exception.
“Windber was one of the best teams around back then,” said Buff Fanella, 90, who was coaching Laura Lamar. “And we had an exceptional team, but we were playing out of our class. Windber was a Class A team back then, while we were a Class B. Windber played all of the best teams around, and we liked playing up, too. We had dropped Elders Ridge, and I asked the boys if they wanted to play Windber, and they did.”
Fanella, who coached from 1958 to 1965 and finished 46-22-3, is planning on attending tonight's ceremony.
The '62 Wildcats started the season with seven straight shutouts. In Week 9, in a battle of unbeatens, Lamar won the Western Conference and Indiana County Championship by blanking Penns Manor, 14-0. That game was played in snow and was marred by a brawl involving both benches and many fans.
Other area teams that failed to score against Lamar that year included Punxsutawney, Ford City, Cambria Heights, United, Blairsville, Purchase Line and Cresson.
Some of the '62 team members were scheduled to enjoy dinner with the current Wildcats Thursday night. Tonight, just like old times, they will gather at the high school and will walk from the school down “Wildcat Alley” to Memorial Field with this year's team.
“I am absolutely tickled about this,” current H-C head coach Greg Page said. “These are the kinds of teams our kids need to learn about. You have to embrace your tradition.
“There's also a personal connection in that my father (longtime Laurel Valley head coach Jerry Page) played for Coach Fanella at Portage back in the 1940s. I hope our kids appreciate this and the history....”
While the warm-ups are taking place tonight, the '62 team will enjoy refreshments prior to the game and then be honored during a pre-game ceremony.
Laura Lamar had many weapons, but perhaps the biggest was junior Quarterback Steve Wassick. Wassick completed 72 of his 125 passes for 1,376 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Mark Bertig is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.