In one of the most decisive championship game victories in
Pennsylvania history, the mighty Coal Township Purple Demons won the
1955 Eastern Conference title with a resounding 63-6 hammering of a
good West Scranton squad. Playing on its home field in the
alternating north-south format, Coal scored the first time it
touched the ball when quarterback Lamar Switzer ran a punt back 75
yards to score, aided by superb blocking. The Purple Demons never
looked back, leading 28-0 at the half and 40-0 after three periods.
Coach Walter Marshall substituted freely but the avalanche never
Veteran observers at this game termed Coal's triumph the finest
scholastic football performance they had ever witnessed. The
Associated Press declared that Coal Township was the state's finest
team. The Purple Demons were obviously very explosive and could
score at almost any time.
In the 1955 opener, Coal faced the Williamsport Millionaires, then
in the midst of a golden age under Tom Vargo. Visiting Coal matched
Williamsport touchdown for touchdown, but finally went down 28-25.
Ahead 25-21 late in the game, Coal was marching for the clinching
score when a screen pass was intercepted and returned for a TD.
The Purple Demons then rolled through the rest of their schedule,
edging bitter rival Shamokin and its star Don Carsto, 14-12, along
the way. Mt. Carmel, the defending Eastern Conference champion, with
future Southern Cal All-American Dan Ficca, was destroyed 40-6 - the
Tornadoes' only loss. The Purple Demons executed their game plan
perfectly and Mt. Carmel never had a chance. Swoyersville, the 1956
conference champion, was buried 33-7. The Sailors' only other loss
was to West Scranton, 7-6.
Against the aptly named West Scranton Invaders, after Switzer's
lightning strike, big 205 pound junior fullback Vince Paczkoski
scored four times on runs of 15, 10, 19 and 24 yards. Switzer scored
again, this time from the one. Jim Rubendall and Robert Martin also
tallied from in close. Bob Thomas completed the rout with a 70 yard
kickoff return after the Invaders had finally scored on a 40 yard
Another junior, a fireplug short yardage demon, halfback Bernie
Rumberger, was named to the 1955 All-State first team. He and
Paczkoski led another fine Coal team in 1956, with Paczkoski winning
every honor in sight including first team All-State, Big 33, and
All-American. Tackle Sid Rozinski made the third unit selection.
Lamar Switzer ran an outstanding game as quarterback for the 1955
machine, while up front, a devastating line, paced by center Ben
Blascovich and guard Pat Forbes, cleared the way.
In 1950, another great Coal team marched to the Eastern Conference
title. This team administered the only defeats to the vaunted
Swoyersville Sailors in a three season period, winning 7-0 at Coal
and rallying to win 26-13 in the mud in the Eastern Conference title
game at Kingston. The Sailors had perfect records in 1949 and 1951.
Fullback Johnny Zupicick rushed for three touchdowns as a punishing
Purple Demon defense forced six second half Sailor fumbles. Zupicick
was honored on the All-State second team.
Coal was undefeated in a string of 24 games, from mid-1949 to
mid-1951. Again, from mid-1953 to mid-1957, the Purple Demons did
not lose a conference game.
The series between Coal and Swoyersville, beginning in 1950, was one
of the fiercest in anthracite region history. Two class programs
went head-to-head through most of the decade.
Tackle John Gurski of the 1950 squad went on to star at Penn and
become a highly respected scholastic coach. Zupicick was a star
running back at Richmond.
Paczkoski's father, also Vince, a standout at Coal in 1925 and 1926,
went on to play at Villanova and later became Coal's principal. Son
Vince, the 1957 class valedictorian, followed in his father
footsteps and played at Villanova. He became a prominent dentist in
the Coal-Shamokin community.
1955's Blascovich became an excellent center at Cincinnati and later
an assistant at Coal. Halfback Robert Narke played at Dayton.
Coach Walter Marshall had extraordinary coaching credentials. He was
an All-Philadelphia guard at Simon Gratz High in 1933 and 1934. He
was a letterman guard at Notre Dame and served as freshman coach for
the Irish after graduation. After another year as head man at
Northeast Catholic in Philadelphia, he came to Coal Township as head
coach in 1940 and 1941. Marshall then returned to Northeast
Catholic, and went on to Dartmouth as line coach and Lafayette as
the head coach. From Easton he went to Buffalo to mentor Canisius,
and then to Auburn as an assistant.
In 1949, Marshall was persuaded to come back to Coal Township and
the Purple Demons entered their greatest era. His stunning
seven-year record was 59 wins, only 14 losses and a solitary tie.
After the 1955 season, Marshall left the coal regions for a head
coaching job in New Jersey. Five years later, he left the coaching
profession and moved to Florida.
Walter Marshall was a strong disciplinarian who stressed
fundamentals and attention to details. One of his Coal assistants,
Bernie Romanoski commented recently that " Walter Marshall was
'ahead of his time' in his approach to the game". Regarding
preparation, Romanoski said "we would spend 15-20 minutes running a
single play until we got it right. "
The powerful 1955 Coal starting lineup:
E 37 Dan ZABLOSKY 5-10 170
T 34 Francis GURSKI 6-1 215
G 24 Pat FORBES 5-9 160
C 19 Ben BLASCOVICH 5-11 205
G 28 Francis BLASICK 5-11 190
T 29 Sid ROZINSKI 6-1 210
E 30 Al SABOL 6-1 185
Q 10 Lamar SWITZER 6-0 185
H 22 Robert NARKE 5-7 145
H 13 Bernie RUMBERGER 5-7 185
F 35 Vince (Billy) PACZKOSKI 6-2 205
At halfback, 20 Jim RUBENDALL saw a lot of action. Big 41 Jim
BRIGHTBILL relieved at tackle and handled all the kicking.
The 1955 championship season record:
25 WILLIAMSPORT 28
55 ASHLAND 0
37 BLOOMSBURG 6
14 SHAMOKIN 12
48 SUNBURY 12
40 MT. CARMEL 6
45 MT. CARMEL CATH 6
34 KULPMONT 7
21 HARRISBURG CATH 12
33 SWOYERSVILLE 7
EASTERN CONF. CHAMPIONSHIP
63 WEST SCRANTON 6
Coal Township surrounds Shamokin at the western end of the Southern
Anthracite field. In 1917, the two municipalities had a combined
population of 45,000. Ten anthracite collieries and a huge silk mill
brought prosperity. Today, the total community is much smaller and
the economy diversified. In 1964, the Coal Township and Shamokin
school districts merged to become Shamokin Area. The color Purple