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Harrisburg Tech  1919

 

By Hal Wilson


1919 NATIONAL CHAMPION HARRISBURG TECH HIGH SCHOOL ELEVEN
Sitting: Bill Pleam, John Arnold, Hap Frank, Cy Comfort, Barney Aldinger, Red McCord
Middle: Zip Malick, Goose Erdley, Harry Ellinger, Fog Smith, Carl Hoffsommer, Bobby Books
Back: Bus Snyder, Paul Garrett, Carl Beck, Coach Smith, Tony Wilsbach, Bud Lingle, Percy Grubb   -  Absent: Snaps Emanuel
Tech beat Portland, Maine for the National Title; scored 701 points to none for twelve opponents 
Photo: Courtesy Jake Smith
 

Scholastic football was still a developing phenomenon when Harrisburg Tech fielded a sensational team in the fall of 1919. World War I had ended the previous November and the country was still struggling back to normal after the War and the influenza epidemic. The 1919 Tech Maroon squad outscored its twelve opponents by an amazing 701-0. Portland, Maine, was beaten 56-0 in a post-season game and a national championship was claimed.
Harrisburg Tech was located in the old City Hall on Walnut Street. In the mid-20's two new schools, John Harris and William Penn, were built and Tech was closed after the 1925-26 school year. Home games were played on the Island Park field.
The Maroon schedule included the best Pennsylvania could muster among both public and prep schools. Mercersburg Academy and Erie Central provided the stiffest opposition, each going down by 20-0. Greensburg, a Western PA power, was beaten 39-0. Outside the state, Baltimore Poly was slaughtered 89-0, while the Naval Prep School in Washington, DC, was a 79-0 victim.
In-state foes ranged from Erie to Wilkes-Barre to Chester. The Delaware River City's team lost by an astronomical 93-0.
Halfback Carl Beck scored 204 points - 34 touchdowns - many on long runs. To this day, he is considered one of the greatest running backs ever developed in Pennsylvania. Beck totalled an amazing 445 points in his three-year career. He scored six touchdowns in each of three games, and five in four more. He returned four kickoffs for TD's. In one 1919 game, Beck scored four touchdowns in the first seven minutes.
Fullback Tony Wilsbach scored an equally astonishing 409 points in the same three-year span.
In 1919, Wilsbach scored 27 touchdowns and five conversions for a total of 167 points, while Bud Lingle tallied 19 TD's on his way to a total of 118. Drop-kicking tackle Cy Comfort converted "goals" after 51 Tech touchdowns.
Beck later played for West Virginia and Vermont. He was a pro star with both the Pottsville Maroons and the Frankford Yellow Jackets in the early days of the NFL. Comfort became a star tackle for Carnegie Tech, then on its way to becoming a national power. Tackle Hap Frank was a standout at Penn State and played for the Lions in their first trip to the Rose Bowl. Bud Lingle went to Bethlehem to play for Lehigh. End Snaps Emanuel became a successful high school coach. Emanuel's older brother, Vic, played for Tech in 1912-15, captained Gettysburg College, and played pro football throughout the 1920's.
In 1914, Beck's younger brother, Clarence, had scored a 105 yard TD for Tech - against rival Steelton. Clarence Beck, bigger than Carl, became a star tackle at Penn State. Legendary Nittany Lion All-American Glenn Killinger was a 125 pound three-sport star at Tech before walking on at State.

1918 had been almost as stunning a season as 1919 for the Maroon. Nine games were played and won - Tech amassed another amazing total - 597 points - an average of 66 per game - to just 10 for the overwhelmed opponents. In addition to Beck at 168 points and Wilsbach, Captain Gil Ebner went over the 100 point mark
In 1917, Tech had annihilated Altoona 117-0.

1918's state champion starters were:

E Bill HOERNER
T Johnny ARNOLD
G James PEIFER
C Vic BIHL
G Fred LAUSTER
Birdie HINKLE
T Calvin "Hap" FRANK
E Hen KOHLMAN
B Charles "Bud" Lingle
B Gil EBNER
B Carl BECK
B Tony WILSBACH

 

The usual lineup for the 1919 national champions included:

E Leon "Zip" MALICK 165
T Johnny ARNOLD 188
G Harry "Fats" ELLINGER 180
C Johnny "Phog" SMITH 153
G George "Cy" COMFORT 180
T Calvin "Hap" FRANK 165
E Ed "Snaps" EMANUEL 150
Q Charles "Bud" LINGLE 145
H Carl BECK 170
H Jack GARRETT 165
F Tony WILSBACH 180

Other strong players on the marvelous 1919 team including tackles Carl HOFFSOMMER, 153, and Bill PLEAM, 155; end Carlisle "Goose" ERDLEY, 155; guard Barney ALDINGER, 185; and backs George GARMER, 145, and Bob BOOKS, 150.
The magnificent Maroon 1918 and 1919 seasons:

1918
83 MT. CARMEL 0
13 LEBANON 0
67 TOME SCHOOL 0
24 MIDDLETOWN AVIATOR 0
94 BELLEFONTE ACADEMY 0
100 WILLIAMSON TRADE 3
67 STEELTON 0
73 LEBANON 0
76 JOHNSTOWN 7

1919
67 COMMONWEALTH A. C. 0
73 WILKES-BARRE 0
93 CHESTER 0
89 BALTIMORE POLYTECHNIC, MD 0
20 MERCERSBURG ACADEMY 0
32 PERKIOMEN PREP 0
63 BETHLEHEM PREP 0
39 GREENSBURG 0
79 NAVAL PREP, Washington DC 0
70 STEELTON 0
20 ERIE CENTRAL 0

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
56 PORTLAND, ME 0

Paul Smith was the coach of this fabled team - which may have been the best ever produced in Pennsylvania. Smith, a native of Harrisburg, had played on a fine team at Harrisburg Central. He attended law school, became a member of the Bar, then returned to football as coach at Central. When Central became a girls-only institution after the 1917-18 school year, he agreed to become head coach at Tech. His record in six years with the Maroon was 56 wins and only seven losses.
So gifted were these athletes at Harrisburg Tech that, when Penn State and the PIAA co-sponsored the first state championship basketball tournament in March 1920, Tech won with a starting five that included captain Beck, Frank, Lingle, Emanuel and Smith. Four games were won in two days.
The contribution of information and the team photograph from the late Clarence "Bus" Funk's 1967 book, "Gridfax", is appreciated and acknowledged.
 

 


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