In the heavy industrial cities and towns that prospered in the hills
and river valleys of Pennsylvania for decades, scholastic football
was the most important activity, excepting perhaps only family and
church - and the gridiron sport was a religion of itself. Such was
the case in the Flood City, Johnstown, hemmed in by narrow valley
walls and dominated by the giant Cambria plant of Bethlehem Steel.
In 1941 and 1958, the Johnstown Trojans fielded strong, tough
elevens that were dominating AA champions of the WPIAL.
The 1941 team, coached by the wily Duke Weigle worked through a
difficult all-winning schedule and then out-fought Mt. Lebanon at
Jeannette's McKee Stadium before 15,000 for a 7-0 victory and the AA
crown. Little sparkplug quarterback Johnny Makar and rough tackle
Larry "Sparky" Schellhammer led the Trojans as they won their first
major championship after decades of frustration. Both were All-State
Weigle, a native of nearby Windber and graduate of Schuylkill
College - now part of Albright - later coached a successful
McKeesport program for many years.
Seventeen years after the first title, 1958 Johnstown achieved the
WPIAL AA heights again. These Trojans were an imposing team with one
of the best forward walls in WPIAL history and a swift-running
backfield labeled the "Trojan Horsemen". This squad won ten straight
in a perfect season - then, heavily favored, got by a feisty
Clairton squad on a fourth quarter field goal by All-State and
All-America guard George Azar. The final score in the AA title game
at Pitt Stadium was 3-0.
Azar says today that the day contest at Pitt provided a "strange
feeling" for the squad after ten night games. Johnstown home games
were played in famous Point Stadium - then a double-decked baseball
park as well as a gridiron site.
In the 1958 opener, a gritty Redstone club, featuring a sophomore
quarterback, Fred Mazurek, later to become one of the WPIAL's
all-time greats, gave Johnstown all it could handle before
succumbing 13-0. Another coke region team from Fayette County,
German Township, went down 32-13. Always formidable neighbor Windber
actually led the Trojans 13-0 before going under 36-13. 15,000
packed Point Stadium.
Bitter mountain rival Altoona was beaten at the Lions' Mansion Park,
20-14, as Curry, the rangy Mountain Lion quarterback caused a lot of
problems. The Trojans won the battle with 382 rushing yards. The AA
championship game berth was secured with a workmanlike 28-7 win at
Following the Clairton win, a state championship game with perfect
record Easton or Central Dauphin in the East would have made for an
exciting climax to the 1958 season.
The Trojans, a close-knit mature team, improved constantly as the
season unfolded. Azar was the most recognized of the linemen, but
Dean Stump, at center, was a brilliant pivot. The guard opposite
Azar, Jerry Davitch, was a heady player as well. With end Bernie
Solich and big tackle Ed Adamchik flanking Azar, and the Audi
brothers, Norm and Dave on the other side, Johnstown was solid all
the way across the front.
Among the backs, Bobby Bambino was a compact 136 pounds. He was
quick, tough and difficult to bring down. Tom Runyon at quarterback
was the field general of this powerful team.
Davitch, in a statement a few years ago, said, "I never played on a
team after that where everybody's effort was as continual as it was
there. It was just down after down after down. It was more than a
Johnstown rolled to another perfect season in 1959, but came up
short in the Gardner Point system, and Charleroi and Aliquippa
played for the AA title. End Solich, named to the All-State second
team, was a mainstay of this team, with halfback Woody Barnette and
fullback Gene Buchan, now juniors, the running stars.
The Trojan win streak reached 25 before Mazurek and his Redstone
Blackhawks battled Johnstown to a 13-13 tie on their home field at
Republic midway through the 1960 season
The coaching master of this great 1958 team was Dave Hart, a
Connellsville native, who had been a Coker backfield teammate of
Notre Dame and pro great Johnny Lujack. With Hart, Lujack, and Wally
Schroyer, 1941 Connellsville was undefeated.
After making the Georgia squad as a freshman, Hart went in to the
Army Air Force in 1942 and returned to Georgia in 1946. He then
transferred to St. Vincent's outside Latrobe and became team
captain. He was named head coach at Mt. Pleasant Hurst and moved to
Johnstown for the 1954 season.
In 1961, he became an assistant at Kentucky, then at Navy. He served
as head coach at Pitt for three years, before entering athletic
administration. Learning the business at Robert Morris, he was
Athletic Director first at Louisville and then at Missouri. In 1986,
he became Commissioner of the Southern Conference, finally retiring
Hart ran a quality program at Johnstown, with three junior high
squads working with the same system. Training and trainers were
emphasized, and the players appreciated the extraordinary
organization of which they were part.
George Azar starred at Michigan State, became a respected assistant
coach, and served as an executive with the Philadelphia Eagles,
assisting Harry Gamble for many years.
Jerry Davitch played at Arizona, became head coach at Idaho, and is
now the school superintendent at Richland, just outside Johnstown.
Bernie Solich went on to the Miami Hurricanes, while Ed Adamchik was
a tackle on Pitt's fine 1963 team. Among others, Stump and Runyon
played at Bucknell.
The 1958 all-victorious Trojan starting lineup:
E 53 Bernie SOLICH 6-2 188
T 63 Ed ADAMCHIK 6-2 211
G 74 George AZAR 6-0 181
C 85 Dean STUMP 6-0 178
G 72 Jerry DAVITCH 5-10 168
T 61 Norm AUDI 6-0 190
E 54 Dave AUDI 6-2 185
Q 17 Tom RUNYON 6-1 166
H 23 Woody BARNETTE 5-10 157
H 36 Bobby BAMBINO 5-7 136
F 33 Craig MICHEL 5-9 166
Key defensive backs included 18 Fred PRUITT, 40 Lynn HOFFMAN, 24
Gene BUCHAN and 44 Charles LAPORTA. Pruitt weighed just 127 pounds,
LaPorta 131, and Hoffman 143. Linebacker Buchan brought some bulk at
177. The starting line played on both sides of the ball.
Johnstown's perfect 1958 record:
F 33 Craig MICHEL 5-9 166
13 REDSTONE TOWNSHIP 0
32 GERMAN TOWNSHIP 13
41 NEW KENSINGTON 0
36 WINDBER 13
26 DUQUESNE 0
26 MCKEESPORT 0
39 MONESSEN 19
20 ALTOONA 14
28 HAR-BRACK 7
41 JOHNSTOWN CATHOLIC 0
WPIAL AA CHAMPIONSHIP
3 CLAIRTON 0
The movie "All the Right Moves", starring Tom Cruise and a Hollywood
scholastic football epic, was filmed in and around Johnstown. The
old Central High School building was reopened for the filming and
the climactic game was played in Point Stadium.
The assistance of Mike Mastovich of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat
with this article is acknowledged and appreciated. Photo above
courtesy of the Johnstown Tribune Democrat.