1972 classmates hold reunion before Harding football game

1028166...R WGH CLASS 1...Warren...10-28-16... Former WGH Panther cheerleader Sandy Cristo of Houston, TX, left, and good friend and former Panther majorette Debbie Capito Paully share memories together at a gathering of the WGH Class of 1972 at the Sunrise restaurant Friday before the Howland vs. WGH Football game at Mollenkopf stadium...by R. Michael Semple

WARREN — The Warren G. Harding Class of 1972 had bragging rights when members of the class helped the Panthers notch a perfect 10-0 season in the fall of 1971.

The team was ranked No. 1 in the polls, but state championships for high school did not begin until the 1972 season.

It has been 45 years since that  season wrapped up and Chris Partis, a member of the Class of 1972, credits social media for bringing 50 classmates home for a pre-game reunion at Sunrise Inn before the Warren G. Harding throwback game Friday evening at Mollenkopf Stadium.

“It’s the Panther throwback game, a chance to relive old times and the spirit that was here back then,” Partis said.

“Following the undefeated season of (Paul) Warfield in the ’60s, that was the bar we had to reach over,” said Gene Haplea, a former Panthers player.

The team is now known as the Raiders after merging with Warren Western Reserve High School in 1990.

Haplea said the community was supportive of the undefeated Panthers.

“Everybody would decorate their cars. Every restaurant and car dealership in town would have a bus going to our games. We were just kids, we didn’t realize what was going on. Looking back now, wow, that really happened,” Haplea said.

Debbie Capito Paully of Howland, a former majorette, and Sandy Cristo of Houston, a former cheerleader, said they remember the excitement of the final game.

“I was so nervous I couldn’t cheer,” Cristo said, wringing her hands as she recalled the tense moment.

Jimmy “Rail” Pytlik, who gave up football in favor of baseball and basketball senior year, recalled the end-around play, a unique call that led to the 8-7 win.

“The fake play to the fullback up the middle and Doug Stubbs scoring the winning touchdown, that will live in infamy,” Pytlik said.

The season was magical, players and classmates agreed. Though they looked forward to Friday night’s game against rival Howland, being with friends was what he looked forward to most, said Tom Muir, backup quarterback and defensive back on the 1971 Panthers team.