1968 Newton Falls title team recognized

NEWTON FALLS — The 1968 Newton Falls High School football team, which won the first ever Trumbull AA League football title, will be honored on the 50th anniversary of its feat next weekend with a pregame introduction Friday night before the Tigers’ game against Mineral Ridge, and with festivities on Saturday.

Rod Zeck, a member of the 1968 championship team, worked with team co-captains Bob Marchaza and Clem Schneider, current Falls football coach Mike Gillespie, athletic director Tim McGlynn and the Board of Education in order to make the event happen.

“We literally started on this 18 months ago,” Zeck said. “As each person was contacted, the momentum kept building.”

The Trumbull AA League had been a basketball-only conference featuring rivals Newton Falls, Leavittsburg, Champion, Lakeview, Howland, Liberty and Badger throughout most of the 1960s. Newton Falls was the only school which had an existing football program, but when most of the others added the sport in the mid-’60s and Canfield joined the league, it was decided to make football a varsity sport.

The Tigers, coached by Andy Pike, then in his ninth season, were a perfect 6-0 in the conference and finished 8-2 overall with close losses to Ravenna and Girard.

The reunion weekend will also include on Saturday a tour of the old high school building, a banquet at Roby Lees Restaurant and an after-banquet party at AMVETS Post 112.

Thirty-five of the 38 members of the team are still alive and of those, 17 have said they will attend the events, along with three coaches, four cheerleaders, two girls from the Homecoming Court, plus the game announcer and team film coordinator.

Zeck said Debbie Roach Simon, widow of all-league center Dennis Simon, is flying in from Dallas for the event.

“That’s how much this means to everyone,” said former quarterback Reid Lamport who went on to star at Bowling Green. “The response has been heartwarming to say the least.”

Lamport’s mother, along with three other moms who were members of the “Athletic Mothers,” who prepared and served the team meals, will attend Saturday, according to Lamport.

“All are in their late 80s and looking forward to it,” he said.

“This is a big deal for a lot of people,” Zeck said.

Obviously, things were much different 50 years ago. Arlington Field, home to the Tigers back then, was a football throw away from the Old Covered Bridge.

“Coming into the locker room after warm-ups and hearing our marching band come down the street and through that covered bridge gave me chills then, and now, as well, just thinking of it,” former guard Tim Howard said.

Senior halfback Andy Bretsik remembers the new bleachers being built at Arlington that summer.

“There was no track. The bleachers were literally 15 feet from the field,” he said. “The atmosphere was crazy. Townspeople standing 10-12 deep in the end zone, amazing.”

The Tribune Chronicle did several feature articles on the Tigers that year, along with all 10 game reports and five times ran various photos of the team.

“All of this and much, much more will be on display at the banquet Saturday night,” Zeck said. “There will be plenty of surprises for all who attend.”