1953 Upper Perkiomen Indians Football Team - First row, left to right: Delton Fritz (co-captain), Martin Reifinger, Steve Miklos, Maynard Moyer, Terry Fetterman (co-captain), Jack Schmoyer, Larry Yokl and Robert Smith. Second row, left to right: Dave Pritchard (coach), Roy Leister, John Gilbert, Walter Schmidt, Karl Winsch, John Brunner, John Moll, Richard Conrad and R. Snyder (asst. coach). Third row, left to right: Owen Faut (manager), Randall Stein, Richard Graber, William Niemy, Clarence Eschbach, Charles Breisch, John DeWolf and R. Eckensberger (asst. coach). Fourth row, left to right: Herbert Carter (manager), Kenneth Seyfarth, Charles Miller, Dale Rothenberger, Kenneth Bozzelli, Sam Treichler and James Moyer.
Sixty years ago, when football came before turkey on Thanksgiving Day around here, the Upper Perkiomen gridiron gang rushed, passed, blocked and tackled their way into the record books.
It was only a little over a year since the area schools joined together to become the Upper Perkiomen School District. The high school rivalries of the East Greenville Yellow Jackets (who were sometimes called the “Greenies”) and the Pennsburg Bulldogs became a thing of the past as the players joined forces under the tutelage of coach Dave Pritchard to become the team to beat in 1953 – a year they played all nine of their scheduled games without a loss.
Back then, with only 27 players on the roster, it was normal for players to take to the field on offense and defense, sometimes in several different positions. It wasn’t unusual for players to be on the field for every minute of every game.
According to then halfback, linebacker and defensive back Bob Smith, while the games between East Greenville and Pennsburg were spirited, it was always good, clean competition. Off the field it seemed like there was more of a rivalry “between the women.” He added that the streets of East Greenville would be bathed in whitewash the night before the big game and “older farmhands would return the favor on the streets of Pennsburg.”
Front Street was the dividing line and fans avoided crossing the East Greenville-Pennsburg border in the days leading up to the game between the locals.
The 1953 merged team started the season with a trip to Quakertown where the Blue and Gold of Upper Perk would battle the Bucks County rival to a 7-7 tie. According to center-linebacker Walt Schmidt, it was thanks to half-back Bob Smith’s “drop-kicked extra point” that gave the Indians the stalemate. Most players don’t even know what a drop-kick is today. The Quakertown tie would be the only blemish on an otherwise perfect season.
The team would go through their season topping Wilson, 24-7; Spring City, 32-0; Muhlenberg, 13-7; Governor Mifflin, 12-0; Hellertown, 32-0; Emmaus, 14-0; and Royersford, 32-7; leading up to the “Turkey Day” showdown with Boyertown.
According to a Dec. 4, 1953 Town and Country article, a crowd of more than 2,800 avid fans overflowed the cement bleachers in the football stadium behind “Old Main” on Jefferson Street in East Greenville to watch the Indians of Upper Perk go head-to-head against the Bears of Boyertown; and what a game it was.
Field conditions were muddy and less than ideal when the teams took the field. The Upper Perkiomen gridiron gang scored within the first five minutes of play when quarterback Terry Fetterman handed off to halfback Del Fritz who took the ball into the endzone. Bobby Smith added the extra point (via a drop-kick) to give the Indians a 7-0 lead early on. It was a score that would withstand 43 more minutes of hard-fought football action, by both sides, to give Upper Perkiomen its undefeated season.
Playing tackle (both ways) back then was Karl Winsch of East Greenville. Recollecting his days on the team Winsch mentioned that “only 14 points were scored on the first string that season and five teams were shut out.”
It’s been many years since that memorable Thanksgiving Day football game in 1953, but to those who played in that glory year, their pride is trumped only by their humility in what they accomplished.