1966 Southern Columbia Area championship team honored
BY STEPHANIE BETTICK
CATAWISSA RR — The 1966 Southern Columbia Area championship football team is the stuff Hollywood movies are made of.
Formed only four years prior and primarily made up of students who had never played the game before, the team entered the Susquehanna Valley League, filled with teams that were titans in high school football — Shamokin, Shikellamy, Lourdes and Danville, to name a few.
Due to injuries, at one point during the 1966 season, the varsity team was down to only 19 players. It was a great contrast to the opposing teams, who already had bigger teams due to larger class sizes. To top it off, Southern didn't even have their own home field to play on, utilizing the Catawissa Redskins' field and the old Athletic Park in Bloomsburg.
Going 0-9 in the 1955 season, the odds seemed to be against them in the league, however, wins in the first three games against Bloomsburg, Central Columbia and Lourdes (the only loss of Lourdes' season) began to turn things around. The season was filled with ups (a win against Danville) and downs (four losses), but no one could have predicted the outcome.
Coming off of three losses and one tie, Southern faced off against Milton, earning a win of 19-7 and becoming the 1966 Susqehanna Valley League Champions.
Friday night, before the eyes of dedicated Tiger fans filling the stadium for Homecoming, players from 1966, for the first time in 50 years, walked out onto a field together to be honored before the game against Lewisburg.
Team members gathered together earlier in the evening at the alumni tailgating, marking the first time some have seen each other since they were teenagers or early 20s.
Former tight end Mike Yeager enjoyed the opportunity to catch up at the tailgate. He said, It's a great opportunity to get together and reunite and talk to people you haven't seen in a very long time."
Pointing to former teammate Larry Rumbel, Yeager said that it was the second time they had seen each other since June. Before that? It was 45 years ago when he served as best man when Rumbel married his wife, Dottie, who was also at the reunion.
John Vastine, the 1966 coach, said he has seen most of the guys throughout the years.
He said, "I am most proud not only of what they did in football, but of the kind of people they turned out to be in society. They're all good people, not a bum in the outfit. That's what's important to me."
Tom Brokenshire was quarterback the year the team won the championship. The football program began when he was a freshman, he said, and they kept getting better and better, until the took the championship.
Despite the years apart, the players stood together in group huddles, catching up and talking about the past. Watching them, one thing was obvious — the camaraderie on that field was something no amount of time could tear apart.
Vastine said honoring the men is long overdue.
"They're sort of the forgotten champions," he said. "They can't measure up to what they're doing today, but they were the first."