Mud, Guts and Glory

Mud, guts and glory

Beaverdale’s 1954 title game with Replogle was one for the ages.

By Dave Potchak

For The Tribune-Democrat

 The game had a little bit of everything: Two undefeated teams with a championship at stake, great individual players, horrible weather conditions and even a catchy nickname.

The “Mud Bowl,” the 1954 Inter-County Conference championship football game, lives on in legend, as the entire Replogle team – which battled Beaverdale-Wilmore to a 6-6 tie in the game – was inducted into the Bedford County Sports Hall of Fame last week.

“On a dry field, we would have killed them,” said Jim Domen, a Beaverdale defensive end who later played at the College of William & Mary and Clarion University. “I remember that game like it was yesterday.”

Jack Martin, Beaverdale’s quarterback, sees it differently.

“I think on a dry field, Replogle may have pounded us. Their coach had each of our plays diagnosed, and we couldn’t get anything done during that entire game. We were very frustrated.”

Worlds apart
Beaverdale and Wilmore are located in the central region of Cambria County. In the early 20th century, many Eastern Europeans migrated there to work in the mines and railroads that were common to the area.

Some of the hills in this mining district were made of boney, a waste product of the coal mines. At one time everything in the old towns was covered with a light coating of black dust.

Nothing was spared. Even the water in the creeks was yellow from the sulfur pollutants coming from the mines.

The education offered to high school students was the newly formed Beaverdale-Wilmore jointure. And their Beavers earned a solid reputation for winning football games through the 1940s and ’50s.

A counterpart community known as New Enterprise is located in the Southern Cove area of northern Bedford County. That area still looks much the same today as it did in 1954. The gently rolling farm fields, fence rows and rural homesteads remain intact 53 years later.

In sharp contrast, that farming area 30 miles to the east did not resemble the mining towns of Cambria County at all.

A drive west from there, via 1954 automobiles, took only about an hour, transcending two mountain ridges. Yet, the two communities seemed to be worlds apart.

Primarily, German immigrants settled the Cove of South-Woodbury Township. Their main objective in that area was farming the land.

Replogle High School in New Enterprise was the Cove area’s educational institution at the time and its 1954 football team was gaining a reputation as one of the Mountain Conference’s better teams.

But the geographical and occupational differences weren’t the only dividing lines.

A large Republican population resides in the Cove while the west side of the ridge is mostly Democratic.

Roman Catholicism was the most common religion in Beaverdale. The Replogle students mostly grew up in Protestant households.

These two drastically different towns were brought together on a fall day in 1954. The collision of communities was not about land boundaries, religion or politics. It had nothing to do with the farmers or the coal miners.

No, this was all about which community had the better football team.

The Beaverdale Wilmore Beavers went 9-0 in the regular season and were the Western champions of the Inter-County Conference.

The Replogle Maroon went 9-0 and were the conference’s Eastern champions.

The Adams Township field in Sidman was one of the few stadiums in the region with lights, so it was a natural choice for the conference championship game.

The Maroon, coached by Andy Radi, were just beginning to grow into a prominent team of the ‘50s. In the prior season, Radi’s team suffered only one loss, to Robertsdale.

Eddie King of New Enterprise played on the previous year’s team but returned to watch the Mud Bowl.

“I came home from college for that playoff game and remember it well,” he said. “The entire population here made the trip over the mountain.”

The people of Beaverdale were used to success. The Beavers won a number of championships, both in the Inter-County and in the Mountain Conference.

Including 1954, they went undefeated four times in the ’40s and ’50s. In the magical 1951 season, the Beavers went undefeated and unscored-upon.

They also were unbeaten in 1940 and 1958.

Common ground
As different as the two schools were, the players did share a tough, blue-collar mentality.

“These were farm boys,” said Birch Snider of New Enterprise. “They would bale hay by hand, pick rocks all summer, and in the evening would run or walk to get into shape for the upcoming season.

“They had next to nothing. They were poor, but the conditions made them tough players, just like the miners on the other side of the mountain.”

Domen wouldn’t argue that point.

“We were dirt poor,” he said. “I never graduated from Clarion because I had no money to finish my senior year. No one here had much. On the positive side, it made us a rough group of kids. The poor conditions made us tougher.”

But for youngsters attending the game, the players were larger than life.

“My dad took me to that game,” Snider said. “We went into the locker room afterwards. I was only 5 years old, but I remember it very well. The players seemed so much older than I was. I looked up to them back then, and still do today. I remember them being big, rough, tough kids.”

Larry Imler of Sherman Valley has similar memories.

“I was only in sixth grade,” he said recently. “I thought that Replogle team was awesome. I still feel the same way today about them. They will always be the older guys to me.”

Imler was amazed from the opening play.

“I believe Richard Baker kicked off to start the games,” he said. “And I think Robert Beach kicked the point-after attempts. As a kid, I can still remember wondering how that ball didn’t explode when Baker kicked it. It went so far and so high, I just couldn’t understand how it didn’t blow up.”

Weather or not
The game, originally scheduled for Nov. 12, was postponed because of snow and ice until Nov. 19.

“Conditions were actually worse the next week, as heavy rains fell the day prior to the game, and the day of the game,” said former Beaverdale running back Matt Jeremias, who missed the game with a foot injury.

“We got there very, very early. There was still time to postpone the game again. Coach (Ron) Corrigan told me to go out and check the field before the game. I stood on the 50-yard line, in my raincoat, and in my hunting boots. I couldn’t carry an umbrella because of my crutches. The mud came up to my ankles. And the fog was so thick, I could barely see my own boots.

“I hobbled back into the locker room and told Corrigan about the field,” Jeremias continued. “The guy never before swore in my presence. He looked at the team and said, ‘Get dressed, we’re going to play the damn football game today, gentlemen.’ ”

Ray Bukosky, who now lives in Akron, Ohio, was a defensive tackle for Beaverdale. He had never seen anything like that day

“Absolutely deplorable conditions,” he recalled. “By far, the worst in all my high school and college playing days.”

Early action
Fans and players alike predicted a defensive struggle, but the field conditions proved to be every bit as formidable as the defenses. The Tribune-Democrat said the game featured 11 fumbles.

The Beavers’ Mike Chunta fumbled on his first carry at the Maroon 43 and Replogle’s Harold Crawford recovered. On the next play, Joe Kagarise of the Maroon coughed up the soggy ball and Domen of Beaverdale found it at the bottom of a pile of mud on the Replogle 42.

Beaverdale immediately took advantage of the turnover.

“I broke loose early in the game and scored from the 42,” said Evan “Brick” Owens. “Mike Chunta (the district’s leading scorer for most of the season) was being watched like a hawk the entire game. He never did get going like he usually did. I remember scoring easily and thinking this was going to be an easy game.”

Ted Guyer, a junior middle linebacker for the Replogle team, was supposed to keep track of Chunta.

“I had the job of watching Chunta that game,” he said. “We thought we had a fast back in Landy Henry – and we did – but Chunta was both fast and big.”

After Owens’ score, Chunta tried to run in the conversion attempt, but Guyer stopped him at the line of scrimmage.

“I think Guyer had the most promise to play at the next level,” said Byron Bowser of Loysburg, who served as a blocking back for Replogle. “Ted was tough, he was awesome.”

Replogle answered with what turned out to be one of the most effective plays in the muddy mess: A quick kick. Willard Detterline’s 52-yard boot pinned the Beavers deep in their territory late in the first.

Owens fumbled two plays later and Replogle recovered the ball at the 10-yard line. Even reporters had trouble distinguishing what was happening on the sloppy field, as The Tribune-Democrat credits Guyer with the recovery while The Bedford Gazette gives credit to defensive end William Bayer, one of many discrepancies in the game recounts.

Replogle capitalized quickly, as Henry broke free on a sweep, scoring uncontested as the second quarter began.

“I went into that locker room and shook his hand after the game,” said Alec Afton of Richland Township, a Beaverdale assistant coach at the time. “He was a phenomenal back. We had them scouted, and we knew he was going to get the ball, but we couldn’t stop him. We gave one of their plays the name, ‘The Henry Special,’ and special he was.”

Beach’s extra-point attempt was blocked, keeping the score knotted at 6.

“We had a little stunt on,” Domen said. “Tommy Michaels went in and blocked that extra-point kick with his helmet.”

Bedford’s newspaper reported that Chunta blocked the kick, but Bukosky disputes that claim.

“It was Tommy Michaels and not Mike Chunta,” Bukosky said. “I know because I was involved in the stunt. We practiced it for two weeks.”

Facing stout defenses and horrible weather conditions, neither team stood much of a chance to score. Most of the remainder of the game was played between the 30 yard-lines.

“It was so muddy and so foggy, I believe our student manager ran into the wrong huddle by mistake in that game,” Crawford said. “You could not distinguish one team from the other.”

Bukosky is still amazed by the conditions 53 years later.

“It was a sea of mud, and I never saw anything like it,” he said. “That game should never have been played in those conditions.”

Bloody battle
But it wasn’t just the weather that kept both teams out of the end zone the rest of the way.

“Everyone was exhausted and some were hurt,” said Joe Furry of New Enterprise. “I think I remember Harold Crawford being carried off the field and onto the bus.”

Crawford broke his collarbone in the game.

“It was the roughest game I ever played in,” Crawford said.

Domen suffered a concussion.

“I just stared up toward the lights, while lying on the ground, when it was over,” Domen said. “Bukosky and I were involved in the final play of the game. We went to Memorial Hospital in Johnstown together that night. I had a concussion, but I remember the lights looking awful fuzzy in the fog.”

Bukosky recalls a leg injury.
“I had a knot on my thigh so bad I couldn’t walk for weeks,” he said. “I never remembered hurting that badly ever, either before that game or after. Even during my college years, I can’t remember of being hurt that severely.”

Martin, now of Jasper, Tenn., played quarterback for Beaverdale before being injured and leaving the game in the middle of the third quarter.

“I remember being speared in the small of the back, and it still bothers me to this day,” he said. “I was a starter for three years, and that was by far the roughest game I’ve ever played in.”

The hard-hitting turned into hard talk, though it seems tame by today’s standards.

“A bunch of farmers,” grunted those in the Beaverdale huddle.

“Coal miners,” answered the Replogle cluster.

At times, the play turned ugly.

“I think someone tried to bite off Bukosky’s finger,” Martin said. “I just looked at it in disbelief. It only made him mad though.”

Fantastic finish
Each team had a chance to win the game in the closing moments.

Beaverdale drove deep into Replogle territory before Ed Jurick – who had replaced Martin at quarterback – was intercepted by William Bayer at the 5-yard line.

Replogle nearly took advantage of its final opportunity. Henry finally broke free around the left side and appeared to be streaking down the sideline for the go-ahead score.

That’s where the recollections of the play diverge. The Bedford Gazette said that Henry slipped in the mud, with no players around him. The Tribune-Democrat reported that Bukosky caught the speedy Henry from behind. Some players say he cut back toward the middle of the field and was tackled while others think he simply ran out of gas.

Even Henry isn’t exactly sure what happened.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I honestly don’t remember. It was a long, long time ago.

“Yes, the field was a mess. I did run the ball a lot and I was very tired. I faintly remember drifting to the middle of the field. I may have thought I had them beat. I just don’t know.

“It’s possible that everyone is correct. I was out of gas, I was slipping, but I think I may have gotten caught too. The Beaverdale team was the quickest we played.”

Despite his concussion, Domen has a crystal clear memory of the play.


“There is absolutely no controversy. We ran his (butt) down,” he said. “Bukosky was very fast for a tackle. He ran him down and caught him from behind. After he grabbed him by his shoulder pads, I fell over both of them. I just laid there, looking up at the lights.”

Bukosky’s version of the play is virtually the same.

“I did catch him,” he recalled. “Domen was right with me. I was the left tackle and Domen was the left end. We were on the left (opposite) side and were taught to pursue down-field rather than cross-field. But neither of us would have caught him if he hadn’t strayed toward the middle of the field. If he would have gone straight down the sideline, they would have won that game.”

Henry doesn’t worry much about the details these days.

“Regardless, it was a great game and the highlight of my career,” he said.

More than five decades later, Martin gave a tip of his cap to the Replogle team.

“Tell that whole team congratulations and that they deserve the induction into the Hall of Fame,” he said. “They were a great team. And their coach did a great job preparing for us.”

For the Tribune-Democrat


My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA