The Mud Bowl

The Mud Bowl,

part I (for the Bedford Gazette and the Mainline Papers of Cambria County)

Worlds Apart

The beautiful farming area of Bedford County’s Southern Cove looked much the same in 1954 as it does today, according to those that can remember that far back. The gently rolling farm fields, fencerows and rural homesteads remain today much the same as they did 53 years ago.

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

In sharp contrast, an area 30 miles to the west looked nothing like the Cove. A drive there (via 1954 automobiles) took about an hour. The two communities seemed to be worlds apart, despite being separated by only two mountain ridges.

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

The counterpart-community of Beaverdale is located in Summerhill Township and was settled by Eastern Europeans who labored in the mines and steel mills in that area.

The hills there were made of boney, a waste product of the coal mines. Everything in the town 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.

There may not be a greater difference between two close areas anywhere else in the entire U.S.

A large Republican population can be found in the Cove – Mostly Democrats inhabit the west side of the ridges.

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

In less complimentary terms, visitors found Hunkies, Dagos, Slovaks and Pollocks living in Beaverdale.

In New Enterprise, the farming community might be known by less flattering names like WASPS and Johnny Bulls.

The Inter-County Conference Championship Game

These two drastically different towns were brought together one fall day in November of 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 either and most of the combatants knew nothing of the others’ heritage or ancestral background.

The collision dealt with a game. The game was football, and the Eastern Champion of the Inter-County Conference, the Replogle Maroon of New Enterprise, made the trek west to the town of Sidman.

The Adams Township field in Sidman was one of the few stadiums in the region that featured lights. Therefore it was chosen as a neutral battlefield to take on the Beaverdale-Wilmore Beavers (the Western Division Winners) in a play-off game for the Conference title.

Both teams were undefeated (9-0) in the regular season.

The Maroon, coached by Andy Radi, was just beginning to grow into a prominent team of the fifties. In the prior season of ’53, Radi’s Raiders* suffered only one loss, to Robertsdale. Many fans of that era still think today that the ’53 team was the better of the two.

“I may be a little partial,” says Eddie King of New Enterprise. “But I think the ’53 team during my senior year, may have been a little better than the ’54 team.”

“I came home from college for that play-off game and remember it well,” concludes the long-time resident and former coach and teacher. “The entire population here, made the trip over the mountain.”

In Beaverdale however, it was quite different. The Beavers were winning championship after championship, both in the Inter-County and in the Mountain Conference.

They not only went undefeated on more than one occasion in the 40’s and 50’s, they also went undefeated and unscored-upon in ’51.

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

The game was originally scheduled for November 12, but ice and snow in Sidman forced officials to move the game to the 19th, instead.

“Conditions were actually worse the next week, as heavy rains fell the day prior to the game, and the day of the game,” explains Matt Jeremias, former running back for Beaverdale. “I was on crutches for the game with a cracked foot and did not dress,” adds Matt.

“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 fifty-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,” proclaims Matt.

“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.’”

As different as the two towns were, they did share one common trait in 1954. The residents had very little materialistically.

“These were farm boys,” explains 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,” adds Birch.

“We were dirt poor,” admits Domen. “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.”

“My dad took me to that game,” concludes Snider. “We went into the locker room afterwards. I was only five-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.”

“I was only in sixth grade,” proclaims Larry Imler of Sherman Valley. “I thought that team was awesome. I still feel the same way today about them. They will always be the older guys to me.”

“I believe Richard Baker kicked off to start the games,” adds Larry. “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.”

Thus, on November 19, 1954, the two communities and their fans were about to collide in what was to become known in both areas as THE MUD BOWL. The soggy saga will continue.

*Nickname given to the team by manager, Clayton Teeter.

For the Bedford Gazette

The Mud Bowl, part II

THE ’54 MUD BOWL – Communities Collide


Fans and players alike predicted the defensive struggle that was about to be. But the field conditions were every bit as formidable as the oppositions’ defenses.

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 Jim Domen of Beaverdale found it at the bottom of a pile of mud on the Replogle 42.

Beaverdale-Wilmore immediately took advantage of the turnover.

“I broke loose early in the game and scored from the 42,” proclaims Beaverdale’s 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,” adds Brick.

“I had the job of watching Chunta that game,” explains Ted Guyer (a junior in 1954), of Replogle. We thought we had a fast back, in “Landy” Henry and we did, but Chunta was both fast and big,” elaborates Guyer, a middle linebacker on the Maroon defense.

“I think Guyer had the most promise to play at the next level,” states Byron Bowser of Loysburg. “He was big and talented. Don’t get me wrong. Henry was fast, but I don’t think he may have been as successful in college due to his size,” adds the former blocking back for Replogle. “Ted was tough, he was awesome.”

The Beavers were known to run for the PAT attempt, but the Maroon stuffed them right at the line of scrimmage, according to both newspapers (Gazette and Johnstown Tribune-Democrat) researched for the game.

The Gazette covered the PAT as follows in 1954: “On the extra point, which later turned out to be crucial, Beaverdale ran its year-long offensive star Mike Chunta on a plunge. Replogle’s veteran guard (and line-backer) Ted Guyer showed some of the promise that won him All-County honors last season by pulling the vaunted Chunta up short of the line to thwart Beaverdale’s try for a point.”

The Maroon answered as Replogle used an unexpected, 52 yard quick-kick from Willard Detterline to pin the Beavers deep in their territory late in the first.

After the Beavers lost five yards on the next play, Brick Owens lost the handle on the wet leather and Guyer recovered on the Beaverdale 10. (Author’s note: The Tribune-Democrat credits Guyer with that fumble recovery. The Gazette gives credit to William Bayer, left defensive end. Because of the field conditions, many discrepancies can be expected in those old reports.)

On the first offensive play, speedy halfback Henry broke free on a sweep and found the end zone from 10 yards out. He went in uncontested as the second quarter began.

“I went into that locker room and shook his hand after the game,” says former coach and school superintendent, Alec Afton of Richland. The assistant coach of the Beavers had just finished coaching his first playoff game ever and was impressed with Henry.

“He was a phenomenal back,” explains Afton. “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. He could have gone on to become a track star in college.”

Robert Beach of the Maroon attempted the extra-point kick. Beaverdale was prepared and blocked the attempt. (Author’s note: The Gazette reported Bayer as the kicker, but the Tribune-Democrat and the Maroon players corroborate the fact that it was Bob Beach.)

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

“The Gazette is mistaken on that blocked kick,” says Ray Bukosky of Ohio, former defensive tackle for the Beavers. “It was Tommy Michaels and not Mike Chunta (as reported). I know because I was involved in the stunt. We practiced it for two weeks.”

The score stood knotted at 6-6, and the field conditions continued to deteriorate. The game evolved into a defensive brawl as well as a gut-test in opposition to the weather.

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

“At least we didn’t have our customary tackling drills at half time of that game,” jokes Crawford. “Coach Radi was known for that at times.”

The two teams traded possessions several times throughout the game, but neither team could do much against the defensive unit of the competition. Most of the remainder of the game was played between the 30 yard-lines.

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

“I was proud of the way we played,” says Ted Fletcher of Replogle. “Playing a team of that caliber and in those conditions will stick with me forever.”

“Players were slipping everywhere,” adds Coach Afton.

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

“I honestly did break my collar bone,” admits Crawford. “It was the roughest game I ever played in.”

“I had a concussion after the game,” admits Domen. Jack Martin, our quarterback, broke his ribs and went out in the middle of the third quarter.”

“No, I didn’t have broken ribs, nor a broken collar bone,” says Jack Martin, now of Jasper, Tennessee. “I did leave the game though, in the middle of the third quarter and did not return. I remember being speared in the small of the back, and it still bothers me to this day. I was a starter for three years and that was by far the roughest game I’ve ever played in.”

Contrary to teammate Jim Domen’s comments, Jack states, “I think on a dry field, Replogle may have pounded us. Their coach (Radi) had each of our plays diagnosed, and we couldn’t get anything done during that entire game. We were very frustrated.”

“I remember stopping Beaverdale on a drive and when I made the tackle, the guy had to taken off on a stretcher,” claims Willard Detterline of New Enterprise. “I thought it was his collar bone,” adds Detterline. (Author’s Note: It was Beaverdale quarterback, Jack Martin that had to be taken off the field, with a severely bruised back.)

“I just stared up toward the lights, while lying on the ground, when it was over,” says Domen. “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.”

“I had a knot on my thigh so bad, I couldn’t walk for weeks,” adds Bukosky. 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.”

Predictably the “dirt talk” continued throughout the game.

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

“Coal miners,” answered the Replogle cluster. *

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

It was apparent after the two early scores that neither team was going to run away with the title. The spectators were being treated to a real defensive, hard-hitting, Western Pennsylvania donnybrook - in mud.

Although not hurt, the number of carries and the water and mud were beginning to take a toll on Henry too, the results of which had a monumental effect on the game’s outcome.

Final Minutes

In the final minutes of the game both teams had a chance to break the tie and pull out a victory. The Tribune-Democrat reported the last series as follows:

“With time running out, the Beavers put on a last-minute attempt to turn the tide… Starting on their own 33, they chalked up first downs on the Replogle 46, 31 and 20. With less than a minute remaining, (Jack) Martin tossed a pass, but William Bayer intercepted on the five, and returned it to the 23.” (Note: Martin was not in the game at the time. The back-up quarterback, Ed Jurick attempted that pass, according to Martin.)

The Gazette had this version: “Beaverdale had mounted its best drive of the game with time running out, but was stalled at the 20 with one minute to go and took to the airlanes. On the first throw, big end Bayer leapt into the air and snagged the ball on his own 5, running it out to the Replogle 15.” (Note: after recalculating the math and researching the yard-line position, the ball was on the 23 following Bayer’s interception.)

Replogle had one last possession and got one last try from their own 23. And on that last play of the game, the fans on both sides of the field were treated to one final spectacular feat.

In this all-defensive struggle, Landy Henry finally broke free around his left side (Beaverdale’s right defensive side) and appeared to be streaking down the sideline for the go-ahead score.

Expected Controversy

As one might imagine, in a game of this magnitude, it is not surprising that the game would end with some disagreement and debate.

Why didn’t Henry score?

“He ran out of gas,” states Bob Mountain of Replogle. “He ran too many times right before that final play.”

“… out of gas,” echoes teammates Richard Baker and Willard Detterline.

“I’ve never seen a player like Landy Henry,” explains Ted Guyer. “But he had nothing left at that point in the game.”

“He ran out of gas, plain and simple,” states Crawford. “No one was going to catch Landy Henry in an open field.”

The Gazette gave this account: “Henry, who thus finished 1954 and his high school career with 120 points in each of the past two seasons, could have been an even bigger hero had it not been for the uneven footing on the Sidman turf when he broke away during the last minute of the game on a 50 yard run that ended when he tripped without a tackler around.”

“I think he was caught by one of the quick kids from Beaverdale,” explains Ed King. “I vaguely remember it that way.”

“I remember him being caught from behind,” says Ted Fletcher. “That is how I always remembered it.”

“I remember nothing about that play,” states Jack Martin. “I was hurting too badly to remember much at the end of the game.”

“I really don’t know,” admits Joe Furry of the Maroon.

“I saw the Owens brothers (Red and Brick) cut down like trees by vicious blocks,” proclaims Matt Jeremias of the Beavers. “I thought Henry was gone, until he started to break back to the middle of the field for some reason.”

“There is absolutely no controversy. We ran his ass (butt) down,” asserts Domen. “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.”

“Ray Bukosky caught him,” says Brick Owens. “After I was blocked so hard, I ended up on the sideline, next to the bench; I looked up from the ground and watched it the whole way.”

“I did catch him,” explains Bukosky, “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.”

“Ray Bukosky did catch him,” claims Coach Afton.

The Tribune-Democrat gives this version: “The visiting Replogle eleven, Eastern Division titlist, almost pulled a Frank Merriwell finish on the final play of the game, but a desperate tackle by Ray Bukosky saved the game. Landy Henry broke loose around his left end and ran the 52 yards to the Beaverdale 25 before being brought down from behind by Bukosky.”

From the Work Horse’s Mouth

“I don’t know,” says Henry about the controversy. “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.”

“Regardless, it was a great game and the highlight of my career,” concludes the former, speedy workhorse back.

The 1954 Mud Bowl final score remained 6 – 6, and each team was awarded the title of co-champs of the Inter-County Conference.
Foot Notes and Quotes

- Game notes were taken from the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, the Bedford Gazette, player and fan interviews and game programs.
- Members of both squads remember vividly the name-calling, light by today’s standards, but meant with vengeance back on that day.
- “My dad gave me the nick name, ‘Brick’ the day I was born,” says Evan Owens. He said I had the face of a brick. My brother had red hair, so he was called ‘Red’ and I got stuck with ‘Brick.’”
- “I would love to meet Landy Henry some day and shake his hand,” states Ray Bukosky of Ohio. “He was a great player and I think of that game often.”
- “Tell that whole team congratulations and that they deserve the induction into the Hall of Fame,” explains Jack Martin during his phone interview. “They were a great team. And their coach did a great job preparing for us.”
- “Coach Corrigan played on one of the undefeated teams for Beaverdale. He returned to coach an undefeated team too,” states Bukosky.
- “Chunta played and graduated from William and Mary,” proclaims Domen. No one has heard from him in years.”
- The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat tallied 11 fumbles during the game.

Game Statistics and Information

Courtesy – Johnstown Tribune-Democrat and Bedford Gazette

Game Stats


7 1st Downs 7
128 Net Rushing 109
1-3 Pass Record 1-3
20 Pass Yds. 9
148 Total Yds. 118

Tribune-Democrat Listed Starters

Maslar LE Bayer
Debevitts LT H. Crawford
Benik LG T. Guyer
Fornadel C W. Furry
T. Michaels RG R. Beach
R. Bukosky RT Detterline
Domen RE Fletcher
J. Martin QB Baker/Kagarise
M. Chunta RH L. Henry
E. “Brick” Owens RH B. Bowser
R. Owens FB Robinette

Beaverdale…………. 6 0 0 0 - 6
Replogle …………. 0 6 0 0 - 6
Substitutions – BW, Kamola, Minor, Jurick,
Replogle, Kagarise, C. Crawford
Touchdowns, E. Owens and L. Henry
Referee- Goodfellow; Umpire- Venzon; Linesman- Smith; Field Judge- Visnovsky

For the Bedford Gazette and the Mainline Papers of Cambria County


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