More Delco Sports Facts

In my research over the years, I have discovered some really interesting facts about a variety of Delaware County athletes and coaches. This week, I would like to continue to share some of those little known facts about these individuals who have given our county such an outstanding sports tradition.

It seems that Bob Veratti of St. James still holds the record for the longest punt in Delaware County high school football history. Veratti had a 95-yard quick kick against St. Thomas More during the 1960 season.

John Baker, who graduated from Penncrest High School, was a senior at the University of Maryland when he ran the mile in 3:59.8 at an AAU Meet in Eugene, Oregon on June 26, 1971. With that feat, he became the first and only runner from Delaware County to turn in a sub-four minute mile. He later became the cross country coach at his alma mater.

Joe Gallagher, who is the head football coach at Haverford High School, has a brother who played in Super Bowl VIII. Frank Gallagher was a starting offensive guard for the Minnesota Vikings in that Super Bowl, where the Vikings unfortunately lost to the Miami Dolphins, 24-7. Frank was an All-State offensive end at St. James and later played football at the University of North Carolina.

Joe McNicholas, who was an All-Delco quarterback at Ridley Township High School in 1949 and later returned to have a legendary career as the Green Raiders’ head coach, led Villanova University in interceptions two consecutive seasons. He had three interceptions as a sophomore in 1951 and during his junior year (1952), he was nationally ranked with eight picks.

Brian Mulhern, who was an All-American defensive tackle at West Chester State College and had a try-out with the San Diego Chargers, was the first All-Delco football player from Sun Valley High School, when he was named to the 1962 squad as a guard. Mulhern later became the head football coach at Chester High.

Sam Dermigny, longtime Delaware County football coach, was the quarterback for Miami University when they captured their first Orange Bowl victory, a 13-7 win over Holy Cross on January 1, 1946.

Mike Scioscia once hit a homerun off of New York Mets’ pitcher Dwight Gooden in the 1988 National League Championship Series to help the Dodgers win. Scioscia had been an All-Delco football and baseball player at Springfield High School.

When Prospect Park and Glen-Nor High Schools consolidated in 1955 to form Interboro High, Howard “Buck” Cunningham became the school’s first head football coach. He had previously been the head coach at Prospect Park.

Former St. James head football coach Bean Brennan, once dropped kicked a 50-yard field goal for Glen-Nor in a game with Ridley Park. The headline read, “Glen-Nor defeats Ridley Park, 17-13, as Brennan electrified the spectators by dropkicking a field goal from the 50-yard line.”

Frank Vari was Garnet Valley’s first football coach in 1965. During his tenure (1965-1970), the Jaguars had a record of 8-42-2.

Alonzo Lewis, who starred at LaSalle College and later coached Chester High to two state titles, was the last boys’ basketball coach at Darby Township when the school closed in 1982.

Yeadon High’s John Rauch, who was an All-American quarterback at the University of Georgia, was the first assistant coach that Al Davis hired when he became the head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 1963. Rauch was an assistant for three seasons under Davis before becoming the head coach in 1966. For the next three years, Rauch would lead the Raiders to a 33-8 regular season record and take them to the Super Bowl in 1968. He is also credited with bringing future Hall of Fame coaches John Madden and Bill Walsh into the league as his assistants.

David Duke is in his ninth season as an assistant basketball coach with Fran Dunphy at Temple University. He previously served eight seasons with Dunphy as one of his assistants at Penn. Duke, who was an honorable mention All-Delco performer at Clifton Heights High School (which a few years later merged with Upper Darby), graduated from Villanova in 1974.

He was an assistant at St. James and Cardinal O’Hara before he spent five years as the head coach at St. John Neumann. At Neumann, he led the Pirates to two Alhambra Tournaments and a Catholic League championship. From there, it was off to Lehigh as an assistant before he was given the head job in 1989. Duke spent eight years at Lehigh, where he finished as the school’s second all-time winningest coach with 90 victories.

Bob Fithian was the head coach of the 1965 Nether Providence High football team, which finished undefeated (5-0-4) but finished second to Lansdowne-Aldan (8-0-1) in the Suburban Three League. Among the members of Fithian’s team was linebacker Harry Jones, whose son Isaac became the quarterback on the 1993 undefeated Strath Haven team.

Isaac later played at Purdue, where he was the captain and leading receiver as a senior in 1998. In fact, he caught the game winning touchdown in the closing minutes of the Alamo Bowl from future NFL quarterback Drew Brees. Later, Isaac played two seasons in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts.

On November 23, 1984, the tenth ranked Boston College football team traveled to the Orange Bowl to play the 12th ranked Miami Hurricanes, who were the defending national champions. With 28 seconds left in the game, Boston College trailed 45-41. After three quick plays, the Eagles’ quarterback, Doug Flutie, threw a Hail Mary pass from his own 37-yard line which went over a mass of players untouched into the hands of Gerard Phelan in the end zone for the victory. Phelan, who had played at Archbishop Carroll, had been an All-Delco and Daily Times Player of the Year in Delaware County.

Neil Johnston, a former Philadelphia Warrior who led the NBA in scoring three times, also played baseball in the Delco League for Norway Cleaners.

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