A Truly Special Season • Arthur Hill’s 1973 Varsity Football Team

45th Anniversary Celebration Recap

Posted In: Sports, Local Sports, National Sports,   By: Jack B Tany

11th October, 2018     0

The year was 1973.  Gas was $0.39 a gallon.  The Sears Tower in Chicago is finished, becoming the world’s tallest building.  CBS sold the New York Yankees for $10 million to a 12-person syndicate led by George Steinbrenner.  The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War ends with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.  Skylab, the United States’ first space station, is launched.  The World Trade Center officially opens in New York City with a ribbon cutting ceremony.  In the Battle of the Sexes, Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs in a televised tennis match, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.  U.S. President Richard M. Nixon tells 400 Associated Press managing editors “I’m not a crook.”

And locally, history was made on the football field by Arthur Hill High School’s varsity football team, who finished the season undefeated with a perfect 9-0 record. That was fine and dandy, but the ’73 Hillites took it to an entirely new level as all nine opponents failed to reach the end zone against the mighty Lumberjacks.

Arthur Hill scored a mind-boggling 443 points during the perfect season. You read that correctly, AHHS outscored its opponents 443-0 during its perfect season.

Team members, coaches, family members and friends recently celebrated the 45th anniversary of its stellar season with a reunion banquet Saturday, Oct. 6th at the Saginaw Country Club in Saginaw Township.

Most of the Lumberjack gridders, who are now in their early 60s, echoed what their late assistant coach Ed Periard said back in ’73: “You’re not going to fully appreciate what you just accomplished until 20-25 years from now.”

“Heck,” noted George Ihler, the Hillites’ head coach, “even after all these years it still may not have sunk in for many just exactly how special that season was.”

Terry Murphy showed a video that was played at the funeral service of Ron Rummel who passed away from cancer this past spring. He also made mention of the Periard and Scott MacArthur, two others who have died.

It was Ihler and assistant coaches Periard, Dan McShannock and Tom Karac who molded a group of young men from North, South and Zilwaukee Junior High Schools into the finest high school football team ever assembled in Saginaw County – and arguably, in the state. Periard called the defensive signals and was responsible for the interior line. Karac coached the offensive and defensive backfields while McShannock, who manned the phones in the press box, directed the linebackers and ends.

The majority of the team began their prep career as sophomores on Arthur Hill’s junior varsity team in 1971 where they turned in a spotless 9-0 record. As juniors they moved up to the varsity and the Hills compiled a fine 8-1 record. Its lone loss came at the hands of Elmer Engle’s Bay City Central squad. The loss came in the season opener and Arthur Hill then reeled off eight straight victories – many by lopsided scores. AHHS finished the season ranked eighth in the final Class A Associated Press poll, while Bay City Central was named state champions that season.

Prior to the start of the ’73 season Ihler said the team’s goals (in order) were to go undefeated, win the Saginaw Valley League title, and win the Class A state championship. The Lumberjacks had it all – size, speed, talent . . . and work ethic. They returned 17 of 22 starters, including all 11 offensive players.

Tri-captains included Rummel (6-1, 190) at quarterback, halfback Terry Eurick (5-11, 195) and Murphy (6-2, 210), the center. The trio were All-Saginaw Valley League first team selections as juniors. The other backfield returnees were fullbacks Curt Thon (5-11, 195) and Mark Thompson (5-9, 190). Joining Murphy up front were Paul Walderzak (6-4, 249), Doug Dijak (6-2, 242), Bob Suhr (6-1, 216) and Rodney Francis (6-0, 195). Nelson McMath (5-11, 180) and John Rabideau (5-10, 180) proved to be valuable reserves.

Receivers included Jay Brooks (6-2, 228), Bob Jones (6-5, 222) and Brian Ferguson (6-1, 202).

On defense, the Lumberjack linebackers included Guy Pelkey (5-11, 185) and Brooks, while the foursome of Dick Mott (5-11, 170), Jim Bonnell (6-1, 190), Jack Champagne (5-9, 170) and Jim Rolf (6-0, 185) made up the defensive backfield. Walderzak, Murphy and Dijak saw action along the defensive line, along with middle guard Tim Jank (5-11, 195) and ends Mike Carl (5-8, 163), Bob Becker (6-0, 171) and Pat Brethauer (5-10, 198). Tom Thompson (5-8, 170) and John Krogman (5-10, 216) also provided defensive line depth.

Arthur Hill became the first Class A school to go undefeated and unscored upon since 1933. The Lumberjacks averaged 49.2 points per game for better than a point-a-minute production. The Hills’ first team offensive committed only three turnovers the entire season on one fumble and two interceptions. The group also scored 48 of the 54 times it had possession of the ball. The first offensive unit fumbled only once in its own territory (on the 48) – the only time the Hillites’ defense had to take the field in its own territory.

Eurick finished the season with 984 yards rushing and 13 pass receptions for 365 yards and 24 touchdowns. The senior halfback was voted team MVP by his teammates. Rummel was right behind with 16 TDs and 625 yards rushing on 74 carries. He completed 31 of 70 passes for 808 yards. Rummel threw for 11 touchdowns and had just three interceptions. Pelkey paced the stingy defense with 55 tackles while Jank was in on 50 stops.

Arthur Hill captured four Class A state championship trophies: United Press International, Associated Press, Detroit Free Press and Detroit News – all unanimous.

The Lumberjacks placed 13 players on the All-Saginaw Valley League team – eight on offense and five on defense – the greatest representation ever by one team since the league was split into two divisions. Four Hill players were placed on the honor team by unanimous vote and three others won spots by acclimation where there was no opposition. The four unanimous choices were Suhr, Murphy, Eurick and Bonnell. The three choices by acclimation were Walderzak, Dijak and Rummel. Filling out the offensive first team were Jones and Thompson. Rummel was also the MVP in the SVL West Division.

Hillites on the All-SVL defensive squad were Rolf, Jank, Krogman and Mott. Earning honorable mention honors were Pelkey, Thon, Champagne, McMath, Brooks and Francis.

The Class A All-Area first team selections included Murphy, Walderzak, Rolf, Jank, Dijak, Suhr, Rummel, Eurick Thompson and Bonnell. Nabbing honorable mention honors were Pelkey, Korgman, Becker, Mott, Jones, Ferguson and Brooks. The only non-Lumberjack making All-Area first team were Mark Braman of Midland and Isaac Reeves of Saginaw High.

Rummel and Murphy both landed Associated Press All-State first team honors while Murphy was a first team All-State selection from the Detroit News. Taking home first team All-State honors from the Detroit Free Press were Murphy and Eurick with Rummel landing second team laurels. United Press International had Murphy, Rummel, Eurick and Walderzak as first teamers. Bonnell was named to the Special Mention team and Jones, Thompson, Suhr, Jank and Dijak were honorable mention picks.

Eurick was second and Rummel third in the Michigan Player of the Year honors in 1973, as voted upon by coaches, sports writers and broadcasters who voted for UPI’s All-State team. Gary Forystek of Dearborn Divine Child was voted the state’s top player.

Ihler completed the grand slam as far as post season honors, winning Coach of the Year honors from the AP, UPI, Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. He was also named National High School Football Coach of the Year. He received the award in “Who’s Who in National High School Athletics” published by American Vanguard of Athletic Recognition.

A recognition dinner for the Arthur Hill team was sponsored by the AHHS student council in cooperation with the Arthur Hill staff, Arthur Hill Letterman’s Association, along with the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce, Fordney Club of Saginaw County, and the Saginaw News. Bo Schembechler, head football coach at the University of Michigan, was the guest speaker at the dinner. Schembechler said he did not see Arthur Hill play, but did see them on film and said they were the best high school team he’s ever seen. Recognition came from Saginaw Mayor William F. Nelson and State Rep. Bert C. Brennan presented resolutions from the State House and Senate.

Arthur Hill’s 1973 varsity football team was in the first induction class of the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. Periard was inducted in 2003, Ihler and Eurick went into the Hall in 2007, and Walderzak followed in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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