The year 1969 was a banner one for the German Township football team, but coming into the season signs of a championship run did not abound. The Uhlans were coming off an extremely disappointing 3-7 season in 1968.
“Going into the season the year before wasn't very good,” recalled Tony Tokish the “monster man” of German's vaunted 1969 defense. “Summer practice our head coach Adam Donnelly got sick and missed the first week or two and we didn't have enough players in camp to do a full scrimmage. We did half a line scrimmages because we only had 19 or 20 kids. We got more players later, but half our kids were working in the tobacco fields at that time. We wound up with 40 or 41.
“What really brought us together was the first game against Carmichaels when it was 90 degrees and Carmichaels called a timeout, and Reggie Ford told the managers to get the water off the field and we all looked at each other, what's he saying.' It brought us together as a team and from there on it was like a family, and we're still a family, all of us.”
The 14-8 win over Carmichaels set the tone for a run to the WPIAL Class B title.
“Carmichaels and Turtle Creek were really tough games,” nose tackle Greg Smodic offered. “Turtle Creek we won 8-0 in a tough physical game. We played tough football, the defense played tough football all year.”
German posted a 9-0 regular season mark: with wins over Carmichaels 14-8, Avella 20-6, Frazier 44-14, Fairchance-Georges 22-0, Turtle Creek 8-0, Albert Gallatin 28-0, Chartiers-Houston 20-12, Midland 54-26 and Mapletown 14-0. The Uhlans tallied 224 points during the regular season and surrendered 66.
“What people don't remember is we faced two of the best running backs in the WPIAL,” Smodic explained. The kid from Chartiers-Houston Jerry Patterson, was the first WPIAL back to rush for 4,000 yards, and we faced Tom Jones of Coraopolis in the WPIAL championship game. We shut them down.”
The Uhlans held the explosive Patterson to a mere 37 yards on 10 carries. Jones racked up 65 hard fought yards on 14 carries.
German was coached by veteran grid boss Adam Donnelly, who was aided a very able coaching staff consisting of: the late Mickey Tippet, Tom Karpency, Charles Yackmack and Ed Colebank.
“Coach Donnelly was like a father figure,” Tokish stated. “But he didn't take any nonsense.”
“He was an absolute disciplinarian,” guard Gene Davis said of Donnelly. “You basically did what he wanted you to do just to keep everything quiet. It was a lot easier to do it his way because everything stayed quiet that way. There was a lot of respect for that man on that team.”
The German team was fueled by great community spirit.
Our crowd followed us every place we went,” Tokish said. “When we went to Chartiers-Houston I bet there was 4,000 or 5,000 people because we were both 7-0 at that point. We had tons of people following us, and in our championship game, we didn't play it on a Friday or a Saturday because of snow, we played on a Monday night at Canon McMillan.”
German and Coraopolis entered the championship game sporting undefeated records, German was 9-0 and Coraopolis was 10-0 and had tallied 216 points and given up 81.
A tight contest broke open when Mose Parnell decided to gamble. It happened in the third quarter. German had trouble moving the ball all night long.
Final stats showed Coraopolis outgaining the Uhlans 202 yards to 128.
The pivotal play occurred in the third quarter. The Blue Devils had stopped German and the Uhlans had a fourth down and five from the German 40 yard line.
“Coach told me to go ahead and punt the ball away,” Parnell remembered. “Tokish was our 'monster man' and they had a big old wide space where I could get through for a first down. It was like fourth and five and after I got through Tim Stoner and Reggie Ford saw what I was doing and gave me the blocks I needed to get down the field.
“When I got back to the sideline Coach Donnelly told me he was glad I made it. Nobody knew what I was doing. If I had told somebody it probably wouldn't have worked.”
Parnell still refers to the play as the “Immaculate Run.”
It was German's first WPIAL football title. It had played for the Class A crown in 1952, losing to Midland. The victory was the 10th without a loss for the Uhlans and the shutout against the Blue Devils was their fifth of the year.
Donnelly praised Coraopolis following the game in The Herald Standard as “the best team we played this year. They stopped our offense as well as anyone.
“Penalties hurt us. We would be ready to get a drive started and a penalty would stop us.”
Donnelly gave credit to his defense, “It seemed to me they were determined Coraopolis wasn't going to score on them.”
All the years later the victory still resonates with the close knit Uhlans.
“ My fondest memory was all 10 games,” tackle Phil Papa said. “We were like brothers, I really enjoyed it and it was probably one of the best parts of my life when we won that championship game.”