It was quite a year for Uniontown High School athletics in 1962. In March Abe Everhart’s Red Raider basketball squad captured the state championship and in November Bill Power’s football team won the WPIAL Class AA football title.
The 1962 Red Raider football team was honored on Friday night Oct. 12, 2012. The gridders were recognized at halftime of the football game between Uniontown and Trinity at Uniontown’s Bill Power Stadium.
The Raiders had 13 team members on hand for the ceremony.
“It’s great that they did this,” former Red Raider halfback Fred “Cyclone” Tarpley observed. “It’s great to see some of the old guys I haven’t seen for quite awhile.”
“It seems hard to believe it’s been 50-years, it went by very fast,” former Red Raider tackle Carl “Putsy” Carbonara stated. “I’ve got to hand it to Tony Mercadante for organizing this. He’s a go-getter, he calls me every week and wants to know what I’m doing and where I’m at, he was the driving force behind this.”
The 1962 Red Raiders posted a 10-0 record knocking off Fairchance-Georges 41-0, Trinity 26-6, Redstone 38-14, Washington 35-6, Baldwin 38-6, Charleroi 27-13, Mt. Lebanon 14-7, Connellsville 54-0, Brownsville 41-13 and Johnstown 12-0. The Raiders were awarded the title because they had the highest Gardner Points rating.
A 12-0 victory over Johnstown on the road in the rain and mud put the Red Raiders over the top. It was Uniontown’s first WPIAL Class AA football title.
“We won the WPIAL title - at that time they had the Gardner Points system and if you finished first - it was us and Hempfield and we were hand in hand,” Raiders’ senior quarterback Pete Smith explained. “But something happened with them.
“But we beat Johnstown up at their stadium in the rain on a Friday night 12-0 and we ended up being in first place in the Gardner Points system - so there was no need to have a playoff - we were undisputed champs.”
One of the highlights of the season was beating Mt. Lebanon 14-7. In 1961 the Red Raiders had posted an 8-1 mark - the only blemish was a loss to Mt. Lebanon 21-20.
“There was about four minutes left in the game and we were tied 7-7,” Smith said. “We took the ball all the way down the field and scored with about a minute left to beat them.”
“We went all the way down the field,” Raiders’ senior end Ron Sepic recalled. “We drove it all the way down 80-yards and I think the intensity was there for the guys. We wanted to win the game, and we were kind of doing a little bit of a payback because the year before we played at Mt. Lebanon and that was the only game that we lost. The score was 21-20 and they called back two touchdowns on us, so we were really ready to beat Mt. Lebanon at home our senior year.”
Coach Bill Power was the driving force behind Uniontown’s success.
“Coach Power was a good guy,” Carbonara said. “It hard to find someone like him today as far as I’m concerned. He promoted football, he ate football, he slept football, everyday was football. Plus he was a good teacher and was fair.”
“Coach Power was a very nice person,” Smith stated. “He wasn’t the typical person you would think of like some of these football coaches that would spit tobacco and start swearing. He was a class act.”
“Bill Power was a very smart football coach,” Sepic opined. “He was very well organized. His scouting program was excellent and the team concept of how he broke the team down into different groups. I thought he was just a great organizer and he was never a man that really lost his temper.
“You wanted to play for him out of respect and that was the same thing with Abe (Everhart) in basketball. He was the same way - Abe was a guy that you wanted to play for. You didn’t fear him, but you respected him. You knew they both knew what they were doing and they got the most out of their athletes.”
The foundation for the Red Raiders success was formed at football camp before the season started.
“Camp was like the Mojave desert up at Clearfield,” Carbonara remembered. “We wanted water and you know what kind we had to drink – it was egg water, the nastiest stuff. In the mornings we put on cold uniforms from the dew still hanging on them. It was like the pros.”
Looking back Red Raiders halfback John “Monk” Manning has fond memories of some of the 1962 squad.
“That team really jelled together – the line – it wasn’t big, but it was a quick and there were some unselfish people on that line – and they would block and open holes. We had a close team and we had fun together,” Manning said.
Uniontown never trailed in a game during the 1962 campaign.
“When I was a sophomore we had a good football team, but it didn’t play together as a team,” Sepic recalled. “There was a little bit of dissension and we were, I believe 3-6. Our junior year we lost one game to Mt. Lebanon.
“Most of the players on that team came back the next year and we were hungry. That helped us become the championship team that we were. That last game we played against Johnstown was in the mud, we had a team meeting before kickoff. They said we could possibly get the game called and play at a later date because it was so bad. We took a vote and decided we came here and wanted to play and were ready and we beat them 12-0.There was no way anybody was going to deny us. That was the spirit on that team.”