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Players, Coaches Recall 1966 Championship Football Season
Written by Bradley Schlegel Staff Writer
2016-09-28

                In 1966, the significance of winning the Bux-Mont League championship struck the members of Upper Perkiomen's football team on the ride home from Souderton.

                On the trip back to the Upper Perkiomen Valley, the buses stopped at the Red Hill borough line with Upper Hanover Township and pulled next to each other while lining up behind the school's marching band.

                As the band led an impromptu parade to the high school, then located at Jefferson Street in East Greenville, the players stared in amazement at the crowds lining the sidewalk.  "It was awesome," said Bill Gebert, the team's starting quarterback.

                When the team's charter buses reached the bridge near the 11th Street intersection on Route 29 in Red Hill, Steve Reeder noticed a large congratulatory banner on the side of a house welcoming home the league champions. "We were all ecstatic," Reeder said.

                Nearly 50 years later, the memories of the school's only outright football championship linger.

                Gebert threw three touchdown passes in the clincher, a 21-12 road victory on Thanksgiving. Steve Moyer caught two of the scoring tosses. Bob Endy, a sophomore wide receiver, caught the other TD pass in front of nearly 6,000 fans. 

                "We were fortunate to have some bright kids and good athletes," head coach Bill Keeny said.

                The Indians (8-1 Bux-Mont, 9-1 overall) overcame a lack of size with discipline and determination to post the school's only outright league title, according to Peter Reigner, a senior who played defensive end and offensive tackle.

                He said they had only one player, Jim Bauman, who weighed more than 200 pounds.

                Keeny and his coaching staff – which included Walt Schmidt, Mike Duka and Dick Werkhesier, Philip Jones, Barry Slemmer, John Olsen and Tom O'Connor  – made sure the players understood their roles, according to Reeder, a senior running back.

                "He made sure we were fundamentally sound," Reeder said. "We didn't beat ourselves. I'd probably say the coaching was one of the best aspects of the team."

                According to Reigner, the Indians relied on a special camaraderie they first developed as small children. "Most of us had played together in the sandlots since grade school," he said.

                Under Keeny's leadership, Upper Perkiomen's football program went from "dirt to gold," according to Duka, a former assistant and head coach at the school.  "Before Bill got here, opponents would scoff at us," Duka said.

                He said when Keeny – hired in 1960 to coach the school's football and baseball teams – implemented a weight training program, acquired additional equipment, won the support of the school's administrators, and convinced the players they could compete, the program took a positive turn.

"The improvement was gradual," said Walt Schmidt, a linebackers coach on the team. "We knew we had some pretty good athletes. We didn't want to screw them up."

In early 1961, the Indians snapped a 27-game losing streak. By 1962, they were starting to earn the respect of their opponents, according to Duka.  They finished the season 7-3. "Everything was starting to fall into place," he said.

                The next season they captured a share of the Bux-Mont League title by handing Souderton its first loss of the season on Thanksgiving.

                Three years later, with Gebert under center, they started the season with six consecutive victories. The second-year quarterback – operating a pro-set offense that resembled the West Coast offense made famous by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980 – finished the season with 22 touchdown passes, a school record. The unit averaged more than 30 points a game.

                "Bill was one of best quarterbacks in the league, and the entire state," Reeder said of Gebert, who threw four TD passes in a win over Pennridge that season and participated in the Big 33 game in Hershey the following summer. "He did everything well. He was very smart."

                Upper Perkiomen's offensive lineman relied on multiple blocking techniques, according to Reigner, who started at offensive tackle.  "The coaches were very innovative," said Reigner, a retired school teacher who played freshman football at Bucknell University.

                Moyer, a junior running back, got a majority of the carries, according to Gebert, who went to Wake Forest University on a football scholarship and graduated with a degree in Business Administration.

                The quarterback said Moyer ran equally well between and outside the tackles, and was the team's top receiver.  "Steve could do- it all," said Gebert, 67, a Pennsburg resident who recently retired after working 33 years at Green Lane Tool and Die. 

                According to Keeny, Gebert's passing acumen allowed the Indians to attempt between 15-20 passes a game, an amount unheard of for that era.

The Indians absorbed their first loss of the season, 27-14, on Oct. 28, against Central Bucks.

"We didn't play bad," said Reeder, 66, a defensive back and running back who lives in Marlborough Township.

                According to Reigner, Upper Perkiomen made its mark in the Bux-Mont League with a convincing 27-7 road win over Hatboro-Horsham on Nov. 12 in a battle of opponents tied for first place.  He said the Hatters were touted as the better team, and the Indians were considered "farm boys from northern Montgomery County."

                "They were a good team," Reigner said. "We were extra motivated."

                Upper Perkiomen followed with its championship-clinching win 12 days later against Souderton.

                On Thanksgiving, the team built a 14-0 lead early in the third quarter on Moyer's 22-yard touchdown catch. He added a 35-yard TD reception early in the fourth quarter to go ahead 21-6.

                "It was quite an achievement for the players, considering we were a small school in a big league," said Keeny, 81, a teacher at the school who retired in 1995 and lives in Upper Hanover. "We had all the ingredients, and we took advantage of them."


 

 

 

 

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