WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL REUNION
My fiftieth high school reunion is coming up next year. Many graduates seem excited about this event. I will not attend. I went to the tenth reunion. I went one day late. I took that as an omen and have avoided all other reunions. Fact is I hated high school, had few friends, and considered the vast majority of the “popular kids” the very people who tend to attend reunions, to have been
giant assholes kinda snobbish.
I really don’t need to visit fifty years later and have many of these
giant assholes kinda snobbish people who
will be parading around their great lifetime success ask me, “And who were
Two weeks ago I attended a mini reunion at my old friend Charley (I know…the gay spelling) “Wink,” “Ditmus,” “Chuck,” Widmer’s home. He was holding the second annual baseball player reunion with Brian Doyle, Ed Thorne, Rob Schram, and Dwight Davies. I didn’t play baseball, but since Charley (right guard) and Dwight (quarterback) also played football with me I was invited this year.
|Doyle, Davies, Schram, Widmer, Cranky (Thorne is hiding behind the curtain)|
Much of this reunion revolved around whether someone was out or safe in the final play of a championship game which they lost. The consensus was they were “jobbed” by an umpire who did not like their team. Further discussions intimated this ump may have disliked the team because Chuck, the catcher, had a habit of calling a high inside fastball and then ducking it so it would hit the ump. This was generally done after Chuck did not agree with a ball or strike call.
The conversation eventually came around to football and in particular our coach Gary Kehler. Kehler is a legend in the world of New Jersey High School football. His teams always had winning seasons, and at one stretch he coached his teams to a record 48 straight wins. That record is even more remarkable in that he did it with little more than average talent. He coached many very good players, but his description of most of his teams was, “We may have been small, but we were slow!”
|Legendary Coach Kehler (RIP)|
Three memories from our team in 1963.
First was the fact that before every game and practice we were required to take two salt tablets. During games and practices we were never allowed to drink water, we could wet our mouths, but were told to spit it out…(we did cheat a little.) The salt was to replace what was lost from sweating, and it was thought that drinking water would cause cramping. Those who were overcome by heat exhaustion (myself several times) were sent to a fence to lose their lunch and then return to much berating and criticism.
Years later Dwight recounts how he visited with the old coach. They talked of all the kids he coached and how many lives he touched in such a positive way. Dwight asked him, “Is there anything you regret from all those years?” His response, “I wish I gave you all some water…I just didn’t know any better…I was lucky no one died!”
The second was a classic pregame “chalk talk.”
Coach Kehler was explaining how we would block on a run play around the right end. With x’s over o’s in various positions he directed the blocking pattern and then asked for any questions. Brad Zimmerman a second string lineman asked how to block a defensive scheme which essentially had nine x’s versus four o’s. Kehler posted this situation on the board, stepped back and looked at it for a minute, and then with his best sarcasm said, “Well Brad we will either get our asses handed to us for a big loss, or Dwight will fake the handoff and skip around left end untouched for a touchdown!” Zimmerman never asked another question during one of these meetings.
The third memory was the Thanksgiving Plainfield Game, the final game of our senior year.
Plainfield High was undefeated at 8-0 and was rated number 1 in the state. We were 6-2 and unrated. Plainfield had many “All State” stars, including a running back, Vic Washington, who would go on to be an all-pro back for the San Francisco 49ers.
We were over powered, out skilled and overmatched in all ways except coaching. Plainfield was out coached. Our team had few plays in the playbook. We ran about eight plays, three to the left, three to the right and two up the middle. We had two passing plays, both coming off play action. Ten plays, but we ran them all really well. We managed to score 14 points; two extra points coming on kicks which no other teams at that time were able to do very successfully. Most teams ran for their extra points.
Westfield held Plainfield to two touchdowns. Kehler assigned linebacker Jim Minnow to exclusively follow Vic Washington. Their favorite play was to send Vic up the middle on a fake run and then pass it to him. Jim “fell” for the fake every time and tackled Vic so he could never get open for the pass. Whenever Vic got the ball he also got Jim! He was shut down and frustrated.
When Plainfield did score their touchdowns we shut down their extra point attempts with a defense called “All In.” Plainfield always ran for the extra point. They always ran straight up the middle with their power formation. Kehler decided to shut down that play by sending all eleven players against the middle run. Plainfield did not adjust. We won 14-12.
Great times, great memories, great company. I don’t think the fiftieth reunion with all the super successful “popular kids” could be any better.
Maybe the seventy-fifth.