This is the latest in a series of sports memories contributed by the student-athletes of the past – the people who were part of the great high school sports moments.
Steve Parker was a three-sport star at Mainland in the late 1960s. He was a two-way starter in football, a double-figure scorer in basketball and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in baseball. He was inducted into the MRHS Sports Hall of Fame. Steve has maintained his involvement in sports as a youth and high school coach, broadcaster and baseball umpire.
By STEVE PARKER
I was fortunate enough to play three sports in high school – football against the likes of Billy Blann, Larry Gustafson and Fred Dalzell; basketball against Chris Ford (the greatest basketball player I ever knew) and Stedman Graham (yep, Oprah’s man, who was really good, and really tall and played for Middle Township); and baseball against Rawley Eastwick (who later pitched for Phillies and Reds).
But It was November 27, 1969, and I will never forget our annual Thanksgiving Day football game against Oakcrest. The Falcons had won 18 games in a row and they were ranked as one of the top teams in the state.
The game was played at Oakcrest in Mays Landing and was witnessed by at least 1,000 fans. They lined the field, two and three deep.
Oakcrest was led by Larry Gustafson, Nate Hall, Mike Duberson and many more really good players.
We were 5-3 with last-second losses to Holy Spirit and Vineland among those three losses. The game was supposed to be Oakcrest’s last crowning achievement for this graduating class but our coach, Andy Prohaska, and his staff had other ideas.
We were told Oakcrest had tee shirts under their pads exclaiming 19-0. We came out for pregame warm-ups in green and white knit caps, including all our coaches. Emotions were high and the fans seemed to love our caps.
The game was a back-and-forth affair with Ed Broome catching two TD passes from Vince Sausto. I scored on a short run after we took advantage of a big turning point in the game.
It was fourth and long at about our 45 yard line and coach Prohaska had given me the green light to fake the punt and run if Oakcrest peeled off to set up a return. After a brief fake, I took off to the left sideline and the film showed Oakcrest players who appeared to be blocking for me. They were turned in to the middle of the field looking to block our defenders and did not see me take off and run.
That play helped us to hold on and beat Oakcrest. We sealed it when we intercepted a pass at about our 10 yard line late in the game (either Vince Sausto or Lee Hinmon intercepted the pass).
Final score Mainland 20, Oakcrest 14.
That game will be forever etched in my memory.
You can read previous Sports Memories by John Cranston, Skip Castaldi, Joe LaRosa and Ken Weaver HERE.