Win over BG gives Tyrone football 500th win

By BOB MILLER & JOHN HARLOW
Staff writers

October 10, 2003 How many times have you read about how many wins your favorite team has? What really means a lot of wins?
     
The Tyrone football program passed a mark with its win on Saturday that few other teams in the state can boast.
     
With the come-from-behind 17-14 triumph over Bishop Guilfoyle, the Golden Eagles won the 500th game of the long and storied existence. From the first win back in 1921, when the Eagles of head coach Albert Bowen defeated Curwensville 6-0 in the opening game of the season until the exciting win on Saturday night, there has been much happen in the world of sports and the game of life. Tyrone has been winning football games.
     
There have been many legendary coaches and players since that meager beginning, but when you put all of them together along with the not-so-well known coaches and roster members, they equal 500. Only 44 teams in the state have won 500 football games and Tyrone is among a very elite group. Huntingdon defeated Bishop Guilfoyle a week earlier to win the 600th game in the Bearcats history.
     
Football had been played at Tyrone before 1921. However, when a football player was killed in a game against Bellwood, the game was outlawed for some 20 years before being picked up again in 1921 by coach Bowen. For all practical purposes, the beginning was there. Bowen and his first edition of the Orange and Black won only that one game. Tyrone would have to wait until 1922 to get to victory number two. Under new coach Leon Keiser, Tyrone continued their very slow start with two more wins in 1922.
     
Finally, 1924 summoned the Eagles third head coach, William Skean and a strong nucleus of football players to surround Wilbert "Wib" Ammerman, first great star of Tyrone gridiron fame. Ammerman scored 30 touchdowns and 30 extra points to set record that would stand most of the next 70 years until Marcus Owens and Mark Wyland and Jesse Jones came along.
     
Over the years, there were many times when wins came easily.
     
The first big year came in 1924 with Ammerman and Skean leading the Orange and Black to their first undefeated season 9-0-1, with the only blemish a 6-6 tie against Altoona.
     
Very few schools can boast the 100-10-3 compiled by the Eagles in the 10 seasons from 1939 through 1948. Or how about the current resurgence of the Eagles, who have a 104-29 mark over the last 10 years plus half of the 2003 campaign.
     
It took until 1931 to get victory number 50, a 19-0 win over Bedford under legendary coach Steve Jacobs. Number 100 was a 32-0 job over Jersey Shore in 1939 with Jacobs still at the helm. In just 10 years (1949), Tyrone had increased their win total to 200 with another shutout, a 20-0 win over State College for coach Jacobs, who coached at Tyrone from 1938 to 1942, when he took time off to serve in World War II, then again from 1946 to 1952.
     
It took another 21 years to reach the 300 win level with a 13-10 win over Huntingdon in 1970 for coach Steve Magulick and 20 more before Tyrone notched their 400th win against Bedford 19-12, in 1990 for head coach Tim Stoner, who coached for only one year, but happened to be in the right place for one of the two games the Eagles won in 1990.
     
Tyrone won their first district title for coach Chuck Hoover in 1987, going 10-2 after beginning the year with losses to Bellwood-Antis and Huntingdon.
     
Present coach John Franco arrived on the scene in 1994 and wins have started to flow again. Franco has coached the Eagles to district crowns in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000. In 1996, Tyrone was the runner-up to state champion Mount Carmel and in 1999, scaled the heights to become the Class AA state champions with a well-fought victory over Mount Carmel.
     
Only Steve Jacobs (100-30-7) has more wins than Franco at Tyrone and like the Joe Paterno-Bobby Bowden flap over which will emerge with the most division I wins in his career, Franco (94-23) will most likely get a few more this season and run past " Jake" in 2004.
     
"I think it's great that this program has such long-standing tradition,"said present Tyrone head coach John Franco. "What a great accomplishment for a football team to have 500 wins in Pennsylvania football. This football program is a pillar of pride for the community. We have been given some great standards to follow over the years."
     
As with many things in our world, there was a lot of conjecturing and speculation when we realized that the momentous event had passed without our awareness.
     
The problem was a game against Robertsdale in 1933. Robertsdale was leading 13-7 when at halftime, it was discovered Robertsdale had used an ineligible player. In the only newspaper article that we could locate in the Herald it was stated that the officials working the game ruled it no contest- no win and no loss. However the esteemed Pennsylvania high school football historian Dr. Roger Saylor, points out that the game later was ruled a forfeit win for Tyrone, giving the Eagles one more win.
     
"Tyrone has always been well known for their football program," said Tyrone Athletic Director Tony Yaniello who has been an assistant football coach on and off in one capacity or another for 27 years. "The greatest thrill was to be an assistant coach on the 1999 Tyrone state championship team. To be able to have 500 wins is an exciting tribute to the coaches who have been through the program here. It is a great program and the people of Tyrone have been a tremendous community for high school sports, especially football. There have been people like Al Shoenberger, who has been associated with that program, first a player and then even today as our equipment manager. Al is just one example out of many who have done so much, but have done it quietly and with little outside notice, yet have been a terrific asset to the football program and have helped to make possible what we have accomplished on the field. We want to congratulate all the coaches and players and fans of the past and the present for the great tradition we have here at Tyrone."
     
In the history of Tyrone many great players have worn the Orange and Black. Last year, Tyler Mertiff quarterbacked Tyrone to a 7-4 record and is currently the backup quarterback at IUP. Following his game at Clarion on Saturday night, Mertiff raced to Mansion Park to catch the end of the game.
     
"It's something (playing at Tyrone) you will never forget no matter how many times you think your over it," said former Tyrone quarterback Tyler Mertiff. "When people ask what high school football team I played for I tell them Tyrone and they know the tradition behind it and how hard we worked to make it that well known."
     
Michael McNelis was part of the 1999 State Championship team and his memories of being a part of the Tyrone football tradition are special.
     
"There's a certain aura about it that is hard to explain," said McNelis. "The standard is set so high and its just an amazing feeling when you realize what you were part of and how special it is. It was just nice to be there for win 500, and if it were anywhere other than Gray Field I'm glad it was at Mansion at some of the biggest wins in Tyrone history took place."
     
In the history of Tyrone football, there have been some outstanding players and accomplishments.
     
Lynn Drake, Matt Sharer, Jesse Jones and Scott Gummo were the four players who were named to the All-State football team in back-to-back years. There were six undefeated football seasons, 1924, 1940, 1942, 1947, 1948 and 1999. Tyrone went winless twice, once in 1954 and the other time in 1992. There were two state championship football teams. The 1940 squad tied for the mythical State Championship with a 0-0 tie at Shenandoah and the 1999 State Championship team with a 13-6 victory over Mount Carmel at Hershey. Tyrone has won two western championships, six District VI championships and seven Big 8 championships in the 72 years of football in Tyrone.
     
Tonight, the Golden Eagles shoot for victory 501 against Philipsburg-Osceola.

Tyrone Golden Eagles Football