Coach VanDetta's Final Edition
With high school football practice beginning this week, it seems fitting that a few of the late Daniel VanDetta’s charges were in town for their fortieth class reunion. Their story is worth telling, if only briefly.
Forty-one years ago, as the 1968 football season drew near, there must have been questions in the mind of Coach VanDetta. Not only would it be the last year at the Blue Devil helm for legendary high school grid coach, it would also mark the school’s first year of competition in a new league. The Central Western Conference, later known as the Monroe County League, consisted of Rochester suburban schools and was considered a grueling schedule in all sports.
As newcomers to the league, Batavia High was considered an underdog in several grid contests that fall. Football sectionals were still years away and New York schools allowed for an eight game schedule at the time. By the time the final game rolled around, Batavia had amassed a record of six wins and one loss. Despite the impressive showing, the Blue Devils were considered a huge underdog in the season finale against a formidable Rush-Henrietta team. The undefeated Comets were the home team and loaded with size and speed.
On a gray November afternoon, the Blue Devils scored first – and last - to win by a final score of 20 – 14. Not only did the Blue Devils send Coach VanDetta out on winning note and a share of the league crown, they left an indelible mark in the annals of Batavia High football.
Time hasn’t diminished my memory of that November afternoon and the Batavia supporters in attendance that day, most of which spilled onto the field after the final whistle, filled with satisfaction, brimming with an emotion that can only be described as Blue Devil pride.
In December of ’68 the Democrat & Chronicle released the results of the All-Greater Rochester Area football team, an area encompassing 10 counties. That year the All-Greater Rochester Team didn’t consist of both offensive and defensive teams, voters simply selected the best eleven players. Among the top eleven were Blue Devils Jim Dzierzanowski, Neil Kiersz and Jim Briggs, seen in top photo.
Second photo shows Bill Weld and Wayne Niebch, defensive line mates in ’68. Third photo shows myself and Gary Dawson flanking Thom Beers, the Blue Devil’s kick returner that autumn, now the creator and executive producer of hit reality television shows including Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers.
Crew of cutups from class of ’69….the more things change, the more they stay the same!
Left to right Jim Dzierzanowski, Rick Haitz, Neil Kiersz, Jim Nigro, Jim Briggs, & Jim Catino