Monday, August 10, 2009

FOOTBALL in NIAGARA FALLS




(Click photos for larger images)

Prior to 1967 Niagara Falls didn’t have a youth football team. The Police Athletic League (PAL) wanted to begin some kind of fall sports program and football was suggested. We became members of the WNY Tyro Football League and were known as the Niagara Falls Knights. About 7 PAL members went door to door soliciting businesses to help sponsor the program, and Chuck Kenny, who owned a sporting goods store in Lockport, advanced us about $10,000 in equipment (we did eventually pay for it). There was no fee for the kids to play and we depended heavily on volunteers for our operation. Our first head coach was police officer John Gabriele (later firefighter and fire chief). Our teams were winners from the get-go. After our first season, played at LaSalle Jr. High School, complete with marching band and cheerleaders, we had a celebration dinner cooked by our volunteers in the YMCA on Portage Rd.

The second season we went “big time,” with a celebration dinner at the Como Restaurant with many dignitaries in attendance, including the Mayor E. Dent Lackey, and special guest speakers, Ernie Warlick and Al Bemiller, of the Buffalo Bills. Mayor Lackey even gave (volunteer) General Manager, Jim Brunn, the key to the city!

The first photo is of Ernie Warlick posing with running backs Gary McLaughlin and Sam Giancola (Sam is now a coach at NFHS).

The second photo is of Al Bemiller autographing programs for some of the players. Perhaps some readers might be able to identify themselves in the photo.

In later years the local program split into two divisions due to a difference in philosophy among the coaches, yet today, 40 years later, they remain an integral part of the youth sports programs in the city.

1 comment:

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