In the fall of 1945 America was living in
the afterglow of victory in World War, and her young men had returned home to begin
their lives anew. The G.I. Bill was sending millions of young men and women off to
college and its wonderful opportunities. With a devastated Europe, American industry
was able to flex its muscles. New England’s industrial communities continued to thrive,
and so towns like Fitchburg, Leominster and Gardner were bursting with energy.
Historians have called the period between 1945 and 1950 the Good Years. And in the
city along the river, that boundless energy was transferred to the athletes of FHS. The
athletic teams for the Red and Gray were loaded with excellent players who brought glory
to their school. One such athlete was a scrappy Irish kid from the Teacher’s College area
named Arthur Paul Shea Jr. But to friend and foe alike, Mr. Shea was always “Bucker”.
When “Bucker” Shea is discussed by his
contemporaries, one aspect of his play is always discussed. “Bucker” was a tough guy
whether he was throwing a block on a defensive end, clearing a rebound on the defensive
backboard to initiate a fast break down the basketball court or digging in at home plate.
The Boulder of the Class of 1948 may have said it best with the words, “A
mixture of red hair, pep and many moods.” Classmate and fellow Hall of Famer Bob
Duncan told a great story which symbolized the fire which burned in the belly of
“Bucker” Shea. When the Raiders went on the road during the winter months to compete
against the likes of Leominster, Athol, or Nashua, opposing public address announcers
when naming the Raider starting five would never introduce “Bucker” by his nickname.
And so Arthur Paul Shea Jr. would refuse to run to center court for the introduction. He
would wait for the opening tip-off, and then explode into action. Finesse might be the
name of the game for the likes of Bob Duncan, Johnny Gates or “Corky” Ervin, “Bucker”
Shea’s job was to grind under the boards, and get that rebound. His efforts helped the
Red and Gray reach the western Massachusetts championship tournament in both 1947
But really baseball and basketball were
two sports which “Bucker” competed in when FHS wasn’t competing in football.
Number eighty-nine was born to play on Crocker Field during the autumn months. He
was a varsity starter for the Red and Gray for three years. Coach Marty McDonough and
Coach Eddie Sullivan loved the banty rooster attitude of “Bucker” Shea. Teammates
today will tell you that “Bucker” would have played varsity his freshman year if he hadn’t
been a student at Teacher’s College Junior High School. T.C. kids were ineligible to
compete at FHS. During the post-war years, FHS played a very challenging schedule
against teams like Brookline, Woburn, Watertown plus traditional rivals Gardner,
Leominster, and St. Bernard’s. The competition in the trenches could get very intense,
but “Bucker” loved every minute of it.
In “Bucker’s” junior campaign this is
how the Fitchburg Sentinel discussed his effort in a 19-7 loss against powerful
Eastern Mass. powerhouse, Brookline: This standout tackle is truly the man for the
opposition to “get” in the Fitchburg forward wall. A never-say-die redhead with a heart
of a lion, Shea is probably the most aggressive lineman for this year. He also took more
than his share of punishment from a big Brookline eleven, but was in there at the finish,
setting up the only FHS score.
In that same junior year Coach Marty
McDonough named “Bucker” Shea his acting captain. Following the 13-6 victory Coach
McDonough said “Bucker” earned this nod for his outstanding ability as a field leader
who led his teammates to an inspired victory. His defensive play was spectacular who
always performed like a seasoned veteran.
During his senior season against an
extremely strong Marlboro High squad which was riding high in 1941, “Bucker” made
two spectacular plays which led to Raider’s 19-6 victory. First, “Bucker” caught a nifty
pass from Mike Martin and quickly lateraled to big “Corky” Ervin who burst into the end
zone from about 40 yards out. Later he intercepted a Marlboro pass and waltzed into the
end one for another Red Raider score. “Bucker” continued his excellent play throughout
his season especially in a 20-0 victory over Watertown who were the defending Class B
Eastern Massachusetts champions. “Bucker” and the Raiders of 1947 could certainly play
with the best.
But “Bucker” Shea saved his best for
last. Leominster led by the likes of Joe Comiskey, Jim D’Innocenzo and superstar Marco
Landon had been nearly unbeatable in 1947. Everybody in the Comb City expected that
the Blue Devils would march triumphantly on Thanksgiving morning at sun lit Doyle
Field. But Coach Marty McDonough and his gang of Red Raiders had other ideas.
Thanksgiving would be a Red and Gray morning. With backs like Bob Duncan, Alcide
“Mike” Martin, Joe Cushing and Roland Balaban, Marty decided to open up his bag of
tricks. And one of his best tricks involved “Bucker” Shea and his stable mate “Corky”
Ervin; it was the end around pass. Early in the first half an Ervin to “Bucker” pass for 37
yards set up a Joe Cushing touchdown run. Then late in the contest “Bucker” stuck the
fatal dagger into the Blue Devil’s heart. When Jim D’Innocenzo attempt to pass the
Devils back into the contest, the tall red head named Shea leaped into the air, intercepted
the ball and raced unimpeded into the end zone clinching the Raider victory. One other
note regarding that Turkey Day triumph was the chippiness of both squads which led to
on field confrontations. Of course, “Bucker” Shea was right in the middle standing up for
his Red Raider cause.
For his efforts in 1947 “Bucker” Shea
was named first team all-star for north Worcester County along with teammates Ervin,
Cushing and Han Thoma. During his outstanding junior campaign “Bucker” had been
selected as a second team all star. The sportswriters knew an outstanding player when
they saw one.
Following graduation “Bucker” Shea
enrolled at St. Michael’s College, but when the Korean War broke out in June, 1950, he
enlisted in the United States Army and served with honor in the Korean conflict. He saw
frontline duty in that difficult Asian conflict earning a battlefield commission. Following
seven years in the Army “Bucker” left the military but after a few years he enlisted in the
United States Air Force serving thirteen years, many in Europe during the height of the
He was married to Virginia, now deceased, and had three children, Shawn, Patricia (Shea)
Stowell and Tracy Shea. In the early 1990’s “Bucker” contracted cancer and died in
1993. Those that knew “Bucker” said that he fought the dreaded disease to the very end.
That was the “Bucker” Shea who had thrilled Raider faithful in the late 1940’s and now
enters the FHS Hall of Fame.
Top Of The Page
Back in the 1930’s John Tunis and Clair
Bee used to write sports novels, which were read endlessly by young teenage boys with
great enthusiasm. Every kid wanted to be like Chip Hilton who threw the winning
touchdown pass, hit the key jump shot in the championship game, or smacked the home
run in the bottom of the ninth. Chip Hilton also got good grades in school, and was
usually elected class president. We won’t mention that he usually dated the prettiest girl
in the school. Of course, it was only fiction. But sometimes kids can come close to the
ideal that was Chip Hilton. One such student who might easily have fit that category was
Chris Petrides from the FHS Class of 1969.
In the fall of 1966 a young sophomore
quarterback named Chris Petrides stood over the center barking out offensive signals.
Chris and his fellow classmates like Tom DiGeronimo, “Yogi” DiPasquale, Gary
Arsenault and Clyde Hutchins had come to the varsity with high expectations. FHS in
1965 had suffered through an extremely difficult varsity football campaign. Meanwhile
the freshman squad had swept all before it, and so Raider faithful were hoping for the
best. Chris Petrides, who had guided those undefeated frosh, was a known quantity to
many Fitchburg area sport’s fans. He had been very successful at Pop Warner, and so
they felt he would step right into the slot and success would follow. Teaming with Tom
DiGeronimo, Chris immediately made opponents aware that the Raiders could put the
ball in the air in 1966. But the Raiders were playing the likes of Nashua and the 1960’s
Wildcats of Gardner, and so the steps sometimes could be small in that initial campaign.
The Raiders played an outstanding Thanksgiving game against the Blue Devils losing
14-12, and hope springs eternal. Chris had acquitted himself very well, and the coaches
and fans looked forward to next season.
Chris Petrides was too busy putting on
his sneakers to worry about next year’s football season. During his sophomore year Chris
split time between Squad B and the varsity. He was the ace point guard on the Junior
Varsity getting ready to move forward. His time would come soon. Next would come
the baseball season, and Chris had the pleasure of playing with his brother, Dennis, who
was the captain of the Raider squad. The sophomore year was completed and Chris
Petrides had received three varsity letters. Not a bad beginning to a Hall of Fame career.
The Red and Gray began their 1967
season with Chris Petrides in command of the offense, and he soon showed that he was
becoming one of the area’s better QB’s. The Petrides-DiGeronimo combo was becoming
dynamic. Chris’ accurate arm opened up enemy defenses, and the Raiders would score
choice victories over Gardner and Nashua as they marched to a victorious 7-2 season.
But, to Chris and many of his teammates, the season was a disappointment when they
were stopped by the Blue Devils 14-0 on Thanksgiving morning. As the Class of 1969
walked out of Doyle Field, they silently pledged to themselves that next year would be
The 1968 basketball season brought a
dramatic change in the athletic career of Chris Petrides of FHS. Ted Paulauskas of
Assumption College had been selected to be the Raider’s new varsity basketball coach,
and he immediately installed Chris as his point guard to lead the Red and Gray offense. It
was a match made in heaven as Chris prospered in Teddy P’s up tempo offense. The Red
and Gray played an exciting brand of ball which featured Chris’ sharp-shooting from the
perimeter and his crisp passes to Tom DiGeronimo and “Mo” Lagasse under the hoop.
The Raiders had a solid 13-5 record in the regular season which was highlighted by a
great victory over the powerful Bernardians led by Jimmy and Danny Small at packed
FHS. Chris was rewarded for his efforts, which helped send the Red and Gray into
post-season play, with his selection to the North Worcester County All Star Team.
As the summer months came to a close
in 1968, there was excitement in the air concerning Red Raider football. Coach Marco
Landon was returning a veteran squad with lots of experience and star power. In his
offensive line, Marco could call upon outstanding players like Leo LaRoche, Gary
Arsenault and Tommy D. with help from sophomores Roger LaRoche and Mike
Thibeault. And Chris Petrides triggered an offense with Richie Boudreau and “Yogi”
DiPasquale and his pass catching threat and buddy, DiGeronimo. The Raiders were very
good and soon opponents began to fall. When the smoke would clear in late November
the Red and Gray’s record stood at 7-1. If you look quickly, the record does not look
quite that impressive. But there were extenuating circumstances. First, there was the
cancellation of a contest because of snow early in November, and then there was that
officiating in Holman Stadium up in Nashua. With hundreds of fans from FHS
screaming in the stands, the men in the striped uniforms took away the contest. Chris
Petrides, tossing to Tommy, was brilliant, but it’s tough to top bad officials. The personal
highlight of Chris’ senior campaign might well have been the victory over Athol when he
and Tom personally dismantled the Tool Towner’s with pin point passing leading to a
42-14 Raider victory. Chris was injured before the Thanksgiving contest, but cheered
loudly as his Class of 1969 gave the Raiders a cherished victory over the Devils. For his
efforts Chris was named to the North County All Star squad.
Once again Chris was a key player as the
Raiders completed a successful senior basketball season and a slot in the District
tournament. The Raiders fought with determination against the very best on their
schedule like defending state champion Lexington, but a lack of size always hurt. The
shooting ability of Chris Petrides and his teammates was never in question, but size was.
He was an All Star for a second year in a row.
Now it was time to think about college.
Chris Petrides was a natural for Amherst College. He was an excellent athlete who had
been an All Star in two sports, a Gold F student and class treasurer in his last two years at
FHS. So Chris Petrides went off to Amherst where he concentrated on basketball. Under
Coaches Rick Wilson and Tracy Mehr, Chris was the starting point guard in his last two
seasons. He led the team in assists and foul shooting percentage, and was elected captain
in his senior season. He later played professional basketball in England retiring in 1981.
Following a coaching career at Westfield State and Easthampton High, Chris began his
own house painting company. He is married to the former Sally Rubenstone and they
have an eight year old son, Jack. Chris loves coaching his youngster and watching him
compete in youth leagues. Chris Petrides now becomes a member of the FHS Hall of
Fame; congratulations Chris.
Top Of The Page
It was Memorial Day and Crocker Field
was almost completely deserted. From across River Street viewer could see two lonely
figures circling the track at the ancient facility. One was FHS runner, Jamie Cascio, who
was working out with his buddy Craig Cormier, who seemed to be a picture of extreme
concentration. Just a few days earlier Craig had put in poor effort, according to his
standards against track rival, St. John’s which he felt had cost his Raiders the Class A
District title. According to the athletic ethic of Craig Cormier, this was simply not
acceptable. Craig Cormier’s sport’s career was marked by grit, determination and
versatility. He would always try to outwork his opponent to bring about triumph. Those
guys from St. John’s might be sitting around the family background enjoying a nice
Memorial Day barbecue, but Craig Cormier was plotting for the next encounter.
St. John’s always is the favorite, so Chris
Woods and his captain knew that the ultimate effort would be necessary for that District E
championship. And as they say in “Casey at Bat”, things did not look good in Mudville.
The Red and Gray were trailing by 13 points to the Pioneers as the day’s two final events
were to be contested. Fitchburg needed a superior effort from their two-milers and they
would get it. That Memorial Day practice reaped great rewards for the old Red and Gray.
Making sure that no little foul-ups which occur, as the gun sounded Craig Cormier leaped
to the front in the two mile and was never headed. His buddy, Jamie Cascio, ran a solid
race to capture 4th place with its valuable points. Now the Raiders were in the driver’s
seat and it was up to his teammates, Jason Desmarais, Darren Bennett, Brandon Auger
and Evol Stewart to come out on top in the 4x400 and they did just that. Final Score:
Fitchburg 68 St. John’s 65.
Craig Cormier won tons of races running
for the Red and Gray during his FHS career. Long time track fans favorably compare his
record and his ability with that of people like Dennis LeBlanc, Norman “Red” Goguen,
Peter Bergeron and Ray Ablondi which is pretty good company. But it was toughness
which always impressed his coaches Ed Gastonguay and Chris Woods. Like a good
boxing champion, Craig Cormier could always take a good body punch, and get off the
floor. He would not stay down. That’s the way he played basketball for Coach
Grutchfield. His fighting spirit would win Craig the defensive player award in his senior
year. That attitude was brought to the cross-country course and indoor and outdoor tracks
during Craig’s running career.
In Craig’s junior cross country season he
had simply been the best runner in Central Massachusetts, and he had raced rather easily
through the competition in the early weeks of his senior season. But early in November
Craig had picked up a virus which gradually took away his energy. So when the Raider
faithful gathered on the hills of Gardner on Veteran’s Day in 1989, they expected their
ace to run away from the competition. As the runners appeared at the head of the long
stretch Craig Cormier could be seen near the head of the pack, but all did not look well.
His usual vim and vigor seemed to be lacking, and soon all could see that Craig was in
serious trouble. Through guts and determination Craig struggled to the finish line in
fourth place. For most competitors this would have been acceptable, but that was not
Craig Cormier’s style. He was crestfallen, but still the flu persisted.
One week later on that Gardner course,
Craig returned. The flu was still raging in his system. He had not practiced all week
long. During the days leading to the meet he had gone down to the gymnasium to shoot
hoops. Nobody, including Craig himself, did not know what was in store. Coach Ed
Gastonguay spoke to his star and cautioned about the early pace which would be
established by the Eastern Mass. runners. Ed told Craig that they would pay the price,
and then he could make his move. But the question of the virus still hung in the air. The
starting pistol sounded, and the runners were off. Craig settled into the end of the lead
pack still a little unsure about his conditioning. Off they went into the hills, and a few
minutes later they would return. As they reached the home stretch which is about 500
yards long, Craig Cormier stood around 10th and Coach Gastonguay thought that he had
made a gallant effort, and a top ten finish would be fine.
But Craig Cormier possessed a fire
within which separates the good from the great. This would most likely be his last race
wearing the Red and Gray colors which he had done for four years, and his effort had to
be all out. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner came forth. All those hours of
hard work came to the forefront. Craig’s step picked up and the runners began to come
back to the guy in the red jersey. Craig was moving forward and the Cormier family
screamed with delight, and Ed Gastonguay roared for his star. As the finish line
approached, Craig roared toward the front then burst across the line 4th best in the state of
Massachusetts. Many wondered what would have happened if Craig had not been ill, or
what if the course was four hundred yards longer? That will never be known but Craig
Cormier had shown that he has the athletic heart of a lion.
Another comeback from adversity
occurred during Craig’s sophomore year when he was a member of a terrific Raider
cross-country squad which went into the Districts undefeated. They had conquered all
including those dastardly Pioneers from St. John’s, but then Mother Nature was cruel to
the Raiders. An early November snow storm covered Gardner’s Golf Course, so the
championship would be held on the roads. Craig, Tim and Mike Trainor, Ashraf Awad,
David Gagne and Dave Beaulac were powerful on the hills, not the roads. As so the
District championship eluded the 1987 Raider’s and Coach Gastonguay. Did they feel
bad for themselves? No, they did not. In 32 degree temperatures at Northfield Craig led
the Raiders to 4th place finish in the States while St. John’s finished 11th. Oh, what
could have been!
Craig Cormier can fill a scrapbook with
stories of his victories in District championship competitions and show you medals and
trophies. Following his graduation from FHS in 1990 Craig went to UMass on an athletic
scholarship. He would become a captain of both the outdoor track and cross-country
teams earning All Atlantic – 10 honors for both sports. He also showed his versatility by
becoming the Eastern Conference Steeplechase champion.
Today he works for Fidelity Investments
as a conversion analyst and is married to the former Jennifer Libby and the Cormier’s
reside in Fitchburg. Craig was a true Red Raider who is now welcomed to the FHS Hall
Top Of The Page
The six foot two inch quarterback stood
tall in the pocket as enemy tacklers buzzed all around him. Suddenly number fourteen
launched a bullet pass down field to a Raider wide receiver who gathered in the pass on
the opponent’s twenty-five yard line. The Red and Gray were on the march toward the
enemy end zone. During the 1975 and 1976 football campaigns for Fitchburg High,
number fourteen was an extremely talented player named Dave Caputi.
Unfortunately during that period the
Raiders were not having great success on the gridiron, but the quarterback was being
noticed by college scouts for his outstanding arm, and overall athleticism. Soon Dave
would catch the eye of the football staff at Middlebury College, and they convinced
“Caputs” that Burlington, Vermont would be a great place to continue his football career.
Because Dave Caputi was an excellent athlete, an excellent student, and a good school
citizen, he was a perfect fit for Middlebury.
David Caputi would spend his autumn
years between 1977 and 1980 firing that pigskin down the field for Middlebury College
with a great deal of success. When his career was completed, Dave ranked very high on
the school’s list for touchdown passes, completion percentage, and passing yardage.
When he received his diploma, Dave was still very interested in continuing his
involvement with football, so naturally he gravitated to coaching. Being with a coaching
job at Tufts University, Dave gradually moved up the coaching ladder until he landed a
coaching plum at Williams College. The Ephs were a Division III football powerhouse
which was beginning to skyrocket under the leadership of Coach Dick Farley, and Dave
established himself as an integral member of Farley’s staff. Dave started as a quarterback
coach at Williams College, but soon he moved up to be offensive coordinator. During its
long history of intercollegiate football, Williams College has had few decades as
successful as the 1990’s. When the Ephs took on the likes of Amherst, Wesleyan, Tufts,
or Trinity, they played an exciting brand of football which dazzled opponents. Dave’s
contributions were soon noticed, and other schools became interested in expertise. In
2000 Dave took the head coaching job at Bowdoin College in Maine where he hoped to
revive their program. He enters his sixth year as Bowdoin’s head football coach as the
2005 season begins.
Surprisingly football was not the sport at
Fitchburg High in which David Caputi achieved his greatest success. During Dave’s
three years at FHS, the Raiders under Coach Doug Grutchfield were becoming one of
Central Massachusetts’ dominant hoop powers. With his size, strength and athletic
ability, Dave Caputi fit extremely well into “Grutch’s” program. From his sophomore
year on, Dave was a valuable member of the teams which went to District finals and state
championship games. With players like Joe DiZuzio, Mike Petrides, Doug Romano, Ray
Spagnoula, Tony Jones, Lauri Rahnasto, Dan Emma and Ricky Tienhaara, the Raiders
were always in the fight for the top slot. And Dave Caputi fit the mold of a Grutchfield
player during this terrific era.
Coach Grutchfield always held a soft
spot in his heart for players who sacrificed personal glory for the good of the team. Dave
Caputi was just such an athlete. In his final season for FHS in 1977, Dave was
surrounded by some very large teammates who could really score from underneath.
Teammates Lauri Rahnasto, Tony Jones and Rick Tienhaara were all natural forwards, so
Dave Caputi was being squeezed out of his natural position. Doug Grutchfield went to
his senior, and explained that he would use a single point guard, Dan Emma, to bring the
ball up the court for FHS’ offense. He asked Dave if he would play the off-guard position
for the sake of the squad. This position was quite unnatural for a kid of Dave Caputi’s
size, but he told the coach he would give it his best. Some kids would sulk and complain,
but Dave Caputi just did his job, getting loose rebounds, hitting the outside jump shot and
playing tough defense. That is the kind of pieces which create a championship puzzle.
The coach’s offensive scheme and Dave’s unselfish attitude seem to work out well for the
Raiders as they captured the Division I Central Massachusetts District title. Following
their victory at WPI, the Red and Gray played a memorable state semi-final game against
Durfee High of Fall River, in which they were just nipped at the end. The Raiders
finished that 1977 campaign with a nifty 22-3 record.
Dave Caputi had been extremely
unselfish in his last year for team goals, but every season has games which bring back
memories in later years. During this era, FHS had huge rivalries with teams like St.
John’s, Doherty, Leominster and Holy Name, but the contests against Notre Dame High
were probably the most memorable. The Crusaders from 1974 to 1976 had great squads
which had captured two or three Division III state titles. But by 1977 they had begun to
recruit players from outside the district, and the rivalry became white hot. It was arranged
that FHS and N.D. would play a game at the Wallace Civic Center on a court which was
better suited for tennis than basketball. That did not matter to the fans as nearly 3000
packed every corner of the Civic Center. It was a tremendous contest as the two titans
battled tooth and nail on the court. The ball game went into overtime, and as the clock
ran down, Dave Caputi, the silent star, hit a key jump shot to bring victory to the Red
When the spring months came around,
Dave Caputi could be found at Crocker Field working out with the track and field team.
With that strong right arm which could unleash that fifty yard pass down the football
field, Dave was a natural for the javelin. He would become one of the Raider’s most
proficient competitors with tosses well over one hundred fifty feet. He was the type of
kid who participated athletically the whole year round. It was the natural thing for a kid
to do in 1977.
Today the autumn months are filled with
activity as Dave guides the Bowdoin College football team as it attempts to defeat his old
college, Middlebury, Williams where he coached for so many years, and his two interstate
rivals, Colby and Bates. He married his wife Beth, when they were involved with
athletics at Williams College and they have four children, Mac – 13, Maggie – 12, Lydia
– 10, Claire – 8, who are growing by leaps and bounds every day. Today Dave calls
, Maine, home, but he will always have great feelings for Fitchburg High School, and
now he joins its illustrious Hall of Fame. Congratulations David Caputi – Class of
Top Of The Page
The legendary Fitchburg High School
track coach, Erkki Koutonen, said to his young assistant coach, Ed Gastonguay, that he
had been blessed to coach many outstanding track competitors during years at FHS, and
that Dennis LeBlanc was the very best he had encountered. Erkki said that LeBlanc was
his best runner in 1961 from the hundred yard dash to the two mile. The old coach might
have been exaggerating a bit, but Erkki was not a guy to make up stories. If you look at
the old Fitchburg Sentinel photographs of Dennis LeBlanc, you see determination and
pure physical strength as the Raider ace charges to the finish line.
In the spring of 1959, young Joe Hannon
began to work with his veteran track squad which included the likes of Dick Berger,
Roger Kielty and Bob Bennett, and he liked what he was observing. One individual was
really beginning to show great promise, and that was sophomore, Dennis LeBlanc. The
dynamo-like runner was showing great speed and endurance as Coach Hannon pushed his
squad with new running techniques which were being preached by Australian and Eastern
European coaches. The more Hannon pushed the young kid, the more the kid gave.
When the campaign began LeBlanc electrified track fans with his brilliant times in the
low 4:40’s. Today we might say, “What’s the big deal!” Don’t forget that Doyle Field,
Stone Field and beloved Crocker Field were not exactly Olympic venues with their
cinders from the 1920’s. Soon opponents began to hold Dennis LeBlanc in aware for his
running skills. Late in the year a Leominster athlete, Brian McCarthy, sort of ambushed
Dennis in the North County meet and captured the mile run. For his effort, LHS honored
the miler with an award honoring the LHS’ single most outstanding achievement. That
award tells you what people thought of Fitchburg’s prize sophomore. His coach felt
highly of Dennis also. LeBlanc was named co-captain of the track team in his sophomore
In 1959 FHS initiated cross-country
under the leadership of Erkki Koutonen, and Dennis LeBlanc had an immediate impact.
Running on the wooded Burbank Hospital course, the Raiders were undefeated in their
first season. The Raider squad was solid, but their junior star was sensational. His
strength and speed were outstanding. Today’s cross-country fans who have been around
for a while would love to have seen Dennis LeBlanc sprinting across the Golf Course in
Gardner. That year, Dennis traveled to White Stadium in Franklin Park and placed fourth
behind Art DuLong of Holy Cross fame in the Class B competition. A few weeks later
Dennis finished 7th in the New England championship held in Maine. He could truly be
called the initiator of cross-country excellence which distinguishes FHS today. His
efforts lay the ground work for later excellence by Raiders named Cormier and Laakso.
In the fall of 1960, Dennis was able to
lead the Red and Gray harriers to the top of the mountain. Running in the Class B race
the Raiders easily outdistanced schools like Lexington, Lawrence, Central Catholic and
Melrose to capture the state title. Dennis would finish sixth overall to be followed by
teammates Bill Matesowicz, Dickie Caron, Tim Kandianis and Jimmy LeBlanc who all
finished in the top thirty in the race. The Raiders had 75 points to second place
Lexington’s 144. Folks, in cross-country running that is a romp. One interesting aspect
of the race was that David Fournier of Worcester South was overall individual Class B
champion. That must have bothered Dennis’ pride a little bit because later on he would
top the state champ in a mile competition. The truly great one’s don’t like to be beaten
Dennis LeBlanc’s final outdoor season
as a track competitor was going to be one for the ages. As we look back four decades
Dennis’ efforts continue to be a bit mind boggling. Remember that Dennis’ times were
being recorded on an oddly shaped cinder track at Crocker Field. Running under the
lights in a dual meet against cross-town rival Notre Dame Dennis LeBlanc ran a 1:59.8
half mile. This established a new field record which had been established by Mike Conry
two years earlier. Look at that time, folks. That was a run for the ages. Just one week
earlier Dennis had run a 2:01.1 against arch-rival Gardner. But Dennis LeBlanc’s most
outstanding accomplishment was still yet to come.
Red Raider athletes who are over the age
of fifty like to discuss the accomplishments on the gridiron, basketball court or baseball
diamond, but they really like to talk about their times in the Senior-Junior Relay. From
the early 1920’s to the mid 1970’s the Relay race was the second most important athletic
event after the Turkey Day Classic. Members of the Class of 1965 will gladly talk about
the day that 30 runners averaged under 2:17 to break 33’s record. They will talk about
guys from 1948 like John Bennett and Ray Ablondi who raced around Crocker Field. But
Dennis LeBlanc was the guy that established the standard.
He not only broke Jimmy Gallagher –
Class of 1948’s record, he smashed it. The runners in the Senior-Junior Relay Race could
not wear spiked running shoes. You had to compete in sneakers, so your time would
probably be slower. When Dennis took the baton in the 29th spot, he was on a mission.
The senior class had a huge lead over the juniors and so the race was a foregone
conclusion. The eyes of the crowd in packed Crocker Field were on the five foot nine
inch dynamo blazing around the track. As Dennis crossed the finish line for the first
time, the true track fans looked at their stop watches in amazement. He was running well
under one minute, and seemed to be gaining momentum. Dennis raced past the backstop
of the baseball field and set sail for the flag pole. People were on their feet, for they knew
they were watching history. Still the dynamo continued onward. Classmate Billy Corliss
was waiting at the line awaiting the baton pass. Dennis LeBlanc sprinted down the race
as the concrete stands exploded with applause. Following the victory Dennis rightfully
would be carried off on the shoulders of his teammates. Next day the Sentinel
proclaimed: Dennis LeBlanc Breaks Individual Mark, 200.4; Senior’s 1:12.40 Wins.
Dennis LeBlanc established so many
stands that they are almost too long to list. His overall body of work was the stuff of
champions. He participated in track at Kent State University with personal bests of 4:19
in the mile and 1:55.1 in the half before a back injury curtailed his running career.
Dennis received his Bachelor of Science
degree from Fitchburg State College in Human Services and Masters in Education from
FSC also. Between 1988 to 2003 Dennis was a counselor and Program Leader at West
Boylston High retiring in 2003. He is married to Susan Brinkman LeBlanc and now
resides in Westminster.
FHS has a legacy of historic track
competitors, and Dennis LeBlanc is always found on the top of that list. Welcome to the
FHS Hall of Fame, Dennis LeBlanc.
Top Of The Page
Number fifty-two slowly jogged to the
sidelines, exhausted but undaunted, on that cold and crisp Thanksgiving morning in 1956.
Coach Ed Sullivan walked over to his gladiator, and gave him a solid pat on the shoulders
as Dick Boutwell looked to the scoreboard. At that moment, loyal Red Raider fans in
Sections Eight and Nine rose in unison to give their gridiron warrior a standing ovation.
Dick Boutwell had given one of the grittiest and gutsiest performances that ever the
Turkey Day Classic has ever seen. The scoreboard read Leominster 44 Fitchburg 13 as
the final seconds wound down, but that was not indicative of FHS’ Thanksgiving effort.
When the Raider faithful entered
Crocker Field so many seasons ago, it was said that they were four touchdown underdogs
to the Blue Devils of LHS. But Dick Boutwell would have nothing to do with that
prediction. Throughout the first half consistently broke through to Devil’s offensive line,
and brought down with smashing tackles LHS’ duo of Palazzi and Robichaud. He was
aided by sterling play from his fellow Ashburnhamit, Joe Fortin, who returned an
intercepted pass thirty-two yards for a Red and Gray touchdown. When the gun sounded
for half time, the astonished fans at Crocker Field noted the score FHS 13 LHS 13. The
dream victory was not to be, as the Devils rolled in the second half, but Boutwell’s effort
never waned. Following the contest Dick Boutwell received the Bernard W. St. Germain
Memorial Trophy which was awarded by the media to FHS outstanding Thanksgiving
The “Mayor of Ashburnham” as he was
called in the Red and Gray in his junior year was never lucky enough to play
football for a strong Fitchburg High team. Raider football in the mid-1950’s was not up
to the caliber of gridiron squads of earlier or later decades. But that never stopped
Boutwell from giving his very best on every single play. Against superior squads from
that era Dick Boutwell was always sure to give as much as he took. He played some of
his best games against Raider rivals like Gardner and St. Bernard’s. Coach Ed Sullivan
always said that Dick Boutwell was the type of player who made everyone around him
better. That certainly was proved on Crocker Field nearly fifty years ago when Boutwell
the gladiator battled the arch-rival Blue Devils.
Football may well have been Dick
Boutwell’s best sport and the sport which he most liked to play, but it was on the
basketball court where he achieved the greatest team success. During Dick’s junior and
senior years the Red Raiders were North Worcester County champions and his hustling
style contributed greatly to the Red and Gray’s success. He was never the leading scorer
for the Raiders. That task was given to players like Paul Kendra, Bob Musgrove, Dave
King, Ron Boudreau or Ralph Anttonen, but Dick could put the ball through the hoop
when it was needed. His greatest importance for the hoop squad was all the little things
which do not show up in the scorebook, but win ball games.
Although he stood only six foot one inch
tall, Dick Boutwell was a ferocious rebounder on both the offensive and defensive boards.
When you watched the Raiders, Dick Boutwell would often out leap opponents, who
were four or five inches taller than he, to get the ball for FHS. His favorite play was to
get a defensive rebound and lead the fast break himself. Not many high school centers
can accomplish that feat, but Dick Boutwell loved that type of play. It showed his
toughness and determination along with athletic skill.
During Dick Boutwell’s senior season
the Red and Gray were the classiest basketball squad in the North County. Following an
early season loss to arch-rival Leominster in May A. Gallagher “swimming pool” Dick
led a young Raider squad to a neat 13-1 regular season record with choice victories over
Nashua, Notre Dame and Gardner which led to a post-season invitation to the old
Western Mass. tournament held at Springfield College. Young Dave King became the
Raider’s leading scorer, but Dick Boutwell scored in double figures frequently during the
season. His clutch efforts against a strong Nashua squad and cross-town rival Notre
Dame might have been his most important contribution.
But the victory over Leominster on
George Washington’s Birthday might have been the most memorable. Leominster had
humiliated the Raiders early and feelings were running high as the final game of the
season approached. Leominster was very large and bulky under the board, and so they
would have to be challenged. Dick Boutwell was up to the task. Bodies were flying all
around the Brickyard on Academy Street when an altercation broke out at mid court.
Dick Boutwell won that one also, and even got his picture in the New York Daily News.
The Raiders were defeated in the first round in Springfield, but all in all Dick Boutwell’s
gang had a great year. For his efforts on the gridiron and the basketball court in his senior
year at FHS, Dick Boutwell was named to the North Worcester County Sportswriters
Association’s first team all stars.
When the spring came around Dick
could be found on the track competing for the Red and Gray. He was the captain of the
squad in his senior year, and specialized in the field events. But the competitor in Dick
Boutwell would raise to the fore. When Coach Joe Hannon asked Dick to run the 400
meter race against teammate Mike Conry and N.D. sensation, he was only glad to help.
His efforts “helped” Conry defeat Gastonguay. He was always a great team player.
Following high school, Dick enlisted in
the Coast Guard and served two years, and returned to Ashburnham to work in the family
business, Boutwell’s Garage. Soon he would marry Paula Badstiibner – Class of 1959 –
and they had three children, Marcy (Boutwell) Smith, Kimberly (Boutwell) Loomis and
Rick Boutwell. Today Dick and Paula have eight wonderful grandchildren.
It has been nearly 50 years since Dick
Boutwell graced the athletic fields of Fitchburg High, but his determination and spirit
have not been forgotten. Now he is a new member of the FHS Hall of Fame.
Top Of The Page
As the Great Depression ravaged
America, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted the New Deal of the 1930’s, Fitchburg
High School was enjoying a period of athletic excellence which few, if any other school
in the Commonwealth, would ever match. Young men with names like Savitt, Whelan,
MacLean, Mackie, Fellows, Blake, Allen, Shattuck and Belliveau had put the “Red
Rioters” on the interscholastic. Any roll of call of Fitchburg High’s greats must include
Hall of Famer, Jimmy Leo – Class of 1936.
Under James Joseph Leo’s yearbook
picture in The Boulder could be found a quote which so correctly identifies the big strong
Italian kid raised in the Water Street area: Strength of body and of character. Thus was
Jimmy Leo of Fitchburg High. Jimmy Leo was a big kid: yearbooks would picture a
broad shoulder youngster with the great athletic physique. In an era in which the average
football player or basketball player might weigh 165 pounds and stand five foot nine,
Jimmy Leo weighed close to 195 pounds and stood well over six feet tall. And his
athletic heart was greater than his physique.
In the fall of 1933 Coach Clarence N.
Amiott fielded a gridiron squad which old timers will tell you was the greatest to ever
perform on the sod of Crocker Field. This team led by the likes of Bill Mackie, Felix and
Stanley Esielionis, “Dub” Mologhan, John Chalmers and Larry Shattuck swept through
the opposite with a spotless 11-0. When the final gun was fired at Doyle Field on
Thanksgiving morning of 1933, and the Red and Gray had defeated previously unbeaten
LHS 20-12, Jerry Nason of the Boston Globe declared FHS the mythical state champions.
Holding down the end position was a very young sophomore, and he had shown that he
could play with the very best. His name was Jimmy Leo, and a fabulous high school
career had begun.
As soon as the gridiron season ended in
1933, Jimmy Leo put on those basketball sneakers and joined the Raider’s basketball
squad which was mentored by the great Amiott. With his size and surprising soft touch,
Jimmy Leo immediately became a factor on the senior-laden squad which marched to the
finals of the M.I.T. tournament which was the unofficial state championship in the
1930’s. Many Raider fans of that era would tell you that Jimmy Leo’s best sport could
very well have been basketball. He was a three year starter leading the Raiders deep into
the Tech Tourney every single season. In an era when most squads would barely score
thirty points in a game, Jimmy averaged in double figures in his last two basketball
But “Ossie” MacLean would tell you
that Jimmy Leo’s very best sport was baseball. The FHS Hall of Famer said that Jimmy
hit the baseball as hard as player of his era. In 1936 Coach Loring Stevenson which just
dominated the opposition. Led by Jimmy Flynn, the Torcoletti brothers, Tito and Joe,
Guy DiBenedetto and MacLean, the Red and Gray just smashed the opposition. Scoring
double figures in nearly every contest, they were feared by pitchers throughout Central
Mass. People said that Jim Leo hit balls in Crocker Field which reached an area in the
park thought unreachable. His prowess with the stick captured the attention of one and
all. When Jimmy went to Providence College, his favorite college professor, Father
Quinn, asked him if he would be interested in working for the good father’s father.
Father Quinn’s father, Bob, happened to own the Boston Braves. That’s how good the
slugger from Fitchburg really was. But during the 1930’s football was the true king of
Fitchburg, and Jimmy Leo was in the middle of the mix. In 1994 when asked to
reminisce about his years of playing football for his alma mater, Jimmy recalled 1. Being
a member of the undefeated team of 1933, 2. Being a member of the 1934 team that only
lost to Leominster and Brockton, 3. Being a member of the 1935 team that went 10-1
only losing to Brockton. If you do your math, that means that Jimmy Leo’s squads were
28-3-1 in his varsity years.
But he does not tell you about his
individual accomplishments. Whenever the big games were on the line against the likes
of Brockton, Gardner or Leominster, Jimmy Leo was a favorite target of tailbacks like
Bill Mackie and “Ossie” MacLean. But on the defensive side of the line Jimmy Leo
made the bone-crunching tackles on opposing halfbacks or fullbacks.
When Jimmy Leo graduated from FHS
in 1936, he was recruited by Providence College to continue his athletic career and to get
a solid liberal arts education. Many in his old hometown wondered which sport Jimmy
would concentrate upon while at Providence. There was no problem there. Jimmy Leo
earned nine varsity letters while competing in football, basketball and baseball for the
Friars. Remember the aforementioned Father Quinn and his admiration of Jimmy Leo’s
baseball skills. At his graduation Jimmy was given the MAL Brown Athletic Award
which was given for an individual who best epitomized honesty, integrity, and loyalty.
His attitude certainly made a great impression upon the good fathers of P.C.
After receiving his B.A. from
Providence, Jimmy accepted a teaching and coaching position at Sacred Heart Academy
in Falls Church, Rhode Island. But soon his nation was calling upon Jimmy Leo as a
member of the Greatest Generation. He would take his place in the military shortly after
the attack upon Pearl Harbor, and would find himself training to be a combat engineer for
the 43rd Division. In late 1943, he was shipped to the Asian Theatre in the Pacific where
he would serve twenty two months. For his work in the Army Engineering Corps, Mr.
Leo would receive five battle stars.
In October of 1945 Jimmy accepted a
coaching and teaching position in Manassas, Virginia, and the next stage of his life began.
He would remain in the classroom for nine years and then was appointed vice-principal at
Osbourne High School. After twelve years Jimmy was appointed middle school principal
and then was appointed the first Superintendent of Schools for the town of Manassas,
Virginia. In 1981 after 40 years of education Jimmy Leo decided to retire from
education, but his community wanted to honor their beloved educator. April 10, 1981
was officially named “James J. Leo Day” and five trees were planted at the five schools in
the school district which pleased him greatly because he possessed a wonderful “green
thumb”. Later the school community would further honor FHS’ native son by naming
Osbourne’s athletic stadium “The James J. Leo Stadium.”
Today, Jimmy Leo resides in Manassas,
Virginia as he approaches his ninetieth birthday. His beloved wife Mary Hope Smith Leo
has passed on, but Jimmy has two daughters Robie (Leo) Arnold and Ann (Leo)
Toothman and three grandchildren. We welcome one of Fitchburg High’s greatest to the
Hall of Fame. The honor is ours.
Top Of The Page
When veteran NBA watchers talk about
the outstanding scorers from twenty or thirty years ago, they recall the amazing exploits
of “Pistol Pete” Maravich, “Earl the Pearl” Monroe or George “The Ice Man” Gervin.
Today, when old time Fitchburg High School basketball fans talk gathered around the old
hot stove, they discuss the exploits of Joey “Spags.”
Joe Spagnuola has to be seen to be
believed. His jump shot, from twenty feet and beyond, would leave his finger tips and
begin its long arcing flight toward the basket in the Brickyard on Academy Street. There
would then be a pronounced swish and two more points would be added to the Red
Raider’s total. Joe had come to Fitchburg High in the fall of 1958 with a reputation of
basketball excellence which verged upon amazing. Tales were told of youth league
contests in which Joey’s totals would be well beyond forty points. He was expected to
bring the Raiders back to basketball glory. In the winter of 1960 Raider fans began to see
some of the ability which the young sophomore possessed. His totals began to gradually
climb into double figures, and the Raider fans began to think about what might happen in
his junior and senior seasons.
Joe Spagnuola was a big strapping kid as
we used to say in the 1960’s. He stood six foot two inches tall and weighed close to one
hundred eighty pounds which meant he was a big kid. Usually those types of basketball
players would play under the hoop, and use their superior size to power the ball into the
hoop. The big kid from the Water Street area of Fitchburg was not a power forward, he
was a point guard. That was usually the job for the five foot eight inch water bug with
superior quickness, not a kid Joey’s size. His size would completely dominate the
smaller guards who had to play him, and so opposing coaches would have to put their
forwards on him, and Joey would just drive by them to the basket. In many ways Joey’s
play was similar to the “Big O’s” in the National Basketball Association.
In the winter of 1960-1961 Coach John
Oliva had high hopes for his Raider squad. John DiGeronimo was a strong force at the
power position, and he was aided by junior forward Barry MacLean who was beginning
to show athletic ability on the hardwood court as he had shown on Crocker Field. The
guard position was manned by a young George Barnicle who was showing potential while
Joey Spagnuola was listed as the center, but sort of played a rover position on offense.
The sixth man on offense was another up and coming forward, Lee Drury who was
dramatically improving every contest. The Raiders would be good this season with a
solid 11-5 regular season record. But they just did not seem capable of getting past the
big time opposition. Loses to Nashua and New Bedford had put a bit of a damper on the
Raiders efforts. Still, all in all, Joey Spagnuola had a breakout campaign in 60-61. He
averaged nearly twenty points a game to lead the north county in scoring. In the season’s
opener against Brockton High, Joey had poured in 23 points as the Raiders upset the
Eastern Massachusetts power 45-31. He had outplayed Brockton’s ace, Steve
Sarantoupolus who was later establishing many scoring records at the old Tech Tourney
in Boston Gardens.
The Raiders did not receive an invitation
to the tournament in Western Mass. at Springfield College which disappointed many
Raider faithful and the players. This was just before the establishment of the tournaments
with which we are familiar today. The Raiders took solace in accepting an invitation to
the short-lived Fitchburg State College tourney and they triumphed quite easily. Joey and
teammate John DiGeronimo were accepted to the all tourney team. Following the 1961
campaign Joey was a unanimous selection for the North Worcester County All Star Team.
But the 1961 campaign was only a
prelude to the season that was to become 1962. Fitchburg High School basketball
believed that it would make its mark in their upcoming season. Expectations amongst the
players were high and the kids wanted to reach the ultimate, playing in the Boston Garden
as the Western Mass. representative in the old New England tournament. They expected
to run the regular season slate, but they ran into some questionable officiating in Beverly,
and a slippery floor at Notre Dame. Still the Raiders were loaded for bear. Seniors were
going to dominate this squad.
Big Larry Shattuck was a huge force
under the offensive and defensive boards as he cleared the way for the scorers. Dave
Rissanen was the inside guy who picked up the loose balls and averaged close to ten
points a contest. Lee Drury was a sweet-shooting guard who could play solid defense on
the opponents leading scorer. Barry MacLean was the all around athlete who could score
in double figures, help Shattuck on the boards, and play great defense. And then there
was Joey Spagnuola.
Joey was the most spectacular player in
Central Massachusetts. Maybe Athol High School newspaper The Little Red
Schoolhouse said it best: “They (FHS) were led by one of the best schoolboy
basketball players in the state…The great Joe Spagnuola poured in 22 points, led the
defensive attack, and thrilled the crowd with his display of ball handling.” During this
glorious regular season Joey averaged 22.6 points per contest with many of his points
coming from way downtown. Imagine if there had been a three point line. Of course, he
was selected to several All Star squads.
With their 14-2 record FHS was selected
for play in the newly organized District Tournament. After early round victory, FHS was
stopped by a solid Worcester Classical squad led by George Riddick, but they could gain
a spot in the Western Mass. tourney with a third place victory. Trailing early against
Worcester Commerce, the Raiders rallied behind Joey’s scoring and tough play from the
rest of the “Iron Five.” It was onto Springfield.
The old Springfield Field House rocked
as the Raiders led by Joey “Spags’” sensation easily defeated Drury High and then upset
Springfield Commerce led by the great Henry Payne. MacLean, Shattuck, Rissanen,
Drury and Joey Spagnuola showed one and all that the Red and Gray were the real deal.
Next came the finals against Pittsfield and Mark Belanger, and the Raiders just came up
short. It had been a wonderful run.
Joey Spagnuola played some high school
baseball and one memorable Thanksgiving contest, but basketball was his game.
Following his high school years Joey began working for a small company called Digital,
and would continue with Dek for 25 years. From his marriage, Joey had three daughters,
Lisa Nash, Lynn Powell, and Lori Keohan who have given him five wonderful
grandchildren. Joey “Spags” suffered a terrible stroke much too young in life, but he has
still maintained his wonderful personality, and today we honor Joey Spagnuola as a
member of the FHS Hall of Fame.
Top Of The Page
One of the most difficult tasks in all of
sports is to be the child of a superstar. And Loring Stevenson Sr. was a Fitchburg High
School superstar from the Class of 1915. With his distinctive red curly hair Loring Sr.
had been a star on the very first teams coached by the legendary Clarence N. Amiott. The
135 pound whiz had quarterbacked the Red and Gray to victory after victory, and then
turned to basketball to key the FHS offense. In the spring of 1915 Loring Sr. had
captained the baseball nine to a near perfect record and then helped the track team capture
the county track championship with great efforts in the long jump and dashes.
Starting in the early 1920’s the elder
Stevenson returned to Fitchburg where he became a beloved assistant to Coach Amiott
and head baseball coach. His 1936 undefeated baseball team featuring “Ossie” MacLean,
Jimmy Leo and Jimmy Flynn was one of FHS’ best. Then he succeeded the legendary
Amiott as athletic director in the late 1930’s when Noah Amiott became ill. So it was
quite a legacy which followed Loring “Bud” Stevenson Jr. when he entered the halls of
Fitchburg High School in the autumn of 1949. He would be a candidate for positions on
the football, basketball and baseball squads, but he would also be the kid of the athletic
director. And sometimes people can be cruel to fifteen and sixteen year olds.
John Connolly of the Fitchburg Sentinel
spoke to that particular situation after “Bud” Stevenson’s final football game, a glorious
13 to 7 victory over arch-rival Leominster on Thanksgiving morning. The sportswriter
had apparently been cognizant of the tricky situation and felt that he should mention the
situation following the Raider’s penultimate victory. Mr. Connolly wrote:
Speaking of this year’s team and its determination, such a
column would be incomplete if we didn’t mention something that
we felt throughout the season, but decided to refrain from saying
until this campaign ended. It’s about Loring “Buddy” Stevenson
who played an entire season under the greatest of handicaps – the
fact that his father is athletic director of FHS. He didn’t need any
boost from his conscientious and honest dad, and he didn’t get any.
Yesterday more so than any other time in ’48, he proved his worth
to the Red and Gray squad.
So you can see that it very often can be
difficult to follow in your father’s footsteps. Just ask professionals like Brian Griese and
During “Bud” Stevenson’s years at FHS,
the Raider athletic teams were populated with excellent athletes in almost every position
on every squad. The competition for playing time on any sport’s team was quite
vigorous. During “Buddy’s” senior football season Coach Marty McDonough used nine
different individuals in his offensive backfield, and they were all quite skilled. Guys like
Art Capone, “Chuckin Charlie” Bowen, Herb Pandiscio and Dick Erickson could have
starred for football squads in Central Massachusetts, and this was “Bud’s” competition.
When the Raiders opened their 1948
campaign by traveling up the Mohawk Trail to North Adams to play against Drury High,
Coach McDonough handed over the reins of the offense to his skilled passing
quarterback, “Bud” Stevenson, and the kid had quite an opening game. Following a
scoreless first half, “Bud” hit Norman “Red” Goguen over the middle, and FHS’
electrifying sprinter raced 66 yards into the end zone for the Red and Gray’s initial score.
Later in the contest “Bud” caught a twenty-five yard touchdown pass from Charlie Bowen
on Coach McDonough’s favorite play, the end around. Later he would intercept a Drury
pass, and return the interception nearly fifty yards to Drury’s twenty yard line. “Bud”
Stevenson had been everywhere in the Raider’s opening game victory.
When the passing attack slowed in losses
to Clinton and Marlboro, Coach McDonough turned to his running game which featured
Art Capone and Herb Pandiscio. “Bud” was sort of placed on the back-burner, but he did
not complain. He would spend much time perfecting his defensive back field play which
would be invaluable later in the campaign. The 1948 Raiders were a squad which grew
as the season progressed. Following a 12-12 against favored Gardner squad, the Red and
Gray record stood at 1-2-1, and the future was bleak. But the Raiders never lost faith and
they would win six close contests against teams like Brookline, Woburn and Watertown.
Led by Hugh McCann, Jim Meredith and sophomore Ralph DiGeronimo, the Raiders
defense rose to the occasion. “Bud” Stevenson’s defensive back field play keyed that
Thanksgiving morning found Charlie
Broderick of LHS and Marty McDonough of FHS both downplaying their chances.
Actually LHS never had a chance. Their superstar, Bob Mercier, broke a 55 yard
touchdown run, but the Devils were smothered by the dominating Raider defense. “Bud”
played a key part for the defense. Leominster’s passing attack was stopped cold by “Bud”
and his mates. “Bud” had a key interception in the second half, and The Sentinel showed
a picture of “Bud” knocking down the final LHS pass attempt to clinch the victory. The
A.D.’s kid did okay.
“Bud” Stevenson played football,
basketball and baseball during his last three years at FHS. He would have great moments
of success on the gridiron and the basketball court, but “Bud” would probably tell you
that his greatest thrill came on the baseball diamond. He was the starting center field
during his junior and senior seasons with a solid .300 average at the plate. But the big hit
came against arch-rival Leominster. The Raiders were down by one run to LHS with two
outs in the ninth inning when “Bud” Stevenson came to the plate. He smacked one out of
the park to tie the contest which the Red and Gray won in the 12th inning. When his
father retired two years later, he recounted “Bud’s” home run as one of his biggest
Following graduation “Bud” Stevenson
attended Fitchburg State College playing baseball and basketball and receiving his degree
in 1953. His teaching career began in Holyoke in 1955, but “Bud” eventually worked in
Winchendon, Massachusetts, from 1958 to 1981 as a classroom teacher, elementary
supervisor and principal until his retirement from education. He later became involved
with antiques and auctioneering. Which he continues to carry up to the present. During
the Korean War “Bud” served in the United States Army.
He married Pauline Peters Stevenson,
and they had four children Loring Stevenson, Lisa Stevenson, David Stevenson and Chris
Stevenson. Today they reside in Palm Coast, Florida where “Bud” and Pauline both
continue to work in the auctioneering business. The son of the athletic director, Loring
“Bud” Stevenson had a heck of a career at FHS, and today he enters our Hall of Fame.
Top Of The Page
Coach Marco Landon quietly stood
along the sidelines at Springfield College as his victorious Raiders gleefully celebrated at
mid-field. Fitchburg High School had captured the first ever Super Bowl championship
and the “quiet” Dean Vallis was riding on his teammate’s shoulders holding the winning
trophy over his head. The FHS cheerleaders and bands were cheering wildly as the Red
and Gray was played jubilantly. Spectators sang the words, “All hail to our Alma Mater,
all hail to the Red and Gray” as they jumped for joy. Slowly number ten moved away
from the mob and walked toward the coach. He shook the coach’s hand, and then gave
Marco Landon a big hug. Number ten was Tom Landon, who could now share this
ultimate moment of happiness quietly with his father, as the Raider faithful shouted with
glee. The Boulder for the Class of 1973 might well have given one of the true
pictures of Marco Landon when it said, “Experience, patience, perseverance – Coach of
the Year” to honor their Super Bowl coach.
Marco Landon had come to Fitchburg
High School in the fall of 1962 to become an assistant coach under Eddie Sullivan after
serving a number of years in New Britain, Connecticut. But Marco Landon was not an
unknown commodity to the faithful of Fitchburg High. During the late 1940’s, Marco
Landon had been one of the premier football players in Central Massachusetts playing for
Charlie Broderick’s Blue Devils of LHS. He was one of two players who were selected
to the old North Worcester County All Star Team for three consecutive seasons. The
other was Barry MacLean of Fitchburg High. Playing at 160 pounds, Marco had been a
dynamo on both sides of the line. Old-timers in Leominster can recall the individual
exploits of Marco nearly a half century later. Following his graduation from LHS, Marco
spent a year at Worcester Academy and then it was onto Boston University to play under
Coach “Buff” Donelli. Today, football is not even played at B.U., but in the early 1950’s
Boston University was playing big time football. They were led by the legendary
“Golden Greek” from Lynn, Massachusetts, Harry Agganis made the Terriers big time,
and they were playing major schools like Miami, Maryland and Syracuse. Marco and his
old FHS rival, Jim Meredith, were stalwarts on the Terrier defensive line. Imagine that –
a college lineman weighing 165 pounds. Marco established an NCAA record in the
Orange Bowl by recording two safeties in one contest against the Hurricanes. That record
still stands today.