More Football Memories of Bill McCluskey - 1956
The 1956 season was a good one but very frustrating – the team’s record was three wins, one loss by two points to Plattsburgh, and three ties.
We changed our offense that year from a straight T to a combo single wing and wing T that Charlie Holt and I cooked up to take advantage of a big line and strong power backs. Also, we had no one that could throw the ball well. It was kind of a goofy offense, but it usually worked, except against Placid on opening day. On a humid, hot afternoon, we struggled to a listless 0-0 tie with our closest rival. Let’s forget that one. We then thumped Port Henry 33-0. Next came perennial nemesis, Plattsburgh. We played great ball for the first half, leading 18-7. And then they plodded back with two TDs and an extra point because I’d never taught the team how to defend the option play. It was a relatively new offense in those days, and I knew next to nothing about it.
Then we tied two more games. One of those was against Mount Assumption Institute, who won the league championship that year. This was a goofy game that ended in a goofy play, bitterly disputed by MAI. We executed a Hail Mary pass at the end of the game, giving us a tie. Here’s the scenario: we were on the MAI 15. There was almost no time left. We needed a touchdown to tie. It was fourth and five. We called on Jimmy Robbins to sweep right. He was immediately pursued by half the MAI team, soon followed by the rest, all chasing him backwards across the field. In desperation, Jim stopped and heaved a mighty pass into the end zone. It disappeared into a scrum of players. *** Touch down*** Northwood. The MAI coach stormed onto the field and protested vehemently. “Lineman illegally downfield!” The game ended in a tie. Afterwards, the MAI coach came up to me and said he truly had to know one thing: Was it an end who caught the ball or even a guard or tackle, or even the center?” I assured him that it was an end, but I wasn’t positive but that some of our interior linemen might have had the ambition to catch a touchdown pass and be a hero.
Who did catch the pass? Maybe Lew Crampton? Can’t remember.
There was one other game that season I’d like to mention, and that was with St. John’s, who had run up 53 points on us the year before. We were determined to beat them in ’56, but they still had the great Ronnie Dukette. Charlie and I scouted them at a night game and came up with a simple plan – we told Rod Price, who played linebacker, to mirror everything that Dukette did on offense. “He lays back to pass, and you rush him. If he flanks to the side, you flank right in front of him.” And so forth. Rod did a fantastic job, and Dukette was handcuffed. We won 12-7.