Catasauqua football teams of the 90s were special
Joe Gmitter always will remember the “mudslides.”
“That was a Catty thing,” recalled the All-Colonial League offensive and defensive senior lineman on the 1995 football team. “We would practice on Thomas Field. Anytime it was a sloppy practice, we would have mudslides afterward.
“That’s where we would have the bonfires. I did one (mudslide) and got about a 10-inch cut on my arm from a nail. I never told the coaches about it.”
Mudslides were among a cavalcade of memories from the 1995 team that finished with an overall 9-2 mark and set the mark for the largest Roughies’ winning margin in a Thanksgiving Day game when they blanked Northampton, 35-0.
In fact, the 1994 team went 10-0 before a loss in the district final. Over the 1994 and 1995 seasons, the Roughies posted a 20-4 mark.
The seeds were planted for the 1995 team during the seniors’ sophomore season when they went 1-11 in the 1993 campaign. Their lone win came as a result of a forfeit from Emmaus, who had an ineligible player.
It was a year after former Buffalo Bills running back Jonathan Linton ended his four-year, 4,000-plus yard career along with the legendary 12-year run of head coach Ed Csencsits, who won five league and four district titles over 14 years.
New head coach Bob Bydlon inherited a budding team that would soon blossom. The sophomores quickly took the initiative the following season and produced a 10-0, league championship season that ended in a defeat to Mount Carmel in the District 11 Class 2A title tilt.
“We had just beat Northwestern and had a 10-0 season,” noted Bydlon, who currently is an assistant coach for his former wide receiver and Nazareth head coach Tom Falzone. “We ran into a very good Mount Carmel team and they shut us down.
“But these guys took a lot from the 1993 season. I never saw a team that worked that hard and was that focused coming into the season. They spent a lot of time in the weight room, and it paid off for them.
“After the 1993 season, the sophomores who later were seniors said that something like that would never happen again. They also came back strong for the ’95 season as well.”
Rob Petrosky was the quarterback on the 1995 team and reflected on his sophomore season that helped set the trend for the final two years.
“Prior to that year, Catty won three-straight district titles,” noted Petrosky, who later starred at Moravian College in the same position and currently is the offensive coordinator at Nazareth for Falzone. “The next year, there were about four, five, or six starters as sophomores on the team and we all learned on the way.
“But we all were really dedicated during the offseason, and the next year we turned it around.”
Catty entered the 1995 season with a similar fervor.
The Roughies began with a 40-0 shutout over Pen Argyl, one of five for the season. They had relatively close victories over Wilson and Notre Dame before they began an assault of scoring 204 points and allowing just 13.
One of the most memorable ones was the week nine victory over Northern Lehigh, which featured a unique second half.
“We knew we could clinch a share of the Colonial League title with win a win over them,” recalled Petrosky. “We took advantage of a fumble and scored early on them. We had a 14-0 lead going into halftime and felt good about ourselves.
“Then the rains came. It was a complete downpour and the field was a mess. There was lightning and we had to leave the field for a while.
“That was the toughest game I ever played in,” added Gmitter.
The following week, Catty dropped the first of two consecutive games to Northwestern. In the regular-season finale, the Roughies were faced with the task of stopping all-state running back the late Brett Snyder and held him to 125 yards. Yet, it wasn’t enough in a 14-7 loss.
Next week, they matched up again in a district game, and the Roughies had a 7-0 lead at halftime. But Snyder broke loose for the bulk of his 204 yards and helped his team to 23 unanswered points en route to a victory.
“Brett Snyder had a great year,” said Bydlon. “We thought we had him in the first game we played, but they beat us.
“We competed and worked hard for the second game. We made the changes we thought we needed to make to stop him the second game. It was disappointing, very disappointing.”
Bydlon knew their annual Thanksgiving game was left to salvage the season. He heard about a group of Northampton scouts who watched the Roughies district playoff loss to Northwestern that didn’t have flattering things to say about his team’s performance.
Bydlon took the cue and it passed it along to his players. The result was a resounding 35-0 victory. Petrosky completed 14 of 24 passes for a season-high 192 yards with three touchdowns and was named the game’s MVP.
“Some of the Catty people heard them say that they ‘would run all over us,’” said Bydlon. “We had lost to them two years in a row. That stuff got around to the players.
“They went out a played a great, mistake-free game from beginning to end. Northampton had a good team that year.”
“Those are games you don’t forget,” added Falzone, who was the team’s leading receiver throughout the season. “Teams never took us lightly. We had learned a lot from our sophomore year, and we all took it to the next level.”
Gmitter realized how the teams in the program’s 1990s football heyday became legendary.
“We were a lively bunch who celebrated our success,” he said. “Catty football was such as big thing in town. Everyone looked to hangout together in town after we won. During our senior year, we could go anywhere in town after our games and people were excited for us.
“There was a caring feeling about football back then.
“There was a real sense of pride,” added Petrosky. “A lot of players grew up in Catty, and they came back after they left. It was really unique for me and other when I coached and still am coaching with the coaches I had.
“That was a special time for many of us to be part of the program.”