1972 Champion Sleepy Hollow Football Team Celebrates 50-Year Anniversary
By Rick Pezzullo—
When members of the 1972 Sleepy Hollow High School varsity football team got together Oct. 8 at JP Doyle’s to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its undefeated championship season, it was as if time had stood still.
Sure, all had gained weight, many had lost their hair, life had taken its toll in one way or another, but the camaraderie remained as strong as when they were the toast of the village. The barbs, the banter, the playful jabs were plentiful as memories of their gridiron dominance were relived, and cherished.
“I was the luckiest young coach in the stinking world,” said Bruce Thomas, 82, the 1972 Section I Class A Coach of the Year after leading the 42-player squad to a perfect 9-0 record. “It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
The team concluded its unblemished season by trouncing heavily favored John Jay 31-12 in the Section I Class A championship game, ending John Jay’s 28-game winning streak over a three-year period.
“Nobody in Westchester County thought that would be much of a game,” Thomas recalled. “We knew our guys would bring their best and they did. They laid a big ass whooping on John Jay that day. These guys were so tight back then and it just carried right through the season to today.”
Don Whitely, quarterback and co-captain of the 1972 team, and Frank Constantini, tight end and a Con Edison Athlete Award winner, both credited the success of the Horsemen to most of the players having played together since Pop Warner as youngsters.
“We just knew how everyone played. We came together our senior year,” Whitely said. “We were bred into football. Today’s kids couldn’t keep up with us.”
Constantini pointed out players on the 1972 team “never got off the field” since they played positions on offense and defense. Whitely said he was as proud of the four interceptions he made as a defensive back as he was throwing about 10 touchdowns.
“He’s still quarterbacking, bringing us together today,” Thomas said of Whitely. “I had two things I had to be concerned with. I had to deal with the head cases. There were a lot of those. The x’s and o’s, that was the fun part.”
During the breakfast, championship rings were distributed to the players and a video montage was shown from the 1972 season, triggering many laughs, proud smiles and a few tears. Tributes were also given to the 11 players and coaches who are deceased.
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