The members of the 1957 football team are now in their 70s. As the years have gone by, we have lost many of our teammates and friends, including: John Heister, halfback; Owen Bradshaw, end; Bob Fletcher, center; Jim Chapin, tackle; Bill Nagy, tackle; Al Miles, manager; Harry Hipps, quarterback; and Bill Noonan, halfback, and Don Tully, halfback, who both passed away this year. We would like to dedicate our award to our deceased teammates who will not be with us for this celebration.
In 1957, St. John’s was a very different school from today. The school was all-boys and everyone was in the Cadet Corps. Christian Brothers were the primary teachers and administrators, and there were only a few lay teachers. The sophomores, juniors and seniors
were taught in a large multi-story school built by the Christian Brothers, which was located on Vermont Avenue just north of Thomas Circle. On drill days, the police closed Vermont Avenue between Logan Circle and Thomas Circle so the cadets could use the street for drill practice.
The freshmen were taught in an old mansion on Military Road, on the property that houses the current school. The football team practiced on the current field, but back then the turf was much rougher than it is today. The team members were bused from Vermont Avenue to Military Road for practice each day. The 1957 team had some of the best coaches in the area, including Head Coach Joe Gallagher and Line Coach Mush Dubofsky. To toughen up the linemen, Coach Dubofsky made them run up the steep hill that is currently behind the baseball diamond many times. Joe Cardaci coached the JV team and also assisted the varsity team on game days.
For the second year in a row, a varsity football player, Gene Maratta, had been named Cadet Colonel. Gene was a stalwart first-team tackle.
The 1957 team returned to St. Francis Prep of Spring Grove, PA, to avenge a loss from the previous year. St. John’s defeated St. Francis with a 32-0 rout. Alert lineman Jim Chapin scored with a 19-yard run after picking up a fumble caused by Moe Dufour’s hard tackle. The final score came on a lateral from Harry Hipps to Mike Piron, who passed to Tom Williams
for the touchdown.
Calvert Hall tied St. John’s 6-6. Calvert Hall was the second-heaviest team in Maryland (heavier than any Maryland college team). Only the Baltimore Colts were heavier. They outweighed St. John’s by an average of 35 pounds per man; yet, St. John’s took the lead in the second quarter with a 50-yard run by Bill Noonan, followed by a John-Piazza-to-Joe-Mona pass for the touchdown. Calvert Hall scored after an intercepted pass in the third quarter. Two fourth-quarter threats by St. John’s, however, did not add to the score.
St. John’s beat Mount St. Joseph 26-0, with Noonan scoring three touchdowns and Paul Ciatti intercepting a pass for a long run and touchdown. Bill Berquist also helped move the ball down field with hard-charging runs, and Piron added two extra points. Vic Irwin was in the defensive backfield, but he also served as a replacement for Piazza at quarterback.
After the Mount St. Joe game, many players and managers came down with the flu. Managers Raymond Raedy, Al Miles and Mike McCarthy all caught the bug; only Bruce McLaughlin avoided it. The athletic director, Bro. Andrew, asked Tom Henderson to join the manager ranks to help in the Episcopal game. Tom lived on a farm and brought the family donkey, wearing a St. John’s blanket, as a school mascot to several St. John’s games.
In the next game, Episcopal High School gained a 7-7 tie with the flu-ridden St. John’s team in a muddy seesaw battle. The only defeat of the season was a 2-9 loss to Salesianum School in Wilmington, DE. St. John’s only score came on a blocked punt by Jim Farley, who then tackled the punter in the end zone. Salesianum’s touchdown came from a long pass to star end Tom Hall, who later played eight years in the NFL for the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings.
St. John’s beat John Carroll at Griffith Stadium by a score of 25-6. The first touchdown by Piazza on a quarterback sneak came after a blocked punt by Joe McMahon. Two Piazza touchdown passes followed – the first to Mona and the second to Jim Ryan. Bob Fletcher scored the final touchdown when he intercepted a Carroll pass and ran 24 yards into the end zone.
St. John’s defeated Anacostia 18-6 in a game that was billed as a preview to the city championship.
On the Friday morning before the Gonzaga game, a group of Gonzaga boosters distracted the guard to one side of the Washington Monument and hung a “Beat St. John’s” banner on the opposite side. Photographers who were planted below took pictures of the banner, which was published in area newspapers. Unfortunately for Gonzaga, St. John’s demolished the Eagles 33-7 to win the Catholic league crown.
The game started slowly, as there was no scoring in the first quarter. In the second quarter, St. John’s struck as Piazza threw two touchdown passes - the first to Curly Combs and the second to Ryan after McMahon intercepted a Gonzaga pass on the Gonzaga 34-yard line. In the third quarter, Combs returned a Gonzaga punt 40 yards for a touchdown. St. John’s continued the assault in the fourth quarter with two more touchdowns. The first touchdown occurred with a Piazza-to-Mona pass, which was lateraled from Mona to fullback Ed Greeves for the touchdown. The final touchdown started when Hipps returned a Gonzaga punt to the St. John’s 35-yard line. John Heister then broke loose for a 64-yard run to the Gonzaga 4-yard line. Bob McCleary followed his blocker Maratta into the end zone for the final score.
A crowd of 14,500 attended the 1957 city championship game between St. John’s and Anacostia at Griffith Stadium. There was no score in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Piazza threw two passes to Mona to take the ball to the 37-yard line. He then threw to Ryan on the 20-yard line, who ran in for the first touchdown. In the third quarter, Ciatti took the ball to the Anacostia 49-yard line. St. John’s moved the ball to the 42-yard line, and then McCleary got the ball and started toward the right side of the field. However, big Dave Watkins got in the way, and McCleary cut back, zigzagging down the field to the one-foot line. Piazza then scored on a quarterback sneak for the second touchdown. The final score came midway through the
fourth quarter. St. John’s took the ball to Anacostia’s 48-yard line with a breakaway run by Heister. A Piazza-to-Mona pass put the ball on the 43-yard line. Two defenders covered Mona, and Piazza threw to an open Ryan, who ran 20 yards into the end zone for the final touchdown. Piron converted all three extra points. McMahon led the defense and recovered a fumble to stop one of Anacostia’s drives. Piazza and McMahon shared Athlete of the Week honors for their play in the city championship game.
A major part of St. John’s successful season was the outstanding line and defensive backfield coached by Dubofsky, which included Jim Chapin, Bill Nagy, Gene Maratta, Bob Fletcher, Bruce Bach, Frank Dubofsky, Dick Casey and Owen Bradshaw, who opened and plugged holes throughout the season. Joe McMahon was a defensive threat as linebacker.
Not everyone on the team was recognized in newspaper or Sabre articles, but they played important roles on special teams, offense or defense. These players included linemen Bob Middleton, Walt Costello, Bob White, Joe Furman, Bob Bennie, Frank Odenwald and Don Smith, as well as backs Ed Quinn, George Greco and Don Tully.
A number of Cadets were placed on the various all-star teams at the end of the season. These included linemen Joe Mona, Jim Chapin, Bob Fletcher, Owen Bradshaw, Joe McMahon and Gene Maratta. The all-star backs included John Piazza and Bill Noonan. Coach Joe Gallagher was named Coach of the Year by the Scholastic Sports Association.