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Thursday, October 30, 2014
The way we were: '63 Freeport football team remembered
by Laura Schofer

It was the year the team was unbeaten (8-0). They took the South Shore Division II championship and were awarded the Rutgers Cup for the best team in Nassau County. It was also the year that Guy Riccardi became the first FHS gridder to win the Thorpe Award for the best player in Nassau County. And, it was the last football season for Coach Bill Ashley, a Freeport legend who coached for 23 years and brought four Rutgers Cups to Freeport.

This weekend, members of that dream team will return to Freeport to visit with old friends, reminisce and take in Saturday’s game – Freeport faces Oceanside at home, beginning at 4 p.m.

Third-generation Freeporter Eddie Martin spoke with The Leader about that magical fall of 1963 and the upcoming reunion.

“We were just a bunch of neighborhood kids who grew up playing all kind of sports,” said Mr. Martin, who began playing football in seventh grade. “Many of the guys on the [football] team played a lot of sports. Some wrestled, I also played lacrosse.”

Although Mr. Martin said he preferred playing lacrosse, “football is about strength. It is the ultimate team sport, everybody plays together. The players are all choreographed so you can execute blocks. That’s what practicing is all about. It’s grueling but when you execute on game day, it’s very rewarding,” he explained.

And all that practice paid off for the Red Devils when they faced East Meadow, who were favored to win. With a minute to go, a 41-yard pass play from Tom Bird to Joe Tuitt gave the Red Devils a 6-0 win. According to Newsday, all the spectators were on their feet watching Joe Tuitt race “diagonally toward the end zone.” Tom Bird threw the pass and Tuitt caught it. “He sped those last few steps into the end zone and leaped high into the air,” wrote Newsday

“It was a real dog fight,” said Mr. Martin. “We heard how East Meadow was pummeling other teams and we knew we were evenly matched.” Mr. Martin said “this was a special play, one you save as a surprise and wait for the right moment.”

There were other tough teams to face that season including Hempstead and Baldwin. “We didn’t think about winning the Rutgers Cup. We just wanted to win, every game,” said Mr. Martin. “It was very much our mind set. Beat everyone – that’s the goal.”

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