1974 turned out to be a dream season for the Albert Gallatin football team, but coming into the season not much was expected from the Colonials who had some great skill players returning, but only two starters returning on the offensive line.
“We really weren’t expecting too much,” Coach Donald “Doc” Franks said. “We had some complete unknowns on the offensive line. Chuck Cheresnye came over from German Township and moved to Masontown and he became our center and he did a terrific job.”
The season got off to a slow start as AG pulled a 3-0 victory over Brentwood on a 33-yard field goal by Gary Bosnic. The Colonials then held off a tough Beth Center to post an 8-6 win that would prove to be a big key to the season.
“Field conditions were terrible, but it helped us just as much as it helped them,” Franks stated. “Beth Center had a good team.
Brentwood also had a good team. Those were two tough games 8-6 and 3-0. We kicked a field goal in a driving rain and in the mud. They didn’t even rush the kicker because they didn’t think he could make the kick in those conditions, but Bosnic kicked the field goal.”
AG wound up with a record of 10-1, the lone loss was to Washington 23-13.
The win over Beth Center and a big 44-13 win over Greensburg Central Catholic gave the Colonials enough Gardner points to put them in the WPIAL playoffs.
“There was a conference that folded and they transferred about four teams into our conference and made us an 11 team conference and not everybody played each other. The WPIAL could have taken two teams but they didn’t.”
It had been 13 years since the Colonials won the WPIAL title.
In 1961 they won the title with a 19-6 win over Penn Joint and lost in the playoffs in 1971 and 72. In 1971 they lost to Jeannette 34-6 and in 1972 they bowed to Washington 14-12.
“It was the tradition that Albert Gallatin had a 1,000 yard rusher,” Al Harper said. “The Friday nights going to Masontown and watching AG perform. The guys bought into it. Our forefathers at Albert Gallatin had that tradition of being hard-nosed and we carried on that tradition.”
Albert Gallatin was a formidable offensive team in 1974. Coming into the WPIAL championship game they were averaging 27.5 ppg. The Colonials had a great ground attack, but could also move the ball though the air.
“We weren’t that far removed from the single wing,” Quarterback Bosnic offered. “My freshman year was the first year that Albert Gallatin switched to the T formation; in our year we threw the ball probably more that any AG team ever did.”
The Colonials also had a rock’em sock’em defense that had given up an average of 9.9 ppg coming into the WPIAL title game.
“Jeff Rotharmel was a key part of the defense, we had guys that played both ways,” Middle guard Dan Ptak explained. “Rotharmel was tough as nails, he only weighed about 150 pounds, but he was a hitter.”
The man who put it all together for the Colonials was Head Coach Doc Franks.
“Doc was a great football coach especially defensively,” Bosnic stated. “For me it was special because my father played for his father and they won a WPIAL championship, my dad was the starting tailback in the single wing in 1937. Everybody respected Doc, he treated us decently. He was fun, but a good coach. His dad was a great resource and did all the scouting; we had a great advantage to have him around with that great football knowledge.”
“Doc had us very well prepared for every game, especially defensively,” Ptak recalled. “We would drill against what the other team was good at and what plays worked for them, what plays might be their trick plays. His Dad did a lot of the scouting. He knew his football and he was a great help.”
“Doc was a great coach and he could recognize talent,” Harper said.
AG advanced to the WPIAL title game when they downed Burgettstown 24-8. The Colonials would face Freeport which came into the championship game with a record of 9-0-1. The Yellow jackets forged their ticket to the title game with a 14-6 upset of Rochester.
Albert Gallatin and Freeport clashed for the WPIAL Class A title on Friday, November 22, 1974 at Latrobe.
Things didn’t get off to a good start for AG as Bruce Sherrieb picked off a Bosnic pass on the Colonials first possession and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown.
“The game was on my 18th birthday,” Bosnic remembered. “It started out badly when I threw the pick six interception. It fired us up, they said don’t worry about, they said just go play the game and then we got on a roll.”
“We called 70 pass right and Leon Hairston slipped on his comeback and they picked it off and took it in for a touchdown and they were up 7-0,” Franks explained. “But that perked us up we scored 22 straight points and then Ptak picked up two fumbles and ran them back for touchdowns. He was in the right place at the right time.”
AG rolled up their sleeves and went to work. Bosnic directed the Colonials on three straight scoring drives to regain momentum. Freeport was bottled up most of the night and didn’t mount a scoring drive until the fourth quarter. AG out-gained Freeport 301 yards to 197.
Albert Gallatin’s offense generated scoring drives of 67, 64, 84 and 74 yards for its first four touchdowns; the defense also contributed two big scores on fumble returns of 41 and 66 yards by Ptak.
“There was definitely some luck involved there, you’ve got to be out there you’ve got to be playing, you’ve got to be alert, but you need a little luck,” Ptak said. “It is a great memory and I’m very proud of it. But there was a lot of luck involved.”
When the smoke had cleared Albert Gallatin had defeated Freeport 41-13 to capture the WPIAL Class A championship.
“They were driven and they hustled so much all year. It was a great victory a great team to have in my career,” Franks said.
Franks’ father Gene the “old fox” relished in the Colonials victory.
“He was at most of the practices and he never stuck his nose in, he would just offer comments once in a while, we talked a lot after practice and on the weekends,” Franks recalled. “He was happy we won and I think that capped off his career too.”
For the players winning a championship is something they will never forget.
“For me it was a special time,” Bosnic stated. “When you think about it we lived the dream, your senior year you go all the way and win the WPIAL title. What probably made it better was it was unexpected, it was improbable. I don’t think anybody thought that we were going to win it.”
“It was very special because we rebuilt the offensive line and our skill positions were good,” Harper said. “We put it together, we had pride. The Oakland Raiders had a saying, we had the same saying – pride and poise and just win baby. AG was like that, we won.”