Meyersdale Football marks 100 years of athletics, school spirit
Ryan Donaldson, head coach of the Red Raiders, is ever mindful of the importance of this legacy and is committed to continuing this tradition. This is his fifth year as Head Coach. “I feel honored to be the head coach of this program at this time. Coaching football is a blessing that I truly love to do,” he commented.
While he and his staff focus on the rules, mechanics and fundamentals of the game, Donaldson said his role extends far beyond the end zones. “Football is more than just wins and losses. It’s about the experience, life lessons learned, and bonds that are shared with each generation.”
Generations of young men have flourished in this program beginning in 1922 when the first team was established. Mr. John Barnard, a History/Civics teacher, was the first coach. That first season saw just five games between Meyersdale, Somerset, Boswell and Confluence.
Accounts of the advent of this new program stated “Football was placed in the school because of the good derived from the game itself; and also to increase the school spirit. Some of the things that illustrate the splendid training are: physical development; the ability to take bumps in good humor, without self-pity; and third, fine and rapid team play. These qualities are just what is needed for the American citizen of today – physical strength, proper temperament, and cooperation — which, if attained by American citizens, would do away with the present political unrest.”
The program grew and continued through 1943, when the war effort caused the program to be suspended. Following the end of WWII, the football program resumed in 1946. The program returned and slowly grew and improved. In the 1960s, the program began an era of excellence.
The 1960s squads had the well-known talents of standout Charlie Banks. In 1963, Banks established Pennsylvania scoring records and helped lead his team to its first undefeated season since 1942. Many of Banks’ records remained for decades following his time at MAHS.
Fred DiPasquale was among the young men on those rosters and he said those were among the best years of his life. He joined the varsity team in 1961 as a freshman. Low roster numbers at the lower level led to young players being placed on the varsity squad. Just two years later, DiPasquale and his teammates enjoyed an undefeated season with less than 25 players on the roster. The team during these years were coached by Bob Brougher and Dan Capanna.
While he did not start out as a Red Raider, Mr. Dennis Stahl quickly began a name synonymous with the Meyersdale Football program. Stahl joined the staff at MASD in 1966 and immediately began coaching the junior high program. That role soon transitioned into the position of Varsity Football Head Coach in 1969, a role Stahl held until 1996. Teams, under Stahl’s direction, boasted Somerset County League Championship titles in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1985, 1990 and 1996. He also led his teams to the following titles: 1996 Appalachian South Conference Champion; 1990 PIAA District 5 Class AA Champions; and 1991 PIAA District 5 Class AA Champions.
DiPasquale, also an educator at MASD, joined the coaching staff in 1970 at the junior high level. He went on to become Stahl’s assistant in 1971. Through their tenure, Stahl and DiPasquale saw the program through many changes – number of games played, leagues in which they competed and a growing roster. As their reputations for excellence grew so did the number of young men who tried out for a spot on the team.
Stahl said the work ethic of players from this region is legendary and speaks to the toughness of previous generations who made their living in coal mines and farms. “The tradition of football is so important here in Meyersdale and it’s quite impressive to consider Meyersdale was among the first in this region to have a football program,” Stahl explained. “People from this region were known to be tough, they had to be, this was coal and farming country.”
Donaldson said it is humbling to consider the history and legacy of Meyersdale Football and he is proud to help maintain the tradition and pride that was started generations ago. “High school football in western Pennsylvania involves several groups of people working together to provide the best possible experience for the student-athletes that are willing to put on a set of pads and a helmet and play this tremendous sport,” Donaldson added. “We will continue to strive to take pride in community involvement and influencing the younger generation, just as the fathers and grandfathers before us did.”
That first Meyersdale Football team opened the season, the program and the beginning of a 100-year legacy with a loss but posted a big win just 10 days later. In the 1922 edition of what was then the school yearbook, “Red & Black,” the following account was published about that first team, words that continue to resonate in 2022: “It showed the town people that we really meant something when we started a football team.”
Truer words have never been spoken, and now the program is marking its 100th year.