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Looking back at TAHS football in 1931

We close our series of articles about the 1931 Tyrone football team and the local, state, national and world news that occurred during the fall of 1931 with a few more reminders of those times when Tyrone was still relatively quiet and peaceful, although hit hard by the Great Depression just a few years before. The world was just a few years away from the horrendous emergence of World War II although evidences of the grim events that would occupy so much of their lives were already in operation or set to occur.
At the Athletic Park, where Tyrone home games were played, with a view to securing admissions and help with guaranteed payments to visiting teams, a six-foot high wire fence topped with barbed wire was built around the field and the entire area was to be policed. A new system of season and admission tickets was put into effect.
After the first scheduled contest with Bigler Township was canceled, the Golden Eagles smashed Roaring Spring 47-0, was tied by Osceola Mills 0-0 and then ran off six straight wins over Clearfield 14-0, Bedford 19-6, Mount Union 20-0, Bellefonte 47-0, Philipsburg 46-0, Hollidaysburg 12-0 in the annual Armistice Day game, and Punxsutawney Catholic 41-0. With the Western Conference title on the line, Tyrone fell for the first time in 1931 in the final game of the season to Altoona 25-14 on Thanksgiving Day.
The Orange and Black finished 8-1-1 for head coach Walter Mensch and assistant Earl Davis. This tied the win total for 1930 (8-2-1) while playing one fewer game and had been bettered at that time only by the Eagles first undefeated season in 1924 when Tyrone was 9-0-1. Making a habit of late season heartbreaks, Altoona was also the culprit in 1924, playing to a 0-0 tie against the Eagles, who were led by Wilbert “Wib” Ammerman who tallied 30 touchdowns and 30 extra points in 1924.
The 1931 edition of the Golden Eagles outscored 10 opponents 248-31 with the defense tossing eight shutouts.
Senior quarterback-all purpose kick returner Vance “Jim” Hildebrand led the 1931 Eagles in scoring with nine TDs and rushed for two extra points for 56 points. Larue “Stew” Burget had eight TDs and one PAT for 49 points and Edward “Bubbles” Robinson scored 48 points on eight TDs. Karl “Baldy” Getz scored five TDs and added 14 PAT kicks for 44 points. Alexander “Ike” Haag scored three TDs and one extra point for 19 points, Boyd “Hutch” Hutchinson scored two TDs and an extra point for 13 points and Albert Fisher had two TDs for 12 points. Len Calderwood scored one TD for six points and Bill “Red” Glenn had one extra point. A safety scored in the Philipsburg game rounded out the Eagles’ scoring.
Tyrone average 12 first downs a game with a total of 122, while opponents had 78. The Orangemen rushed for 2,024 yards and completed 13 of 41 passes for another 251 yards. Opponents rushed for 1,649 yards and completed 32 of 85 passes for 283 yards. Tyrone threw no interceptions, but intercepted nine of the opposition’s tosses.
Tyrone fumbled 32 times, recovering 21 of them, while the Eagles’ opponents fumbled 28 times losing 17 to the Eagles.
The 1931 Tyrone backfield was fast and shifty on offense and sturdy on defense. The line was rangy, charged vigorously held all season against all kinds of charges by the opposition.
The backfield, playing through practically all of the season as a unit, was a well-coordinated attack unit. Bubbles Robinson and Alex Haag carried the brunt of the attack against the line with Boyd Hutchinson in able reserve. Jim Hildebrand and Stew Burget specialized in open field running flashing their skills throughout the season.
On defense Hildebrand, Robinson and Haag were experts at backing up the line and at open field tackling.
The Tyrone line progressed tremendously throughout the season. On the left, Baldy Getz developed into a real star, few gains were made through his side of the line. Robert Gunsallus won the other end position with stiff competition from Bus Waple and Jack Vanneman. George Rodgers and Lynn Drake were as fine a pair of tackles as have been in a Tyrone uniform. John Dworsak and Lawrence Calderwood were the guards, Calderwood was described as a fighter from kickoff to final whistle, Dworsak, a steady reliable performer always.
Paul Aurand was at center where he was a Rock of Gibraltar, a stonewall on defense, who ensured against the completion of short passes over the line.
Coach Mensch used a splendid reserve of bench strength and before the game was over you could expect to see Wallace McNeil, Blaine Berkstresser, Bud Comley and Raymond Roberts on the line and Boyd Hutchinson, Eddie Igou and Leonard Calderwood in the backfield.
Other members of the team included Albert Weaver, David Zentmyer, Bus Austin, Bill Glenn, John Jones, Jim Scordo and Bob Lykens. Earl “Spider” Lamborn was the student manager.
A testimonial banquet was held for the players and coaches at the Masonic Temple on Dec. 8. The dinner was served by the ladies of the Tyrone Civic Club.
Dr. John “Jock” Sutherland, who was the football coach at the University of Pittsburgh at that time and recognized as one of the most successful coaches, as well as a respected and interesting speaker delivered the keynote address.
Next fall we will move forward a dozen years to examine the 1943 Tyrone Golden Eagle football team and the life and times of that particular era long gone by. In the first of his three years as head football coach at Tyrone, Max Cook guided the Orange and Black to a 10-2 mark that season, while legendary Eagles coach Steve Jacobs served in the armed forces during World War II.