Maple Point Cougars 1975-1982
The Maple Point Experiment: 1975-1982
What was that all about anyway?
As a starting point, and to assist in setting the stage, in the mid- to late-1960s, Neshaminy High School was literally bursting at the seams. Accordingly, lest it appear it was an ill-conceived and thoughtless venture, the idea for a second high school had been first raised at least ten years before construction began on the new campus. And it appeared to make even more sense as the 1970s drew closer with each successive year finding more than 3,000 students in three grades jammed in a maze-like building that was originally a combination senior and junior high school designed for far less students from grades 7 through 12. Even though classroom wings, a 3rd gymnasium, a library, an auditorium, and a cafeteria had been added to the original school structure which was completed in the mid-1950s, the school was still overcrowded. All sorts of solutions were contemplated and tried including encouraging students not to schedule classes for first or last period (so they could come late or leave early). Cafetoriums became "open space" areas where as many as four classes were conducted in the same large room while "study halls" of upwards of 200 students could be found in practically any unoccupied area in the meandering complex that was Neshaminy High School.
Then, in the midst of that chaos at 2001 Old Lincoln Highway, contractors announced ambitious plans to build homes on huge undeveloped tracts of land in the northern part of the district. And the theorem that followed was simple: More houses would mean more families; more families would mean more kids; and, finally, more kids would mean a need for more schools. With the backdrop now in place, the district powers determined that a second high school could no longer remain just a concept and Maple Point High School was ordered to be brought to life.
Ultimately, though, construction of both the planned new homes - and school - were delayed form any varied and disconnected reasons. Thus, when ground was broken for the new building there were already questions raised as to whether it was actually needed. And as eventually came to pass, not as many of those then planned homes were built while newlyweds and young families were delaying and then having less children than expected.
But construction proceeded through to completion and the building that opened in 1975 was, in someways, designed for an earlier era. The "open space"concept which governed its architectural style already seemed outmoded (eight-foot high, carpet-covered sheet metal panels divided cavernous rooms into traditional classrooms). Actually, the only space that really could be termed as open was that area from the top of the temporary divider walls to the 12-foot high ceiling above.
And as to the campus grounds, rather than the bucolic school that had been expected, common areas and sports fields (where lush corn crops grew only two years before) were so new they hardly supported the sparse blades of grass that struggled to grow while steeply sloping playing fields were proclaimed an aid to "drainage". Clearly, and as was to be expected, there would teething pains to be endured in those first years as issues and problems were identified and then corrected.
So as they say, the die was cast and district officials rolled up their sleeves and set to work to orchestrate the grand agenda and "create" a school and assign students, staff and administration. On the sports side of the equation, the volume of tasks and complexities involved sometimes resulted in the people most affected being left out of ground-level planning such as ordering equipment or scheduling games. And when the boundary lines were drawn,students who had been friends and life-long teammates suddenly found themselves as competitors. Young athletes who had grown up dreaming of playing for Neshaminy were asked to discard years of attachment and quickly form new loyalties and make the best of the situation that was presented. Coaches were likewise prodded to create instant traditions and pride in a school that had materialized as if just another crop in the farmer's field where it had been built.
As progress is oft times a cruel taskmaster that takes no prisoners, Maple Point High School opened for business for the 1975-1976 school year. Richard Evans was appointed its principal and Harry Franks became the athletic director. Evans selected the fight song from Minnesota University's "The Minnesota Rouser" and the school's band director,Bill Bell, penned its words "We're From Maple Point." The alma mater was based upon the Canadian national anthem "Oh Canada" while Mrs. Franks wrote the words to that very popular tune of the time (the Flyers had just won their second Stanley Cup and hockey was then a Philadelphia favorite).
To generate enthusiasm, spirit and involvement,junior high students from Carl Sandburg and Neshaminy Jr. high schools were given the opportunity to select the school colors and mascot. Blue and gold were chosen (and rumored to be drawn from the Knights of Queen of The Universe parochial elementary school in Levittown) while the school's mascot became the cougar.
Meanwhile one decision never questioned was the selection of John Chaump as the first head coach of Maple Point's football team. A capable and experienced athletic figure, Chaump began his teaching and coaching career at Woodrow Wilson High School in 1969 (Wilson was the predecessor to the now renamed Harry S. Truman High School). Coming to Neshaminy in 1973, he initially served as an assistant under longtime Neshaminy assistant and head football coach, Pal Allison. Born to the game,Chaump had enjoyed a long involvement with football,playing schoolboy ball at West Pittston High School followed by four years at Wilkes College (he was a member of the Colonel's memorable 32 game winning streak of the mid-sixties). And as it was to be, Chaump would guide the Cougars during 6 of their 8 seasons before resigning following the strike-shortened 1980 season (Bill Crozier took over as head coach during the team's final two seasons of 1981 and 1982).
As an aside, and after leaving Maple Point, Chaump became the head man at Morrisville High School where he was named Coach of The Year in his first season. Never relinquishing his attachment to Neshaminy, he was destined to return and become the head coach of the Redskins in 1987 (following the departure of Dick Bedesem). He presided over a number of strong teams including his 1988 team which went undefeated in the regular season before losing in the opening round of the first ever PIAA football playoffs. And through the 2005 season he served in the capacity of defensive coordinator for Neshaminy's football teams before announcing his retirement from the game.
But back to the days of "the split", the division of the district saw 1,800 students attending Neshaminy while 1,200 called Maple Point home. As a courtesy that first full school year of 1975-76, seniors were permitted to complete their schooling at Neshaminy. The ground-up effort was thus made even more difficult as Chaump had the almost impossible task of beginning a varsity football program with only 9th, 10th and 11th graders! Not facing those first year obstacles alone, he was fortunate to have the support of many hard working and dedicated assistant coaches including Paul Medwick, Jim Gibson, Troy Tignor, Gerry Miller, and Larry Silcox.
That's Nice: Now What About The Football Team?
Getting down to basics, Chaump set to work immediately. Designing a varied offensive scheme,the "nut and bolts" formation was the Slot I; however, Chaump would also employ the Power I, Wing T, Wish Bone, Single Wing and Shot Gun formations as well. As Maple Point was the smallest school in the Lower Bucks County league (and was routinely the underdog) game plans were designed accordingly. Gadget and trick plays were a mainstay with Chaump always looking for an edge. In fact, opposing coaches would often complain about the amount of preparation needed when facing a Chaump led team. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Maple Point's defense was equally tough, nimble and unpredictable under the direction of defensive coordinator, Dennis Stroble. Although primarily relying on the Michigan 52 alignment, Stroble supplemented the "look" with a multitude of stunts and formations designed to keep offenses guessing.
Yet even with the unbridled enthusiasm that they brought to the field, the inaugural 1975 season was to be a baptism by fire. With high hopes clothed in the new uniforms that Chaump patterned after the Green Bay Packers (except in blue and gold with a Clemson Tiger paw on their helmets), the Cougars took to the gridiron for their first game ever. As it was to be, things didn't go exactly as planned in that initial contest as the Cougars came up short against St. Joseph's Prep, 41 to 0. It should be noted that when the schedule was set, athletic director Franks mentioned to Chaump that he had lined up an opener with a small Catholic school from Philadelphia. As it turned out, the 1975 Hawks finished undefeated and won the City Championship. Still, not withstanding that opening game, it wasn't long before the team's first victory was earned against the Bristol Warriors. Led by Jeff Manto and Wayne Keyes, the Cougars came out on top, 6 to 0. Bringing home a few more wins that year as well,they ended the campaign at 3 and 7. And as little more than a glorified JV squad, three victories was quite an accomplishment.
Notably, the Cougars had some excellent players that first year, many of whom would one day find their name on the Neshaminy Hall of Fame Wall. Some that deserve mention include quarterback Tom Meier; linebacker Joe Rigous; guard Joe McIntyre; wide receiver Greg George; tight end Jack Callender; guard Stan Wuagon; tackle Frank Rohn; tackle Dan Dyjak; center John Luksic; linebacker Bill Hayman; defensive backs Rick Addeo and Bill Raspanti; and wingback Ron Pilla. Also starting in 1975 was a freshman, Skip Shuda, who would be the only 4-year starter for a Neshaminy football team until Kevin Kelly repeated the feat during the 2001 through 2004 seasons.
Thereafter, the 1976 campaign saw the Cougars win four of their first six games. The back-half of the season wasn't quite as successful, though, as they lost the final four games to complete their entry into the Lower Bucks league with a record of 4 and6. Playing all of their home games at Neshaminy's Playwicki field (now Harry E. Franks Stadium), it also didn't make it easier that every game was, essentially, an away game.
As to their record versus their brothers, the Redskins, the Cougars won the initial game in 1976 (they had not played each other in 1975) and would post an overall record of four wins, one loss and one tie (they also didn't play in 1982). A heated rivalry from the start, that first game saw the Maple Point team bus follow cougar paw tracks rabid fans had painted on the driveway leading to the stadium. And the Ridge was the "Cougar's Den" that day as they bested the 'Skins, 40 to 6. In the following year of 1977 the two clubs exchanged sides of the field and the Cougars became the "home" team.They also won again, stopping a tough 7 and 3 Neshaminy squad, 7 to 0. Thereafter, and other than a 29 to 0 blowout win by the Redskins in 1980, no game between the two teams was decided by more than a touchdown with the last one in 1981 going in the books as a 0 to 0 tie.
Finally, although there were a number of highlights in their brief history, the Cougars' regular season contest against Pennsbury in 1978 stands out as one of the most memorable. For it was that year that Maple Point stopped the Falcons convincingly, 30 to 0. The Cougars literally ran wild that day as Bob Dumont blocked 3 punts while his brother, Jim, made tackles all over the field.Bob Breslin caught a 30 yard touchdown pass from Scott Davenport and Skip Shuda gained over 100 yards behind the ferocious blocking of linemen Jim Mitchell and Joe O'Donnell. In fact, 1978 was a wonderful year for the Cougars which saw them end their regular season at 6-3-1 and locked in a four-way tie for first place in the Lower Bucks League. A first-ever LBCL playoff was arranged with the Cougars facing Pennsbury again in the opener of the two game playoff series. This time, though, the result was a little different as the Falcons prevailed 7 to 0 but the Cougars still ended the season at 6-4-1 which was to be their best overall finish. Click here to read an article from the 1978 Maple Point - Delhaas game.
So What's It All Mean?
Ironically, just as quickly as Maple Point had sprouted from the open fields of the northeastern corner of the district, it was also rendered extinct with equal speed. For as it became evident that the explosion of students had not materialized (and with the cost of maintaining two high schools adding more stress to the financially strained district of the late-1970s) its utility came into question. The answer was clear and Maple Point was thus placed on the dusty shelves of history by an administration that had initially deemed its creation imperative but which was then faced with an entirely different set of parameters dictating its demise. Closing the campus after the 1982-83 school year, the grounds and building were leased to E.T.S.; students were reassigned to the school on Lincoln Highway that they wish they had never left; and blue and gold uniforms, record books, pictures, transcripts and memorabilia were boxed, stored, donated or destroyed.
In closing, although now just an interesting footnote in the long and tradition rich story that is Neshaminy football, Maple Point is much more to the many individuals who called it home for 8 years - to them it is a reality whose attachment is deep and strong. And as a final point in fact, for those students, staff, players, coaches, families and fans who for a few short years in the last half of the 1970s and early 1980s cheered on, supported and loved their beloved blue and gold, the snarling growl of the Cougars will never be forgotten.
The Last Maple Point Neshaminy - Langhorne Game
Pictured above is the ’82 Maple Point freshman football team. This was the last Maple Point team to play a Neshaminy Langhorne team in football before the schools merged again for the ’83 season. MP and NL varsity teams were in separate leagues and did not play in ’82. But the freshman teams were scheduled to play the last game of the season and the district decided to not make it a normal Friday afternoon freshman football game. They decided to let the two freshman teams play the last ever MP-NL game under the lights on Friday night at Heartbreak Ridge! The team from MP defeated NL 16-0 in a game closer than the score indicated. It was 8-0, a one score game, midway thru the 3rd qtr when MP cashed in on a turnover to pull away from NL.
After Dan Santhouse recovered a NL fumble near midfield, MP reached into their bag of tricks and perfectly executed a hook and ladder play for 6 and then also added a 2 point conversion. The Cougars worked on that special play during that week of practice, and after the fumble, Coach Pennypacker felt it was the right time to catch NL off guard after the sudden change. Center Bill Cimochowski snapped the ball to QB Tim Ford who connected with wide receiver Ron Gorniak on the left side for a 10 yd curl route. As the NL defense converged on Gorniak, he quickly flipped the ball back to RB Dan Weissenberg who had circled out of the backfield. Gorniak’s pitch hit Weissenberg right in stride and he raced up the left sideline untouched for his second TD of the game and put the Cougars up for good 16-0!
The play was great but the interesting fact though about that trick play was that all four players who touched the ball on that memorable play for MP, not only played together at Neshaminy for the next 3 seasons, but also played and roomed together at Delaware Valley College where they played for former Neshaminy coach Dick Bedesem. At Del Val, Cimochowski was a DE, Weissenberg and Gorniak were DB’s and Ford was QB.
Many thanks go to Tim Ford '86 for this article and for the photo!