Computer says ’71 Neshaminy squad best ever

  • 1971_trailer_cordelli_scores

Computer says ’71 Neshaminy squad best ever
Bucks County Courier Times – December 14, 2005

The computer has played the game and the best high school football team in Pennsylvania history is:

The 1971 Neshaminy Redskins.

Jack Swartz’s undefeated Neshaminy squad recorded a 19-10 victory over the 1972 team of its fierce rival: Pennsbury, coached by Chuck Kane, in the first Hal Wilson Challenge.

The final of the 16-team, computerized tournament was played Thursday by the man who programmed the event, Tom Elling, who runs the Pennsylvania Football News Web site where the tourney can also be found.

“Can you believe it came down to Pennsbury ’72 and Neshaminy ’71?,” marveled Bruce Traney, starting fullback on the 1971 Neshaminy team, who was a guest on Thursday night’s show. “I think it’s wonderful [Neshaminy won]. It’s a tribute to Neshaminy football, Bucks County and the type of programs and athletes they produce. It’s neat and it’s fun.”

The game and the tournament concept was discussed Thursday night on The Front Page Sports, a sports radio show featuring John Chester and Tim Koch that can be heard every Wednesday and Thursday night on 1490-AM WBCB.

Elling said the old computer boxing matches of great champions, the most notable being Rocky Marciano vs. Muhammad Ali, inspired him to put a program together that could determine the best high school football team in the state.

Wilson is a long-time high school football historian in the state and he and Elling were able to compile what they believed were the 16 top teams. The earliest came from 1919. Joe Namath’s 1960 Beaver Falls team made the cut as did the 1983 Berwick team, that was considered by many the top team in the country that year.

And the computer came up with an all-Lower Bucks final.

This is how the computer broke down the game.

Pete Cordelli threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dale Forchetti and then Forchetti connected on the PAT kick to give the Redskins a 7-0 lead, less than three minutes into the game.

The score would stay that way until the final play of the first half when a Pennsbury quarterback named Garrett (the actual backup QB on Pennsbury’s team was Bobby Crouch), substituting for Gary Kutsmeda, who was injured late in the first quarter, had a pass tipped, intercepted and returned 22 yards for a touchdown by Joe Neky. The kick failed and the Redskins led, 13-0, at the half.

Forchetti boomed a 48-yard field goal off the upright and in to make it 16-0 just a shade over four minutes into the third quarter.

Pennsbury battled back, though. Kutsmeda, now back in the game, threw a 9-yard scoring strike to Bill Porter with 4:06 left in the third. John Giordano’s kick made it 16-7.

Neshaminy extended its lead to 19-7 on Forchetti’s 26-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

Pennsbury closed out the scoring on Giordano’s 12-yard field goal with 7:16 to play.

The Falcons, down nine, missed a short field goal on fourth down and goal at the Neshaminy 5 with 1:44 to go. The computer had decided to kick a field goal and then worry about an onsides kick recovery and touchdown scenario with Pennsbury trailing and needing two scores.

But coach Kane said he would have gone for the touchdown instead with a running play, his offense’s signature mode of moving the ball in 1972.

“I would not have kicked a field goal,” Kane said. “I would have gone for the touchdown running. We ran the ball most of the time. We rarely threw in 1972. We weren’t a passing team.”

In fact, Kane said that the computer wasn’t very accurate in predicting his team’s overall offensive strategy throughout the entire computer-generated game.

“The [computer] statistics don’t back up what we did that year,” Kane said. “I definitely would not have thrown on first down. We believed in a fullback running offense. And Forchetti never caught a touchdown against us. We double-covered him, because we knew he was the perfect receiver.

“He scored a touchdown in every game in 1971 except against us. In two years he never caught a touchdown against us. When he caught the pass, I knew the computer wasn’t accurate.”

Neshaminy was not a big surprise in the title game. The Redskins breezed through the computer tournament while the Falcons survived.

But Traney wasn’t very surprised to see that Pennsbury team make it.

Many of the members of a 9-2 Falcons squad in 1971 that gave powerful Neshaminy all it could handle in a 21-17 Redskins’ win returned for the 1972 perfect campaign.

“Coming into that game they were 9-1,” Traney said of the 1971 Pennsbury team. “They lost to Bethlehem Liberty in the mud and rain, 6-0. That was a game they should have won. They were tough. They were tough as nails. They had given up about 42 points all year going into the game. Their defense was a wall and then when you look at ’72, they were crushing guys like 50-0.”

Traney, an attorney living in the Los Angeles area, was delighted his team came out on top.

“We had a quite team,” he said. “I know there were some pretty good teams there [in the computer tournament] and this was out in cyberspace, but it’s fun. I think it speaks well of what’s coming out of Lower Bucks.”

Joe Jones can be reached at 215-949-4215 or