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Portage Historical Society photo recalls iconic battles between St. Joes and Lilly Raiders

… back to the 60s

The Portage Historical Society does a great job of promoting the history of Portage Borough, Portage Township, and Portage Area and Portage Township high schools.

I routinely enjoy looking at the photos on Facebook, but one last month particularly caught my eye because it involved something with which I was very much involved.

The photo that was sent to the society involved the Lilly Raiders football team that was undefeated for three seasons from 1967 to 1969. The streak did involve two ties however, and this game in Portage was one of them.

The photo from 1967 shows St. Joes halfback Dan Bridge running around the end. I can identify three Raider players in the photo. Joe Sweeney is number 21, John Saparo is 19, and Dave McLucas is 33.

Not as clear is Dave Stossel in the background.

The two games

This game ended in a 6-6 tie, and the only play that I remember is the one when we had a player wide open for the point after touchdown — but the quarterback fumbled the ball.

In reality, while it was a good call in that the player was wide open, my call was actually a bad one since we had an outstanding running back by the name of Joe Sweeney who could have gotten those two yards.

St. Joes did not defeat us during those three years. The second game in Lilly ended up with a Raider victory. I think that the score of that game was 38 to 7, but I could be wrong about the exact score. I know it was six touchdowns to one to win the championship of the Cambria County Grade School Football League, but cannot recall the extra points.

The following year, we won both games as we had arguably the best of the Lilly Raider teams. In 1969 we battled to a tie and then won the title with a 2-0 victory. In that Dan Sibis and Whitey McCabe tackled the St. Joes in the end zone for a safety. .

The following year, 1970 St. Joes won the league outright.


Paul (Butch) Erzal, Jr. and I coached the Raiders in 1967 and 68, and Bill Itell directed the St. Joes Flames. Bill was a foreman at Bethlehem Steel in Johnstown and coached the team for a number of years.


The other teams in the league at that time were Holy Name of Ebensburg and St. Aloysius of Cresson. It was a great league. All were Catholic school teams except Lilly. I trace the history of that in some other blogs.

I also coached the Raiders a second time after I ostensibly retired from coaching. This was from 1988 to 1981. I coached during those years with Adolph (Torchy) Tortoriello, Don Courvina, Mike Felus, and Shawn Stevens. We won two title in those years.

So, thanks to the PHS for the photo and for bringing back some of those great games.

RIP: A post by the wife of Dan Bridge noted that he had passed away in 2020.

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