Remembering a Bulldog of the past
The year was 1981.
The Northern Lehigh Bulldogs were coming off a 8-3 season and with 19 seniors returning all eyes in Slatington were pointed in the direction of a Centennial League football championship.
Head coach Dick Snell was beginning his 11th year and was welcoming back his most mature club since he took over for George Yaniger back in the early 1970's.
A top-notch coaching staff was in place. Mike Bonner was in his 14th year as defensive coordinator. Frank Carazo was in his 11th year as the defensive backfield and JV coach. Joe Blazosky was in his third year coaching the linemen, Bob Herzog was in his second year coaching the offensive backs and Al Kush was in his second season as freshman coach.
The Bulldogs compiled a 9-1-1 record that season and won the Centennial League championship and was just one of the accomplishments that led to Snell being inducted into the McDonald's/Lehigh Valley All-Star Classic Hall of Fame this past Wednesday night at the Northampton Community Center.
Snell was inducted with 1997 Dieruff grad Ian "Rocky" Butler, 1968 Easton grad Mike Jones, 1962 Notre Dame of Green Pond grad Joe Ortelli and 2000 Northampton grad Kristin Vitovich, who works behind the scenes and RCN and does a lot of the legwork for the Hall of Fame banquet.
I had the pleasure of coming on board at THE TIMES NEWS around the same time Snell began his head coaching career and he became one of the many friends I've made through my travels covering scholastic sports in the area.
And it was this championship season that I'll remember the most, not just for the exciting wins the team compiled, but the fun I had with this group of players and coaching staff that started when pre-season practice started that August.
Back then, the Bulldogs would spend a week of the pre-season at Camp Horseshoe and with the positive hype surrounding this team, we wanted to feature it on the cover of our annual Football Tab.
So needless to say, I had to make a couple of trips to Camp Horseshoe, based in Schnecksville and bordering the Leather Corner Post. One thing I remember was the looseness of this club and work ethic just left you with a feeling that this team was a good one.
What was also special for Snell was to coach two players that played in the Big 33 game in back-to-back years.
In 1980, tailback Dale Beck made the Pennsylvania team.
Craig Scheffler, a wide receiver who went on to continue his college career at West Virginia University, made the Big 33 team in 1981.
My fondest memory was the night the Bulldogs traveled to Swiftwater to take on Pocono Mountain in a game that many thought would decide the Centennial League championship.
That night, I did both color and play-by-play for TV-13 solo. There was no warm pressbox to sit in, no sideline reporters, not much of anything. The Blue Ridge truck was actually positioned on the Northern Lehigh sidelines and I sat on top of it to do the commentary.
Oh yes, we made grid picks back then and for some reason, I think I picked Pocono Mountain to win that game.
Oddly enough I must have picked Pocono Mountain to win that game.
How do I remember?
Thanks to a pair of touchdown plunges by Bulldog quarterback John Bolton and a stingy defense, Northern Lehigh came away with a thrilling 14-13 victory.
Before I could even remove my headset, Snell pointed toward the truck and the entire team headed over and shook it forever to celebrate the win and let me know I picked the wrong team.
Plenty of memories were built back then that we both still laugh about today.
Snell was a four-sport athlete at Tri-Valley High School before graduating in 1965., competing in football, baseball, track and wrestling. In football, he was a first-team all-league choice as a tackle and played in the Schuylkill County All-Star Football Classic.
He continued his gridiron career at Lebanon Valley College, starting in three of his four seasons. He was an all-MAC center as a senior.
Snell taught in the Northern Lehigh School District for 34 years before retiring. He also coached football at Northampton for a brief time before turning to officiating for 16 years, doing the McDonald's game as a volunteer more than once.
It's always nice to see someone who put so much time into the sport get rewarded for what he's done.
Congratulations Dick...you deserve it.