From the "River Rats of Tappan Zee" by Richie Loughlin
(GAME PLAYED SEPTEMBER 29, 1956)
The Pearl River field was in the middle of town righ on Main Street. It was just about totally dirt, hardly any grass anywhere. A truly shit field! It wasn't a big deal, however, because we all knew what to expect. It always had been that way. So we got off the bus, went into the school for a quick bathroom call, and then out to warm up.
Pearl River took the field wearing their traditional blue and white. They were the Pirates. Their team wasn't especially big in numbers or in size. They may have had a few more guys on their team than us, but our team had bigger lineman. We felt pretty confident -- at least I did.
I kicked off fairly deep to start the game. On the first series, we smashed them for loss after loss. I had some super hits in the game. It seemed like I was in the right spot often. In the first quarter, we didn't move the ball much. We punted three times, and they punted four times. In spite of our victory the previous week,Coach McMahon had made some changes in personnel. He now had Charlie Bullock quarterbacking, DeMeglio at guard instead of Helmke, Matt Rechtorovic to Bullock's left end spot, and Billy Rypl at left tackle -- which he shared with Matt. I didn't think much about the changes at first until it became evident that our offense wasn't doing very well. Halfway through the second quarter, Coach put Joey Grams back in QB and moved Bullock back to the end. Also, Helmke went back in at guard, along with Rypl. Then we started to move. We drove down the field to about the 25-yard line. On third down Frank Rechtorovic pulled in a perfect pass for a 25-year touchdown. It was called back,however because the official ruled Frank 'Ratz' stepped on the end line. That was the first of a number of strange calls that afternoon. We went into the half tied 0-0.
I was ticked really bad. We all were. In the third quarter, we came out absolutely smoking. We drove about 80 yards, and John 'Fat John' Coriano pounded in over the right tackle for a two-year TD. Jimmy Francis missed the extra point kick, but we had broken the ice and were on our way. We got the ball back soon after. Pearl River still had little yardage except for a pass here and there. We drove again about 65-70 yards. Carlos, Jimmy, John and DiMeg all carried the ball. Joe Grams had a ten-year QB sneak along the way. We were now down at the Pearl River 4 yard line. It was second and 2 for a first down. Jimmy Francis bulled up the middle for 2 yards, maybe a bit more. The head linesman spotted the ball for only a 1-yard gain. Okay. We didn't say anything. On 3rd down, Carlos drove off left tackle, gained 2 yards, spun off the tackler, and fell across the goal line. Touchdown, right? Wrong! The head linesman said his forward progress had been stopped. The ball was put back at about the original line of scrimmage. It was now 4th down and one. The next play was a bobbled handoff or whatever, and we got no yards. Pearl River had held, so to speak! (There is more to this sequence, but I'll tell it later.) Pearl River moved the ball better in the 4th quarter, running some option plays and passes. Late in the game with about four minutes to go, Pearl River was around mid-field. They ran an option-pitch around my side. I took an angle to cut off the ball carrier, and I did it at around the 30-yard line. After running around people who had taken a bad angle, I pushed the ball carrier out of bounds -- barely! Next play, the Pirates passed over the middle to the 20-yard line. After that, we had successive 10-year sacks. It was now either 3rd of 4th down and about 30-some yards for a first down. Bang! Pearl River hit on a 38-yard TD pass, and they tied the game 6-6. DiMeglio made a great PAT save when he knocked down Pearl River's extra point pass in the corner of the end zone. After the kickoff, we rumbled down the field (with about two minutes left), and the game ended with Tappan Zee on the Pearl River 20-year line.
It wasn't a loss, but it was bitter! First, we played like crap most of the game. Second, I don't know why we changed the players' positions as was mentioned before. And thirdly, we got 'screwed' big time!
Now, get this! I found out forty-three years later while I was doing research for this book from the microfilms of the old Nyack Journal News that the head linesman that game was a guy named John O. Mottola. He was the brother of the former Tappan Zee football coach, Nick Mottola, who had been terminated three years earlier because of an incident of shoving a kid from another school. This is the same head linesman who, when Tappan Zee had three crack for a first down near the goal line said we didn't get it. Francis had gained two yards but was given only one. Carlos had gained at least two and had spun off into the end zone, but wasn't even given a first down -- let alone a touchdown! So, evidently this guy, John O. Mottola, was taking some revenge because of his brother's previous problems with Tappan Zee. What else could one think about a sequence like that -- now knowing the name of the official involved and the history. What a pathetic lowlife that guy must have been. We had the first down for sure, and with that alone, Tappan Zee would have scored. A power play over Billy Sarvis' hole, having four cracks at the goal line. Let me assure you -- we would have scored.
So the game 'turned' on those plays, and we ended with a 6-6 tie. Pearl River had played us tough, take nothing away from them, but we had a touchdown called back. Actually two! Shit happens, right?
Oh, one last point to this story about the Pearl River game. The former Tappan Zee coach, Nick Mottola, had been in Long Island coaching for two years, but had just returned to Rockland County as the head football coach and athletic director at Suffern High School. And oh yes, Suffern was our next game! And Suffern was picked as one of the better teams with a good chance to win the league. Oh, how coincidental this all was -- John O Mottola just happening to work our game and taking away scores from us! Coincidence, yeah, right!
I PLAYED THAT GAME AND IT WAS A WELL PLAYED GAME. IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, THE AUTHOR WAS PLAYING CENTER AND IF HE WAS DOING HIS JOB HE WAS BLOCKING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD. HE PROBABLY HAD THE WORST VIEW OF ANYONE AS TO THE POSITION OF THE BALL AND HOW MANY YARDS THE BACK HAD MADE. HIS ACCUSATIONS AGAINST A WELL RESPECTED MAN LIKE JOHN O. MOTTOLA ARE OVER THE TOP.