In W. W. Griffin’s last year as coach, he
had developed a wonderful team. They had everything and plenty to
spare. Look at the line. First and foremost at the roving center
was Herb Stein. He was the toughest man to get through
and as fast as any on the team, uncanny at solving the other fellows
plays and a deadly tackler and blocker. He was simply poison to
every team he played against.
Then there was Reno Jones, Porter Watson, Ray Holzbach, Stuart
Haggerty, and Paul Sheehan and Charles Thomas,
two of the speediest defensive ends that any one would care to see.
Back of that magnificent line was , one of the keenest,
craftiest quarterbacks the Niles school ever had. He was pretty
much of a light weight and was not required to carry the ball as
a rule but when occasion demanded it, he could do a nifty job of
it. Left-halfback Paul Lally was a glittering star of the
finest quality, a triple threat man with a vengeance. He was hard
to lay hands on and besides he could pass and throw forward passes
to perfection. He was a dead sure goal kicker too. His running mate,
Harry Stevens was not far behind. Stevens was of stocky
build and slippery as a pane of glass, and was a holy terror and
a ground gainer all year.
At fullback on this great team was
Russ Stein, another triple-threat performer. When he hit
the opposing line it was like the force of all out war. This lad
was a sure-fire thrower of passes, could boot the ball a mile, more
or less, on punts and he always placed the punts right where he
wanted them to be, away from the other fellows.
Coach Griffin had a wonderful team that year and he introduced a
galaxy of trick plays, including his own version of the Minnesota
shift that paralyzed all opposition. The Judge’s word was
law and the boys on that team knew it and obeyed it to the letter.
Now, the 1914 team smashed everything in its path to start the season
and fans all over the city were excited. When the day came along
for Niles to lock horns and play Sharon there was an enormous crowd
of backers who made arrangements to attend. It was necessary for
Niles to run a special train over to Sharon to accommodate the crowd.
That year Sharon was acclaimed champion of Western Pennsylvania
and had not suffered defeat for two years. They were considered
the toughest of the tough on the football gridiron and there was
some doubt in the minds of quite a few over the results, but the
majority were confident that our boys would come out on top.
“ What a game Niles did play
with Sharon that day. For a matter of about ten minutes, Sharon
held our boys even. Then Griffin’s team began to click and
it was just too bad for those would-be champions of the state of
Pennsylvania. They went thru them, around them, and over the top
so fast and furious that the Niles rooting section went simply “nutty”.
Sharon couldn’t keep the ball in their possession at all to
speak of and would either fumble or punt. Then that swift backfield
combination of Gilbert, Stevens, Lally and Stein
would sweep through for great gains, seemingly at will. Touchdown
after touchdown was registered on the luckless Sharonites so fast
that it was hard to keep count of them and Paul Lally didn’t
miss the kick for extra points but once. It was a thrilling exhibition
and one never to be forgotten. The superintendent of Sharon School
was so shocked at this spectacle that he wrung his hands and shed
A gentleman named Cutts, All-American center for Harvard
the year before was the referee, and a good one too. After the game
he remarked that it was very doubtful any team in America could
have held their own with Niles that day. It was such a smashing
victory that several hundred “crazy” rooters from Niles
snake-danced all over Sharon streets after it was all over.
Oh! Yes! I forgot to tell you the final score, Niles 62- Sharon
They played Rayen winning 10-6, Beaver Falls 34-7, Ashtabula Harbor
43-0, Barberton 57-0, Salem 20-6 , Meadville 34-0 and East Liverpool
31-0 that year. There were only around 250 students in the Niles
high school, most of those schools that Niles played against, had
far more students