East Aurora Old Timers: 50th anniversary of 1963 undefeated team celebrated
BY TOM STRONG For Sun-Times Media October 24, 2013 11:20PM
Updated: October 29, 2013 3:24PM
Once a Tomcat, always a Tomcat.
It’s the mantra of the unique fraternity known as the East Aurora Football Old Timers Association, and the pride of the Tomcat winning tradition of old echoed throughout the group’s meeting in Aurora on Thursday.
The 50th anniversary of the 1963 undefeated Tomcats, which was ranked second in the state (in the era before playoffs), was recognized. Ralph Galloway, Jack Rauscher, Jim Davis, Mike Leonard, and Jerry Berkeland attended and were recognized, as was legendary head coach Del Dufrain and assistant Dick Bolen.
“Fifty years doesn’t seem possible, but it does fly by,” Dufrain said. “As far as I’m concerned, we were as good as anybody — maybe better. We had so many good kids.”
“This is where it all started,” said Galloway, who played professional football in Canada. “There are several coaches here who were instrumental in my life.”
Current East Aurora coach Kurt Becker spoke about the program and the strides it is making in efforts to reverse the losing records of the last few seasons. He thanked the organization for its financial and moral support in the rejuvenation of Tomcat pride.
The Old Timers have become more service-oriented under the leadership of Steve “Benny” Kenyon. The group has established a scholarship program, and helps to fund the Tomcat Youth Tackle Football League (tytfl.com) under the leadership of coach Mike Michalek.
The highlight of all Old Timers’ gatherings is the induction of the team which played 25 years ago, and the 1988 team was then initiated into the association.
Ed Gavigan was the coach of the ’88 squad which finished 3-6, but defeated rival West Aurora 28-27 in a come-from-behind victory to close the season.
“I thought that East Aurora was the place that all football coaches want to come,” Gavigan said. “I think it can be again with the work that is being put into the program.”
Thirteen players from the 1988 team attended and were inducted into the association: Trect Phillips, Sterling Edwards, Jim Rozell, Matt Keller, Troy Saldana, Ruben Delgado, Joe Emmanuel, Jim Emmanuel, Husain Abdul-Aziz (Robert Johnson), Hector Saldana, Lou Hernandez, Ruben Salgado, and Souk Heminthavong.
“We all think we should have had more wins, but as a team, we had so much fun,” said Hernandez, who played quarterback. “We see each other now, and it’s like we never left each other. I love these guys and we had a great time together.”