There was an eye-popping 4-0 start, some costly injuries leading to a 5-4 overall record, not one but two future NFL players, an Irish kid with what was then considered a bizarre soccer-style kick, and a flashy, southpaw signal-caller named Randy Hart who was the Joe Namath of the area right down to his white cleats.
Yes, that 1970 Lawrence High football team won’t soon be forgotten.
“They named us the Cardiac Kids and The Elastic Band Defense, Joe Murphy and Max Bishop and Russ Conway at The Eagle-Tribune,” recalled Hart, a local realtor who these days is probably better known for being the father of former North Andover and Brooks softball pitching sensation Britt Hart.
It still seems surreal that an area public school would produce two future pros but Ray Preston played nine years at linebacker for the San Diego Chargers and Dave Rozumek played four years at linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Not too bad for guys who were undersized, to say the least. “Roz,” the longtime Salem High AD, was a junior and just 6-0, 175 pounds. Preston was just 5-11, 185, a pipsqueak compared to his son, 6-5, 320-pound center Raymond Newton “Duke” Preston III, who played six years in the NFL.
“Roz was just coming into his own,” said Hart.
“He was a great tight end but really skinny. I never thought he’d go further. Ray was a great linebacker and a great running back.”
You still can win a few free rounds at some Lawrence establishments with the trivia question: Who was MVP of that 1970 team, Preston or Rozumek?
The answer is none of the above.
It was Hart, who scored six TDs and threw 10 TD passes in an era when that was an impressive total. His coach, Fred Dennen, called him the best QB in the state.
“Football saved me,” said Hart, a product of the Beacon Projects.
“When you are on a team you have to be at practice. It’s team this, team that. It’s good discipline for the rest of your life.”
“He was very confident,” Rozumek said of Hart.
“He never got rattled. He was what you’d picture a real good QB to be: calm, cool and collected. He got it done.”
A lot of Lancers did. That fall Hart was Eagle-Tribune MVP and Preston (6 TDs), 5-11, 175-pound center Walter Roberts (the longtime Pinkerton track coach), Neal Buntin (7 TD catches), 6-2, 180-pound defensive lineman Dick Lucas and soccer-style kicker Dave Teggart from Ireland were Eagle-Tribune All-Stars, the first year the paper selected an all-star team.
“It was a Cinderella team,” said Rozumek, who like Preston was named one of The Eagle-Tribune’s 25 top athletes of the century.
“We weren’t supposed to do much. With Randy there, we were pulling out games we weren’t supposed to.
“What I always enjoyed was the Lawrence-Lowell Thanksgiving game. It was awesome. Talk about rivalries. That’s all people would talk about.”
Rozumek cited Bill Quinlan, Lawrence’s legend of all legends, as one reason he defied the odds going from recruited walk-on at UNH to the NFL.
“He scared the living daylights out of me,” said Rozumek of the massive former Green Bay Packers star defensive lineman, who at age 81 still lives in Lawrence with his wife Betty.
“He came down to practice. He was an immense figure. He left an everlasting memory. He’d help out. He was quite the individual.”
Preston, who still lives in San Diego, always seemed destined for greatness in one form or another. Not only was he the star athlete, but he was class president.
“You knew he was going places,” said Hart.
Rozumek said, “You talk about athletes with character. And a leader, that’s what Ray was. He was a good one.”