By Bill Burt
---- — LAWRENCE -- Members of the 1957 Lawrence High football team, which is the last Lancer team to win a state football title, will be honored at halftime of tonight’s Lawrence-Haverhill High game at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The team, celebrating its 55th reunion, was coached by legendary coach, Ed Buckley.
“The amazing thing about this team and its accomplishments is the impact it had on the lives of nearly all who were associated with it,” said one of the stars of the 1957 team, Billy Adams.
“It opened doors for some of us that we didn’t know existed and profoundly changed our lives forever.”
According to Adams, the team, made up of “New England mill town kids of mixed ethnic backgrounds whose football achievements amazed themselves and many of those around them.”
Lawrence High was undefeated that year, beating then-rival Lowell, 19-0, on Thanksgiving Day.
“After we beat Lowell, (assistant) coach Ralph Wolfendale said ‘Boys, you have done something special for yourselves and for city of Lawrence. Stay together and enjoy the memories.’ Coach was so right,” Andover resident and former player Andy Shea said. “A lot of us guys have had so much fun together at reunions, at local restaurants, on the phone, whatever. It really was special.”
All of the LHS alums agree, the hiring of Buckley, a former Marine drill sergeant, was paramount to all of the successes the team had.
The team he inherited had talent with Ralph Forgione at quarterback, Jason Murphy, the only African-American on the team, and Mike DiGaetano at tailback, Mike Riccio at fullback, and John Keleher and Larry Klimas, both of whom are deceased, as ends.
They won all of their league games by an average score of 30-5, including four shutouts.
Among Lawrence’s impressive victories was a 32-0 win over Peabody and a two-game sweep over both Lynn powerhouses (English and Classical), 33-14 and 26-0.
“The Game,” though, was on Thanksgiving Day when Lawrence played their biggest rival, Lowell, before 14,000 fans. Lawrence broke open the game with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win 19-0, clinching the Class A state title.
The victory earned Buckley’s team a trip to the Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla. While Lawrence, which had 33 players on the roster, lost the game to powerhouse Miami Edison High, the all-expenses paid trip was a perfect ending to a near-perfect season.
“For most of us it was a first time on a plane,” said Mike Riccio, who was a two-way lineman on the championship team. “Then there’s the incredible hotel. We ate at the best restaurants. We were treated like kings. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”