by Jim Riggs
September 14, 1996
The Tales Of Two Win Streaks
The way the teams compiled their 27-game winning streaks were quite different because of the difference in the eras. Falconer did it in the days before playoffs, so it took the Golden falcons three seasons and two games into a fourth season to do it. Jamestown’s record was compiled in the days of the playoffs, all the way to the state championship. So the Red Raiders have won their 27 straight in two seasons and one game into the third.
Falconer had an even more impressive unbeaten streak of 29-0-1 when it all ended with a 42-0 loss at Olean on October 1, 1977. In their last three games of the 1973 season, the Golden Falcons won two and then finished with a scoreless tie against Southwestern. Then the 27-game win streak began.
Falconer was 9-0 in 1974 and 8-0 for both the 1975 and 1976 seasons. Then the 26th and 27th wins opened the 1977 season before the loss at Olean.
When Falconer finished the 1973 season on a high note, did former coach Bill Race foresee more success on the way?
“We knew we had a lot of good athletes in those years,” he said, referring to players such as Joe Mistretta, Al Nalbone, Tim Reed, Steve Garvey, Mike Garvey and Ed Jefferson, to name a few. “They were all freshman and sophomores. You could see the talent was there.”
But after going undefeated in 1974, did Race think his team could repeat the perfect season in 1975?
“No, I thought we’d go 7-1,” recalled Race, who retired this year after 33 seasons. “Westfield had a real strong ballclub, but it just seemed to snowball.”
Falconer was playing in Division 7 at that time with Cassadaga Valley, Frewsburg, Gowanda, Maple Grove, Randolph, Silver Creek and Westfield. Race could comprehend two straight perfect seasons, but he was sure it would end in 1976.
“I thought that it was impossible to go three years undefeated,” he said. “There were too many things against you.”
But none of the opponents played well enough against Falconer that year to produce a win, so the Golden Falcons entered 1977 with 25 straight victories.
That is the season Section 6 found a way to end the Falconer streak.
“When we had those good teams, they left us in the small division,” Race said. “When the good kids were gone, they moved us up.”
Falconer was still in Division 7 in 1977, but it now included larger schools such as Dunkirk, Fredonia, Olean, Salamanca and Southwestern.
“We would have been very competitive in the other division with that team of 1977, but we went up and we got hammered,” he said. “I think we got hammered for the next four years.”
The Golden Falcons defeated Trott and Gowanda in the first two games of 1977 to stretch the win streak to 27. But then came the 42-0 loss to a powerful Olean team.
“We went down there and the kids were scared to death,” Race recalled. “I felt bad for the kids that night. We were so over-classed. We had an adequate team for the lower division.”
Would Falconer have been able to record another perfect season in 1977 if the division wasn’t changed?
“No, we would have been beaten that year,” Race said. “But the kids wouldn’t have taken the pounding they did. The team of ‘77 paid the price for the ’74, ’75 and ’76 teams.”
Falconer finished 2-5 in 1977, but looking back, Race said the streak wasn’t a major concern for his players.
“Half of them didn’t even know,” he said. “All they were concerned with was winning the football game that night.”
And that could be a reason Jamestown has tied the record in a very different situation than Falconer’s in the 1970s. Of the 27 straight Jamestown wins, 10 have been postseason games that were must-wins or the season was over. The Red Raiders were in that situation for the last five games of the past two seasons. With that hanging over their heads, a winning streak was the furthest thing from their minds. In postseason football, the only way to win a championship is with a winning streak.
Jamestown completed those postseason win streaks for back-to-back state Class A titles. With that in the forefront, along with being ranked 23rd in the nation, the 26-game win streak entering this season sort of snuck up on Coach Wally Huckno. When No. 27 was added on last week, he was surprised he had tied Falconer’s Section 6 record.
“I thought he (Race) was 31, 32; something in that area,” Huckno said.
Huckno’s streak may have come quicker, but that is because he had consecutive 13-game seasons. That’s more than a season and half back in the 1970s.
“When you’re talking 13 games … we practiced the last three Thanksgiving Days and I would love to be practicing this Thanksgiving Day this year,” he said.
But Huckno pointed out that with the playoff system, an undefeated regular season is almost a necessity to get the best seeding in the postseason. But he added, “Too many things can go wrong. Injuries can happen, bad field conditions. So when you were 7-1 or 8-1 you’re giddy; you feel like you had a successful season.”
It’s tough enough to survive the regular season undefeated with Division 1 opponents such as Frontier, Orchard Park, Lancaster and North Tonawanda, but then the Red Raiders would usually face a couple of them again in the Section 6 Playoffs. Then it was on to the state playoffs with opponents such as Fairport, Union-Endicott, Gates Chili, Liverpool and North Rockland.
“Those are football powers,” he said. “It’s a one-time contest. You are playing the best in the state.”
So continuing the streak against those teams makes Jamestown’s streak even more remarkable. And add to that all those games were played on the road.
“When you think about that, it gets scary,” Huckno said. “But we try not to think about it.”
The Falconer teams during its 27-game win streak would have liked to been involved in playoffs. But at that time, the only goal was to win a division title and then the season was over.
“During that period of time we’d heard the rumor they (Section 6) were going to have them (playoffs),” Race said.
But it didn’t happen until 1979.
While Jamestown has had a chance to prove itself against the best teams in the state, Falconer only had offers. “Everybody wanted to get us,” Race said.
He recalled that teams such as Penn Yan Academy and Mynderse Academy requested games. One almost materialized with the latter, but Mynderse wouldn’t make the trip to Falconer and the Falconer school board wouldn’t approve a trip to Mynderse.
Race credited the special players he had during his win streak and Huckno did the same. “It’s a real testament to the kind of kids we’ve had,” Huckno said. “We can now look back and appreciate the proficiency of those kids. We had some exceptional athletes, especially when you get four kids making first team all-state,” he said referring to Andy Benson, Joe McKoy, Ryan Calkins and Aaron Barnett last season.
Jamestown can now establish a new Section 6 record today by defeating West Seneca East. Then the Red Raiders can go after the Western New York record of 35 straight wins by Canisius.
But are the Golden Falcons’ 27 straight wins still talked about?
“Hardly ever,” Race said. “Things get lost in the shuffle.”
That’s too bad because back in the mid-1970s, wins were always in the cards for Falconer.