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We are honoring the 1973 Div. III Super Bowl Champions from North Attleboro High School at this year's banquet. Below is the roster of all players, coaches of the team and their story.
As football camp began in August 1973 head coach Bob Guthrie and his assistants Ray Beaupre, Jeff Grant, and Jack Harris had a solid nucleus returning from their 8-1 Hockomock League co-championship club of ’72, and it looked to be a rich harvest in ’73. With a hard hitting defense and poten t wishbone offense led by tri-captains Ron Deschenes, Pat Fitzgibbons, and Jackie Rioux the Rocketeers were eager to claim a title of their own, having shared one with St oughton the previous season.
North Attleboro dominated Sharon in their opener, piling up 432 yards of offense. Paul Lacasse scored three times on runs of 6 4, 39, and 26 yards, Rioux connected with end Tom Simms for a 39 yd TD, and the defense held Sharon’s star running back in check when it counted most. The followin g week against Foxboro North’s defensive line pinned the Warriors for losses on 12 different plays. Jim Seekell, Jeff Dawes, Fitzgibbons and Chris McCarthy spent the better part of the afternoon in Foxboro’s backfield hound- ing the QB, recovering fumbles, blocking passes, and putting the hex on Foxboro’s attack. Middle linebacker Mark Lanteigne int ercepted a pass, while offensively Kevin Cavalieri rushed for 2 TDs and caught a 3rd in the 31-0 shutout.
In a week 3 tilt at Stoughton the Rocketeers were humbled by the Black Knights 24-8 before 4,000 fans. It was 17-0 before Nort h had a first down, while a fumbled punt, a shanked punt, and a fumble led to three easy Stoughton scores. The North offense was smothered throughout the day, reg istering just 93 total yards. A week later against undefeated King Phillip the “shifty halfback” Cavalieri took the opening kickoff 100 yards to for six points as part of his 220 total yards in the game. Lacasse had two more TDs – one a 65 yard run behind a crunching block by Tim Slowey; Rioux hit Simms from 52 yards away, and Dan DelVecchio snared two i nterceptions in the 42-7 romp.
North’s most electrifying victory of the Hockomock season came in Week 5 when, as newspaper scribe Henry Reilley wrote ‘the Red Rocketeers fashioned a blazing comeback in the final 5 minutes of play to trip the Franklin Panthers 15-12 before 4,800 delirious fans”, snapping a 5-game los ing streak to Franklin and avenging the only loss NA suffered the previous season. With Franklin leading 12-0 with just 5:32 remaining the Big Red abandoned their wishbone. Ri oux reversed his field and scrambled 51 yards on one pass play, and after completing a pass play to Joe McNamee Rioux went over for a 2 yd TD. After Cavalieri scampered 41 yards on a punt return to Franklin’s 29 yard line behind 3 crunching blocks from his teammates, Rioux heaved a 29 yard scoring pass to Lacasse in the end zone with a minute rema ining to give North a 13-12 lead (and ulti- mately a 15-12 victory after the 2-pt conversion), but not before Jim Carr intercepted a Franklin pass in the waning seconds to secure the win. As they looked ahead to week 6 they would do so without starters Tim Slowey (appendicitis), Deschenes (concussion), and Cavalieri (kidney infection) – all maj or setbacks to the Rocketeers’ vaunted offense.
Against Canton the following week 10 players had a hand in scoring during a 41-0 thrashing. Angie Cavalieri returned an interc eption 49 yards for a TD; Jim Barry recovered a fumbled caused by a Fitzgibbons hit at the 3 yard line, and Mark Medeiros carried in from there. Mark Rioux scoote d for six from 27 yards out, and sophomore QB Mike Kummer hit McNamee for a 16 yard aerial strike. A second shutout...this one over winless Mansfield saw North rumble 410 yar ds on the ground led by 118 from Medeiros and 97 by Chris Little. Mark Trumble picked up a blocked punt and ran 20 yards to put NA up 18-0 in the 2nd quarter, and Mark Salesses rushed for three 2-pt conversions on the day.
At Oliver Ames in mid-November the Rocketeers overcame a 12-0 deficit, surging back to gain a 23-15 victory and at least a shar e of the Hock title for the 2nd year in a row. Lacasse had 2 TDs, a field goal, and an extra point for a 16-point day. With the game tied at 15 in the third quart er QB Jack Rioux’s ball handling skills running the wishbone were superb, keeping OA’s defense off balance. A fumble recovery by Bill Ballard at the 38 helped setup the final TD.
And then....The Game. Thanksgiving 1973 is still remembered as one of the greatest games in the 93 years that North Attleboro an d Attleboro have gotten together. Both teams entered with 7-1 records, they could each score, and they had sturdy defenses. To add even more drama to an already emotional tilt, AHS coach Jim Cassidy had announced his resignation effective at the conclusion of the Thursday morning game. The AHS defense stymied the NA wishbone mo st of the day. In the second quarter North’s outstanding defensive end Jeff Dawes pounced upon a fumbled punt at the Attleboro 19 yard line, and six plays later Rioux found Simms in the end zone for a 7-0 lead that stood until halftime.
AHS came storming back, scoring on their first possession of the second half before then taking a 13-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. But on this day the stars were aligned for the Red & White. The Bombadiers failed on a fake PAT after their 1st TD, and with time winding down on their final possess ion of the game they failed to gain a first down on a fake punt, giving the ball to NA on their own 41 yard line. A quick pass to McNamee for a 7 yard gain brought the ball up to the 48 yard line with just 13 seconds remain- ing. On the final play of the game in front of 7,500 fans at Community Field, NA’s fleet footed halfback Lacasse went in motio n, took off upfield and hauled in an aerial bomb from QB Jack Rioux around the 20 yard line before bolting to pay dirt to complete a dramatic 52 yard TD pass.
Noted Hall of Fame scribe Peter Gobis “It was so astonishing and happened so fast that North didn’t bother to line up for the P AT. Fans had swarmed the field, and wide- eyed patrons gasped in awe or anguish”. Moreover, the post-game news got even better...Canton had upset Stoughton to give the Ho ck title to NA outright; previously #1 ranked Bourne was upset by Wareham, and the Rocketeers vaulted from #7 into the #1 position of the EMass Div III rankings, paving the way for a Super Bowl appearance against the #2 ranked Pope John Tigers.
The contrast between the two clubs leading up to the championship game was significant. It was “Small Town” vs “Big City”; the Hockomock League vs Boston-area Catholic Central League. Pope John of Everett was 8-0-1 and undefeated in their last 19 games stretching back to 1971. While North had speed and depth on its roster, Pope John had 10-15 lb weight advantages among interior linemen. Boston newspapers labeled the Tigers as “an awesome schoolboy football team ” with many seniors who were 3-year starters who had allowed just 58 total points all season. Their head coach arrogantly intimated during his game-week interviews his team was physical and large; liked to run right at people; and having faced two other teams running a similar offense as NA’s during the regular season he noted “we don’t feel th reatened by North Attleboro’s wishbone”. It would not take long for those words to come back to haunt him.
North’s one-man dynamo Paul Lacasse returned the game’s opening kickoff 90 yards for a TD on the artificial turf at Boston Univ ersity, and the Rocketeers onslaught never stopped until they had completed a 48-0 devastation of the Tigers to claim the EMass Div III Schoolboy Football Championship. Lacasse would add 117 yards rushing, a 49-yard punt return, and account for 4 TDs in the game, running through eye-popping holes opened by McCarthy, Fitzgibbons, Carr, Seekel l, and center Ray Patch. Meanwhile Chris Little handled Pope John’s linebackers better than anyone had all season. The NA special teams denied a single yard of advancement on kickoff or punt returns, and the stingy defense led by Bill Ballard, Bill Kummer, Dawes, Deschenes, Tom Closson, and Lanteigne held Pope John to 91 total yards of offense. On ly 3 times did the Tigers venture into NA territo- ry
Four decades later the success of Big Red Football, which has included 300+ victories, 7 state championships, and 9 super bowl appearances in that 40-year span has been well-chronicled. One could argue, however, the teams led by Guthrie in the early 70’s laid the foundation for all future genera tions that followed, epitomizing the characteristics of loyalty, toughness, and discipline that have become the cornerstones of the North Attleboro Football Program.