As the Red Rocketeers embarked on their season in August, 1974 optimism was high in Big Red Country. The previous two seasons ended with two Hockomock League championships, and the 1973 squad secured the school’s first-ever Div III Super Bowl crown. Although they had lost 13 key star ters from the previous year, Head Coach Bob Guthrie and his staff felt they had enough of a nucleus to be in the running for another Hock title. With captains Angie Caval ieri, Bill Kummer, Mark Lanteigne, and Bill Ballard leading the way, and several untested underclassmen playing prominent roles throughout the season, the ’74 Red & White squad would soon etch themselves a permanent place in Rocketeer football lore.
In a dominating opening day win over Bishop Feehan, junior Mark Rioux “hip-faked his way past outstretched would-be tacklers” on a 28 yd TD run, and he’d later add a 90-yd jaunt in front of 6,000 fans at Community Field. Mike Kummer and Tim Slowey added short TD runs, and Bill Kummer’s fumble recovery inside the NA 15 yd line halted one Feehan near-scoring drive in the 27-0 victory. One week later North handled Sharon by that same score, with Rioux adding two more TDs and intercepting two passes. Mike Kummer targeted big end Joe McNamee with a 25 yd TD pass and a 2-pt conversion, and fullback Mark Salesses dove in from one yard out. Defensively Scott Andrew led the way with 8 tackles and 2 assists.
In a week 3 tilt at Foxboro the Rocketeers romped over the Warriors 34-14, highlighted by Mike Kummer’s 76 yd TD run, his 59 yd bomb to split end Tom Simms, and 3 more TDs for Rioux. Rioux scoring touchdowns was a scene NA foes would become all-too-familiar with throughout the season as he would reach the end zone 21 times to set (at that time) a single-season Rocketeer scoring record.
In 1973 the Stoughton Black Knights handed NA their only loss of the season, and the ’74 clash was a scoreless dog-fight through 3 quarters. Jim Barry and Lanteigne each contributed big blocks against the Black Knights, and when Stoughton tied the game at 6-6 in the 4th quarter the defensive line of Jim Seekell, Tom Teatreault, and McNamee burst through to block the PAT. Big Red’s defensive tackle Wayne Hitchcock nailed Stoughton’s QB from behind on a 4th quarter pass play, forcing him out of the game, and the following play Lanteigne jarred the ball loose and Ballard recovered, eventually leading to North’s final TD in a 20-6 win.
With several players injured heading into game #5 at King Phillip, the dashing junior Rioux was spectacular with a 4-TD performance that included a 59-yd TD run and 62-yd punt return for another TD in a 42-18 triumph. KP’s passing attack (normally an aerial show) never materialized as the NA defense throttled the Warriors via a hard rush and blanket coverage in the secondary. Ball-hawking defensive linemen Ballard, Lanteigne, and McNamee spent the better part of the day in the KP backfield to stymie KPs attack, forcing two interceptions (one by Simms who had been shadowing KP’s ace receiver most of the day). Seekell had a monster game with one interception, one fumble recovery, and he had a hand in 9 tackles. Dan Delvecchio contributed 85 yards rushing with a TD, and Paul Leclerc and Bill Kummer opened a gaping hole for a 21-yd TD run by Larry Shumila.
Sitting at #2 in the EMass Div III ratings in late October, the Rocketeers scored two times in the final 3 minutes to secure a hard-fought 20-9 victory over the upset-minded Franklin Panthers in a battle of Hockomock powers. Down 7-0 in the second quarter, McNamee pealed back to wipe out a Franklin defender with a crunching shoulder block to spring Rioux loose on a 60-yd punt return for a TD, and with just 2:33 left in the game Simms went high in the air, juggled and gained control of a 19-yd TD pass from Mike Kummer before being smothered for a 13-9 lead. Dave Censorio’s interception the following series to help set-up QB Kummer’s 4 yd TD run to seal the victory. North’s defense had 3 near-interceptions, and the undefeated victors, at 6-0, were starting to believe the sky was the limit for what they could accomplish together.
At Canton in early November the Red & White erupted on the very first play from scrimmage when Rioux broke several tackles while maintaining his balance covering 76 yards, and never looked back in a 39-20 trouncing of the Bulldogs. With the offensive line effectively blocking the triple option off ense was in full throttle. North scored 4 second quarter TDs, Censorio, Shumila, Simms, and Dale Langille all scored points, while Scott Cerrone had 8 tackles to lead the “D”. The following week at home the Bill Kummer-led defense chewed up Mansfield’s offense, and brother Mike “dazzled the large crowd with his playmaking” as he ran for 51 yards and 2 TDs, and passed for 98 yards and 2 more TDs. Delvecchio raced 60 yards for the game’s first score, and Mansfield didn’t even know he had the ball until he was well past midfield. Lanteigne was in on 13 tackles, and the Rocketeers looked ahead to a week 9 battle with Oliver Ames.
In a bruising defensive battle before an estimated 4,000 screaming fans of a highly partisan crowd, Big Red ripped OA 18-7 to capture the Hockomock League title. Four times North’s defense denied the Tigers’ scoring opportunities inside the 20 yard line. Junior defensive end Andrew snagged 3 interceptions alone on the day, Tom Closson had his nose in on 17 tackles, and Delvecchio scored twice (once behind a Skip Tetreault block) after a scoreless first half to pave the way.
At 9-0 heading in Thanksgiving, the Rocketeers were aiming for their 1st undefeated-untied season since 1930. Riding a 16-game winning streak, the defense was limiting opponents to just 9 points per game, and those efforts continued on Turkey Day in a defeat of the Blue Bombardiers. The defense held Attleboro to just 8 points and recovered 3 fumbles; Mike Kummer and Simms combined on two TD passes; Rioux continue his assault on the record book with his 20th TD of the season; Simms had 2 interceptions, and 5’9”, 196 lb guard Bill Kummer was named MVP for his brilliant effort. What’s more, NA leapfrogged Greater Lawrence for the #1 ranking in EMass Div III, and the Rocketeers were heading to the Super Bowl for the 2nd straight season!
Starting the season living in the shadows of the ’73 team’s championship, the ’74 squad had clearly carved their own identity over the 10-week season. They were an athletically-gifted, unselfish, well-coached football team who took great pride representing no only their town, but the Hockomock League as a whole against Boston-area powers. With 15 busloads of NA fans clad in red and white behind them, the Rocketeers headed to Boston University’s Nickerson Field to face the Commonwealth Conference Champion Greater Lawrence Reggies. Just 3 minutes into the game Shumila scored from 24 yards out, and the assault was underway. Andrew , Rioux, Kummer, and Langille would all find pay dirt in the game as North racked up 407 yards rushing on the day on their way to a 33-6 walloping of Greater Lawrence. Rioux had 183 yards rushing; Seekell, Simms, and Provost each intercepted passes; Closson, McNamee, and Ballard each had a hand in double-digit tackles, but without hesitancy “ the valor of victory belonged to the incredible NA line of Lanteigne, Bill Kummer, Barry, McNamee, Steve Estey, Ballard, Hitchcock, and Seekell”.
When the Rocketeers season ended on the artificial turf that December 7th they had won 18 straight football games, 3 straight Hockomock titles, and 2 straight EMass Div III Super Bowls. Nine of North’s 11 foes were bigger than North, but quickness on the line prevailed. At 11-0 the Big Red outscored their opponents 320-95, held 7 of their 11 opponents to 1 TD or less, intercepted 20 passes, recovered 16 fumbles, and amassed over 3,800 yards of total offense. There would be no doubt about the caliber of football in the Hockomock League, nor would it ever be questioned again by Boston area scribes or teams.
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, Ray Beaupre, Jeff Grant and Jack Harris in the early 70’s laid the foundation for all future generations that followed, epitomizing the characteristics of loyalty, toughness, and discipline that have become the cornerstones of the North Attleboro Football Program.