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Ken West Blue Devils blew out the opposition in '69
[October 29, 2007]

Ken West Blue Devils blew out the opposition in '69

(Buffalo News, The (NY) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Oct. 28--The Buffalo News is celebrating the 50th anniversary of All-Western New York football with an all-time All-WNY team that will be published later this season. Along the way, The News will look back at the best of various eras.

There was greatness on the football fields of Western New York long before the state championship series began in 1993.

For pure domination, the area's most potent juggernaut was probably the 1969 edition of the Kenmore West Blue Devils.

Kenmore West, using the option offense and radar defense designed by coach Jules Yakapovich, won a national championship in 1969 by outscoring its eight opponents, 389-67.

The Blue Devils were ranked first by the Western New York Sports Writers Association, first by the New York State Scholastic Writers Association and first in the nation by a Miami-based ranking service called Junior Super Bowl -- long before USA Today had been born to keep a finger on the pulse of scholastic football on a national level.

Kenmore West, which routinely played its home games before more than 5,000 fans at Crosby Field, placed two on the Courier-Express' 11-man All- Western New York squad in 1969 -- quarterback Rob Sutton, who threw 24 touchdown passes and ran for 11 more scores, and halfback Gary Streicher, who led the Niagara Frontier League with 112 points. It marked the third consecutive NFL championship for the Blue Devils, who went 23-1 during that span, and beat every opponent by at least 34 points in 1969.

With a squad whose weight averaged a shade under 161 pounds, Kenmore West limited its foes to six first downs a game in 1969 to go along with just 59.8 rushing yards and 70.1 passing yards, many of which came at the tail end of blowouts.

Yakapovich, who retired in 1976 after 26 years as head coach at Kenmore West, got away with using such light players because the keys to his radar defense were lateral movement and avoiding contact.

"Each offensive move . . . evokes a response from the defender which nullifies that block," Yakapovich, a former U.S. Marine and Colgate University player, explained in 1970. "Since each block is vital to the pattern and is designed to open the hole for the runner, the play is destroyed."

Yakapovich wrote the book on the radar defense, literally and figuratively. Parker Publishing Co. of West Nyack released his 224-page book, "The Radar Defense for Winning Football," in 1970.

Sutton later played at Syracuse and Streicher went on to the University of Miami.

Part of the West championship run in '69 was a 44-0 win over Kenmore East. But the next year it was the Bulldogs' turn.

Led by 1970 All-WNY quarterback Steve Trusso, the Bulldogs went unbeaten -- including a 44-19 triumph over the Blue Devils that snapped a fourgame losing streak in the series. Trusso went on to play at Wyoming, where he started for two years and was a teammate of former Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Conrad Dobler. Trusso passed for 1,310 yards and 17 touchdowns and ran for 297 yards while leading the Bulldogs' triple-option offense that year. He led Kenmore East to a 15-1 record his last two seasons.

Before Trusso, Jim Krieg represented Kenmore East as the All-WNY quarterback in 1967. An exceptional brokenfield runner, he scored 16 touchdowns as a senior. Krieg went on to play at Washington, where he started at wide receiver for two seasons during Sonny Sixkiller's time as QB. Krieg played in the Hula Bowl, then for the Denver Broncos and Portland Storm in the World Football League.

Nobody cast a bigger shadow in 1966 than tackle Joe Ehrmann, who played his senior season at Riverside at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. That year, Riverside coach Charley Dingboom called Ehrmann "the best lineman I've seen in this area in 10 years" as Ehrmann led the Frontiers to a fifth-straight Harvard Cup and extended their winning streak to 35 games.

Ehrmann went on to Syracuse University, was a firstround pick of the Baltimore Colts (10th overall) in 1973 and played defensive tackle from 1973-82, with the Colts and Detroit Lions. He then played in the United States Football League with the Chicago Blitz, Arizona Wranglers and Orlando Renegades. After retiring from pro football, he became a minister and an inspirational speaker.

Jeff Yeates, an All-WNY tackle from Cardinal O'Hara in 1968, went on to star at Boston College, was a fourth-round pick of the Bills and played 138 games as an NFL defensive tackle. Yeates, who excelled at trap blocking and pass protection, averaged 13 tackles per game during his senior season when the hard hitter went through a brand new helmet and three face masks.

Sutton and Streicher were just half of a great all-senior All- WNY backfield in '69.

Timon quarterback Ed Carney was a four-year starter who completed 291 of 535 career passes for 4,023 yards and 45 TDs. Sweet Home's Gary Altheide scored 98 points as a senior with 1,124 rushing yards on 193 carries and 11 catches for 192 yards.

Marty Januszkiewicz, the first-team fullback in '67, averaged 7 yards per carry and scored 15 touchdowns as a senior, helping Lackawanna go 15-1 in 1966 and '67. He went on to Syracuse University, where he led the team in rushing in 1970 and '72.

Larry Van Loan of St. Joe's was a first-team end in 1968 and '69. As a senior he caught a school-record 10 passes in a game against Bishop Turner and finished the year with 46 catches for 718 yards and scored 46 points -- which could have been 76 if five potential touchdown receptions hadn't been nullified because of penalties. He went on to star at Navy.

Mark Becker of St. Joe's was the halfback on the '67 team, then went on to rank among the nation's top punters in two different seasons at Holy Cross.

Next: Tonawanda's perfect 1963 season, engineered by quarterback Rick Cassata, highlights 1962-65.

To see more of The Buffalo News, N.Y., or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to

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