Red Raiders Football History
The history of Jamestown football can be traced back to its beginning in 1893, making it the oldest football program in Western New York and one of the oldest programs in New York State as well as the eastern part of the United States. Jamestown played its initial contest with eventual arch-rival Warren, which resulted in a 14-0 loss. The historic first win would not come until November 7, 1896 when the they would would record a 16-0 verdict over Warren.
With so many high schools not having football teams, it was sometimes necessary for them play colleges. Jamestown would take a trip to Allegheny College on November 21 and November 23 which would result in a tie and a loss. The 1897 season opened with a loss, but Jamestown would go on to record an 18 game winning streak over the next two years and outscored its opponents 647 to 0 during that timeframe. The turn of the century produced many memorable events that included the tragic death of George Edwin McClurg in 1902 to the second undefeated season in 1909. In 1916, the season was terminated because there was no practice field making it the only time since its inception that Jamestown has not fielded a football team.
1922 saw an incredible season of records the as Raiders averaged 51.4 points and gave up only 1.7 points per game. One of the victories that year was a 121-0 verdict over the Fredonia Normal school. This remains one of the largest victories ever recorded in New York State. Jamestown would field many fine teams over the next 20 years including the 1942 team that went 6-1-1 with a talented player named Joe Sanfilippo. Sanfilippo would later go on to become one of the finest coaches in the area.
The 1949 team became the third team in history to go undefeated. This was followed with 30 more victories over the next 5 years. During this time a powerful lineman emerged named Jim McCusker. McCusker would later become an All-American lineman for the University of Pittsburgh. Later, McCusker went to the NFL and played on the 1960 NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles. The 1964 team returned many players plus a talented JV team. The team did not disappoint as they went 8-0 led by the talented running Dan Luciano, fullback Jonas Johnson and tackle Jim Stockwell. The next few years produced only 12 wins, but Jamestown produced another All-State player named Dan Drake.
In 1972 the Raiders made a rare trip to Ohio to take on Warren Western Reserve who featured one of the legendary Browner brothers. Ross Browner would later go on to star for Notre Dame and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Raiders were on the short end of the stick as they lost 37-0. The next year Jamestown joined Section 6 and Division 1 and in 1975 the highly successful coach and Jamestown Alum Joe Sanfilippo would take the helm and began building one of the top programs in all of New York State.
The Raiders would capture their first Division 1 title in 1978. They were led by All-State running back Nate Davis who would later go on to play for the University of Michigan. The 1979 team followed up on its success from the previous year with a win at the first sectional playoff game at Rich Stadium. The team was led by All-State linebacker, Florida State standout and former head coach Sam Restivo.
The late 70's success gave way to a decade the helped Jamestown become the powerhouse of large schools in WNY. Many successes would follow including a 9 win season in 1981 and its first Western New York Large School division crown in 1982. That team was led by All-State and Connolly Cup winner Berto Amoroso. Along with All-State teammate and Buffalo News Player of the Year Ken Johnson, the Raiders would win 8 games and a Sectional Title. Sanfilippo would retire at the end of that year with 48 wins and 3 Division 1 titles while at Jamestown.
The 1983 season would be the beginning of the most successful coach in the history of Jamestown football. Wally Huckno would take over the helm and proceed to coach for the next 21 years. His initial campaign produced a Division 1 and Section 6 crown. He followed this success with another Division 1 title in 1984 led by All-State tackle Mark DeAngelo. The 80's would end with 6 division titles and 8 trips to Rich Stadium. The highlight of the 80's came in 1986 when the Raiders would record a another perfect season and the emergence of the strongest player to ever wear the red and green. Shawn Bowman became the first player ever to record over a 400 lb bench press. He would become a dominate tackle for 4 years highlighted by his All-State selection. The 1987 team almost duplicated the undefeated season from the year before, but suffered a heartbreaking upset in the playoffs. The team recorded 7 shutouts during the year while surrendering only 12 points the entire year. The field conditions for the playoff game was one of the worst that Jamestown had ever seen. This led to the construction of Strider Field and a new turf surface making it the gem of stadiums in WNY.
The success of the 80's gave way to even more history in Jamestown football in the 90's. Jamestown opened the 90's winning another division title and trip to Rich Stadium. They lost a heartbreaking game at Rich and the undefeated season. The Raiders would follow up that season with another Division 1 title in 1991 and a Sectional Title at Rich stadium as well. They played in the first ever Section 6 vs. Section 5 game and lost to state crowned champion Fairport 26-14. This game was the beginning of a long awaited state tournament in New York State. Finally in 1993 the first ever state playoff system was put in place. It featured 4 classes, A, B, C, and D with Jamestown participating in the Class A division.
1993 saw the Raiders start off at 1-2 and hopes of making the playoffs very dim. They would go on to record 9 straight wins with an upset of undefeated Orchard Park for another Sectional Title. The Raiders eventually found themselves in the state title game against nationally ranked North Rockland at the Carrier Dome. They would put up a tough battle, but eventually lose to the very talented team. This game set up what proved to be one of the most successful periods in Jamestown football.
Jamestown came into the 1994 season with much anticipation. They started fast that season and fans witnessed the emergence of an electrifying running back named David Hinson. He would score 5 touchdowns to open the season and help the Raiders steamroll to another division crown. They encountered some tough competition during the playoffs, but managed to gut out another sectional title and a return trip to Syracuse for a shot at the Class A title against North Rockland. The Raiders jumped out to a quick lead thanks to the running of Hinson and an opportunistic defense led by All-State defensive tackle Jamie Bloomquist. He would record 3 sacks that night with the last one cementing a 26-20 win and State Championship. This stopped North Rockland’s 30+ game winning streak. Hinson's banner season had him rushing for over 2200 yards while winning the Buffalo News, Connolly Cup and Co-State Player of the year while joining Bloomquist on the All-State First Team.
It was hard to imagine that Jamestown, winners of their last 22 out of 23 games could keep this momentum going, but with a very talented nucleus of players returning many felt another state title was possible. The 1995 team epitomized the word "team". Many feel this to be the greatest "team" ever to wear the red and green. They would not disappoint. Led by a talented backfield and smothering defense, the Raiders would cruise to another undefeated regular season and division title. Once the playoffs started, Jamestown turned up the heat recording 4 shutouts in the playoffs and another state title appearance. The Raiders would meet Shenendehowa, and after a slow start where they fell behind 3-0, they would answer with 26 unanswered points eventually winning the game 32-18 for its second consecutive Class A State Title and 26 game winning streak. The returning players were so determined that they wanted to repeat that they refuse to wear the State Championship rings until they won the state title as seniors. The Raiders would put 4 players on the All-State team that year with running back Joe MeCoy, linebacker Andy Benson and defensive linemen Aaron Barnett and Ryan Calkins winning those honors. Calkins is now currently one of the varsity assistants on the red raiders coaching staff.
The 90's would have no more return trips to Syracuse, but produce 27 more wins and another Rich Stadium appearance. The 2000 season was highlighted by one of the best players that Jamestown ever produced. Aaron Leeper was in his 4th year on the varsity team in 2000. He suffered injuries the previous two seasons limiting his yards from scrimmage, even though he rushed for over 1000 yards as junior. He was also the recipient of the defensive back of the year as a junior in WNY. Led by powerful fullback Sheldon Battle and lineman Shawn Williamson, Leeper would rush for 2276 yards and a state record 47 touchdowns. The Raiders explosive offense led them to a division and sectional title and another state title game. That game had the Raiders fall behind 7-0 at half. Huckno and his staff of Joe DiMaio, Tom Phillips and Dave Currie made some halftime adjustments to allow Leeper some room to run. He ran for 4 touchdowns and Jamestown scored 33 unanswered points, defeating New Rochelle 33-7 for their 3rd state title in 7 years. Leeper's amazing season saw him win the Buffalo News, Connolly Cup and State Player of the Year Awards. The Raiders scored an amazing 494 points that year, but not to be forgotten was a ballhawking defense led by Sheldon Battle's team record 19 sacks. He was the WNY Defensive Player of the Year and joined Leeper and Williamson on the All-State Team. This was Huckno's fourth undefeated team and 3rd state title.
Huckno would produce one more division title in 2002 and have the last of his many players selected to the All-State Team. Andy Sturzenbecker was selected as a tight end, concluding a fine career that saw him start at linebacker as a sophomore during the 2000 championship year. Huckno would retire at the end of the 2003 season with an amazing record of 159-47-1, along with long-time assistants Joe DiMaio and Tom Phillips. Currie stayed on to coach under Sam Restivo for an additional two seasons.
In 2008 Tom Langworthy was hired to take the helm as head coach. At the age of 27, Langworthy was the youngest head coach in JHS history. The Varsity Coaching Staff, consisting of Langworthy, Dave Munella, Ryan Calkins, Richie Joly, John O’Brien, Mike Baker, Arrick Davis and Aaron Erickson, have led the Red Raiders back to the top level of Section VI Football. In 2011 and 2012 Jamestown earned its way back into the NYS Top 25. In both seasons the Red Raiders were 8-2 and lost at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the Section VI Championship Game. In 2012 the Red Raiders won the Class AA South League Title. In 2013 The Red Raiders won the AA League Championship and Section VI Title. This marked the first season since 2000 that Jamestown won the Sectional Title. In 2013 Red Raiders explosive offense made waves across NYS, averaging over 50 points per game throughout the season. The Red Raiders scored the most points in one season in the history of the program, scoring 570 points in 11 games. Led by QB Jake Sisson, the Raiders went 10-1, eventually losing to Aquinas Institute in the Far West Regional Championship. Throughout the season Sisson crushed many records. Sisson broke the NYS Season record for passing in one season (3,178; second in NYS). Sisson also broke the record for most passing yards in a game with 508 yards again Kenmore West (tied for 4th in NYS). Sisson took advantage of a group of talented receivers including Zack Panebianco, Stephen Carlson, Brian Park, and Ben Larson. At season’s end, Sisson and Stephen Carlson were named First Team All State, while Panebianco was named Second Team All-State and Lineman Joe Mistretta was picked as a third-team all state selection. Sisson was named Buffalo News player of the Year and the winner of the Connolly Cup, which goes to the best football player in Western New York. Sisson was the fourth Connolly Cup Recipient in JHS History, joining Nate Davis, David Hinson, and Aaron Leeper.
2014 was another season for the ages as Jamestown returned to the top of NYS Football by winning the Class AA State Championship. Led by an outstanding group of seniors, which included Stephen Carlson, Zack Panebianco, Joe Mistretta, Damien Jackson, and Ben Larson, the Red Raiders went 12-1 and played their best at the most important time - the state playoffs. The Red Raiders were dominant on all sides of the ball in 2014, scoring an average of 35 points per game while only giving up an average of 10 points per game. In week 7, Jamestown won their third consecutive league championship by defeating Orchard Park at Strider Field 19-0. Three weeks later was the rematch with OP at “The Ralph.” The Red Raiders jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead in route to a 34-14 win that clinched their second consecutive sectional championship. In the state playoffs Jamestown defeated Victor 24-0, Henninger, 28-12, and Newburgh Free Academy 41-20 in the State Title Game at the Carrier Dome. Post-season awards were abundant for the Red Raiders. Stephen Carlson as named winner of the Connolly Cup for WNY’s top football player. With Jake Sisson winning the award in 2013, this marks the first time that the consecutive Connolly Cup Winners were from the same school. Joe Mistretta was the first JHS player to win the Trench Trophy as WNY’s best lineman. Along with Carlson and Mistretta, Panebianco, Jackson, and Nikk Holland were named First-Team All WNY and Carlson, Panebianco, Mistretta, and Holland were selected to the First-Team All State team. The Red Raiders ended their season ranked #1 in NYSPHSAA and #19 in the Northeastern United States.
The Red Raiders will continue their quest for another successful season when the off-season begins in January and when practice officially begins in August!
Jamestown has produced over 600 wins since it began playing football back in 1893. It is well known throughout Western New York and New York State for its powerhouse football teams.
To all former and current players:
Click on the link to read about the tragic on-field death of JHS Football Player George Edwin McClurg, which took place on October 25, 1902 on the Cricket Grounds on Chandler Street in Jamestown.
Thanks to Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame President, Randy Anderson, for the research and documentation regarding this tragic event.