When considering how to begin recognizing legacy teams from Johnson City’s athletic history, it was challenging to select a first entrant. However, after looking for an example of dominance, all signs pointed to the JC football dynasty of the early 80’s.
The story of the football teams from the 1981 and 1982 seasons should start with a review of numbers that validate their supremacy in the annals of the Wildcat football program. These teams were both undefeated, posting 10-0 records during both seasons. Included in those 20 wins were two bowl game victories, including a 24-15 victory over Union-Endicott to close the 1982 season. This victory was especially memorable as it erased any doubt that the Wildcats winning streak was due to victories against smaller, inferior opponents. A closer look at the offensive numbers reveals some impressive statistics: they scored more than 40 points in 8 of those 20 consecutive wins, and they averaged over 32 points per game. Not to be outdone, the defensive numbers are equally notable. During the 1981 season, no opponent scored more than 14 points in a single game, and 8 of the 10 opponents scored fewer than 10 points.
The numbers certainly prove how successful these teams were, but they only tell part of the story. When asked to share their memories from these two seasons, Johnson City Athletic Hall of Fame members Mike Moran and Dick Dino (both members of JCHS Class of 1983) both explained how their memories begin with the impact made by the coaches they were lucky enough to have. Starting with head coach and fellow Hall of Famer Chuck Gottfried, the players recalled how football was coached in a way that much more was learned than just how to execute plays. Coach Gottfried, along with Coach Zur, Coach Berfield, Coach McDevitt, Coach Griffiths, Coach Bramante, and Coach Wheaton taught their players life lessons through the game of football. One example of this came from a memory of a tough game played in Corning. With five busloads of fans from Johnson City on hand to support the team, the team was confronted with an unfamiliar situation…they were struggling to move the football against the Corning West defense. After running the same play three consecutive times without success, everyone expected and called for a new approach, but Coach Gottfried believed that if the play were executed correctly by the players he believed in, it would eventually work. After the 11th straight time using that same play, the Wildcats went in for a touchdown. The lesson learned by the players was memorable: believe in yourself, work hard, and persevere no matter what challenge is faced.
Mr. Moran and Mr. Dino didn’t hesitate to explain that recalling statistics or individual games was difficult as 30+ years have passed, but the relationships they built with their teammates and the impact their coaches had on their lives are what matters most.
The Johnson City Athletic Hall of Fame is proud to welcome the 1981 and 1982 Wildcat football teams: two truly dominant squads who embraced the teaching of their coaches and realized success both on and off the field.