Before its first game of the 2021 season on Sept. 3, the Washington Township football team and the community welcomed back members of the 1970 team to commemorate the program’s first undefeated season.
Having allowed only 46 points en route to a perfect 9-0 record, the team stood alone for more than two decades before eventually being joined in the township’s record books by the 1992 squad. They remain as the only two teams to have experienced the thrill of an undefeated season in the program’s history.
The Sept. 3 celebration, originally scheduled for last season to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1970 team’s achievements before being postponed due to COVID, gave students and younger residents the opportunity to learn about one of the program’s greatest teams and enable its former players to reconnect and visit their old stomping grounds.
For some of the former players who’ve revisited from time to time, the field was a familiar sight, but for others, the fast pace of life made it difficult to go back to the site where they once played as Minutemen.
That made the recent celebration all the more important.
“I’ve been to hundreds of football games at this point as a coach, scout and teacher in other districts, but believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve been back to a Washington Township football game since I played here,” said Keith Fleming, who was a senior left tackle for the 1970 team. “And as I’d hoped, they’re doing pretty well tonight.”
The current Minutemen, as if to honor the program’s first undefeated squad on its special night, defeated Egg Harbor Township 46-14 to open up their 2021 season.
George Frank, a senior running back on the 1970 team, said while it was unfortunate the gathering had to be pushed back due to COVID, it was just as refreshing and joyful to once again see his former teammates and friends after many years.
“At this age, it’s good to just be able to see people again,” Frank said. “With just the way that life goes, it gets more difficult to see certain people, and this is a great way to make that happen again.”
Despite 51 years since the ‘70 team’s achievement, some of its members watching the game against Egg Harbor Township in a gated VIP section of the school track had the sense, as they walked onto the field, that not much had changed.
“What’s remarkable is what hasn’t changed, like the camaraderie and the school pride … We were beneficiaries then, and we still are, of an undeserving enthusiasm that football receives in our culture,” said Rob Furstoss, a junior fullback on the 1970 team.
“Being back here, we feel like buddies being all back together,” he added. “I haven’t been to any reunions in 30 years, but I’m surprised at how easily I can still recognize everybody.”
Carol DeLucas, wife of the 1970 team’s head coach Tony DeLucas, attended the Sept. 3 recognition in his honor; her husband died in December after battling cancer. According to Carol, he looked forward to the team’s reunion before its postponement last year, a fact that left many with heavy hearts during the current game.
“He would have loved to be here and was looking forward to it for quite a while,” she said. “But one of the most wonderful things about today has been talking with former players and hearing about how much they say he impacted their lives in so many different ways, and it’s been wonderful for my grandchildren to hear.
“Tony loved winning,” DeLucas added, “but he was much more interested in the type of young men these guys were and would become. So that’s been a pleasure to hear from them tonight.”