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Summer 2015




in that first season, being declared county champions

by the Kutztown Patriot after a 10-4 win over Reading

High School late in the year. Wins were also turned in

against Pottstown (twice), Allentown and Hockendauqua.

By the early 1900s, familiar colleges began to pop up on

the schedule.Today’s traditional conference opponents –

Millersville and East Stroudsburg – were on the schedule

as far back as 1903 and 1904, respectively.

The late Lee Graver, former Kutztown professor and

author of

Beacon on the Hill,

published for Kutztown’s

centennial in 1966, notes “apparently there was general

agreement on the value of football as a school activity”

in the early days.

Strict travel rules, limited funding and

informal coaching at irregular times were

major hurdles, before the school’s first

full-time coach, George B. Ely, was hired

in 1905. Ely, who was a standout player

and coach for all Keystone men’s teams,

led football to a 6-3 record in his first season.

The momentum Ely established was

short-lived. Football was dropped by

Keystone prior to the 1906 season after

two players suffered life-threatening

injuries the previous year.The injury issue

was part of a larger national dilemma, as

74 football players died from in-game

injuries between 1900 and 1905.

Graver writes,“Dr.Amos C.Rothermel

(Keystone principal) was warned that

the dropping of football would result in a decreased

enrollment, but in spite of vigorous protest, he made the

decision stick. Football remained outlawed as a ‘brutal

jungle sport’ until 1923.”

While Graver’s words may be a bit exaggerated,

the rules and equipment of the time did not lend

themselves to the safety of the players.The preferred

formation of the day was the flying wedge, in which the

ball carrier would be surrounded by his teammates in

a triangular formation.The wedge would try to grind

the offense down the field, colliding with the defensive

players, who would often try to “pile on.”

Major rule changes to open up the game and protect the

players would be enforced long before the Normal school

would again field a team in 1923. In the meantime, baseball,

the school’s oldest sport, and men’s basketball, established in

1902, would serve as an outlet for the campus community.

The second era of Kutztown football began when the

program was reinstated in 1923. Under captain Harold

Runyeon, Keystone finished 5-3 that year against mostly

high school and club teams. After not fielding a program

in 1926, the following decade and a half would include a

name transition from Keystone to Kutztown State Teachers

College in 1928, and a full schedule against college op-

ponents, including many of today’s Pennsylvania State

Athletic Conference (PSAC) rivals.

Kutztown posted five winning seasons on the gridiron

during that time, highlighted by four straight under

coach Jim McGovern from

1936 through 1939.The newly

tabbed, depression-era “Golden

Avalanche” were led by the

program’s first true superstar,

Fiorindo “Beauty”DeMatteo.

Kutztown’s initial first team

Associated Press Little All-

American, DeMatteo passed,

ran, punted and kicked while

leading his teams to a 16-8-4

record during his tenure. Kutztown also began to play

in a new stadium in 1936, when University Field was


As was the case with many college programs, KSTC

football was put on hiatus from 1943–45 as many of the

Kutztown men proudly served their country during World

War II. A year after play began again, coach Joe Patton

was selected to lead the Golden Avalanche program.

From 1947–59, Patton would post the program’s best

winning percentage of the century, leading his teams to

four winning seasons.The most notable player during the

Patton-era was running back Gene Blue, who

finished as the school’s all-time leading

rusher. Blue was also honored all

four years by the newly formed


A dual name change to

the Kutztown State Col-

lege Golden Bears would

launch the coach Bud

Heilman era in 1960.

Conference win-loss

records also appeared

that year for the first

time. Heilman posted

winning seasons in 1962

and 1964 before being suc-

ceeded by Bob Kinderman in

Above: The 1900 Team

Players hoist the

PSAC Conference

Championship trophy

in 2011