The Watertown High Athletic Hall of Fame has inducted many successful teams in the last 25 years. But, in the opinion of many, one stands above the rest.
The 1977 football team finished 10-0 and currently has three of its players in the Hall. So on this, the 25th anniversary of the first class inducted, the Hall honors legendary Hall of Fame Coach John Barbati’s Middlesex League champions, the only undefeated gridiron team in the history of the school.
Led by senior captains Bobby Kelland, Sparky Lyle and Albie Mandafino, they were supposed to win, and they did, and that was not an easy thing to do in the competitive Middlesex League. Barbati’s offenses were not diverse by today’s standards. He loved to pound the ball again and again.
And that’s what this team did so well. Behind the massive line anchored by Billy Rimsa, Chuck Shutt, John Strayhorn and Rick Wade, the Raiders were a powerhouse with the team outscoring its opponents, 222-73.
If it wasn’t Lyle’s shiftiness, it was Tom Tracy’s explosiveness. If it wasn’t Tracy, it was Keith Cooper’s and Paul Wright’s speed to the outside.
If he needed more power, Barbati called on Al DiPiet’s dominance up the middle. In the rare instance when he needed to go through the air, Pat Barry’s arm was efficient and accurate.
And if he needed a field goal, Mark Pappas got the call.
On the defensive side of the ball, Barbati’s boys were massive and dominant and led by seniors Chris Berardi, Steve Demers, Mike Fucci, Steve O’Loughlin, Warren Tolman and Paul Long. They put up two shutouts, allowed six points on three occasions, and added a seven spot and an eight spot for good measure.
In the early part of the season they beat Melrose and Stoneham by three, and by the end of the season they were rolling, outscoring their opponents 120-47 over the last four games, including a 27-12 drubbing of Belmont.
For their efforts, Mandrafino, Lyle, Kelland, Strayhorn, Wade, Rimsa, Tracy and Shutt were all named League All-Stars. In addition, Mandrafino and Tracy were awarded All-Scholastic honors, and Tracy was placed on the All-Eastern Massachusetts team.
Coach Barbati was honored with several awards, including the Sons of Italy Coach of the Year.
During his Hall induction in 1992, Barbati called his history-making team “tough, smart, and hungry.”
In its silver anniversary year, the Watertown Hall of Fame salutes the first team inductee, and one of the best teams overall, in school history.