Undefeated 1977 Football Team to Be Saluted on 25th Anniversary of WHS Hall of Fame

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(The Watertown High School Athletic Hall of Fame provided the following profile)

The WHS 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, we honor 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 Red Raiders were a powerhouse.

The offense averaged over 3 touchdowns a game, 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 2 shutouts, allowed 6 points on three occasions, and added a 7 spot and an 8 spot for good measure.

In the early part of the season they beat Melrose and Stoneham by 3, and by the end of the season they were rolling, outscoring their opponents 120-47 over the last 4 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, the Boston Globe Division 1 Coach of the Year, and the High School Football Coach of America.

During their Hall induction in 1992, Barbati called his history making team “tough, smart, and hungry.” For sure, there will be many other WHS teams inducted into the Hall in the next 25 years. The 2015 undefeated and un-scored upon field hockey team comes to mind. But for now, in our silver anniversary year, we salute the first, and for now, best team in school history.

Tickets are now available for the Watertown High School Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet to be held at the St. James Armenian Church Hall on Saturday October 21. For more info contact Mike Venezia at 617-359-2788, or mikevenezia@gmail.com

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