The way we were: '63 Freeport football team remembered
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Another reason for the team’s success was “Coach Ashley. He had the great ability of putting players in positions where they were successful,” said Mr. Martin. “He saw the talent level and knew how to develop it.”
Coach Ashley’s record, while at Freeport, was 124 victories, 37 defeats and five ties. He was Newsday’s Coach of the Year twice, and is still the 13th winningest coach in Nassau football history.
The following year Coach Ashley retired. He died in 2004.
After graduation the boys from Freeport High School’s dream team of 1963 scattered. “Some of us went to college and then in the service; others went right into the service,” said Mr. Martin, referring to the draft that took our young men to Vietnam in the 1960s and early 19070s. Mr. Martin was in the Navy and on active duty in 1966. “For my generation, it was our modus operandi; we went and served, came back and settled somewhere, got married and we lived our lives. We lost touch, for a while.”
When Tom Bird, now in California, reached out to his former teammates to hold a reunion, Mr Martin was happy to help out. “I’m the Freeport connection,” he laughed.
In addition to the Red Devils 1963 football team, “we’ve been inviting Coach Ashley’s former players from the 1950s and 1960s to honor him,” said Mr. Martin.
At press time the following alumni were slated to attend the reunion. They are Tom Bird, Guy Riccardi, Steven Beneville, Tom Henry, Denis Berg, Ron Rizzo, John Liebler, Mike Pellicio, Ed Martin, Gary Pappas, Joe Tuitt, Bobby Allen, Marshall Glenz, Howard Jacobson, Wayne Ruben, Jim Wehrum, Harold Nelson, Orlando Alyston, and John Deas.
There will be a dinner Friday evening and a tailgate party at Freeport High School on Saturday and then on to the main event – the football game. “This was the best league and we were the best team that year,” said Mr. Martin. “But it all comes down to the guys – a great bunch of guys.”
Editor’s note: A special thanks to Regina Feeney for her assistance in providing research material for this story.