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In 1935 Georgetown needed to schedule an opponent to play their inaugural game in their 32,000-seat Griffith Stadium. Georgetown had not lost a season opener since 1915 so an easy target was in order. It was no surprise that they looked north to Albright.
Historic photo of Albright vs. Widener
Albright College Special Collections
But, on October 5, 1935, the Lions got their revenge and beat the Hoyas 7-0 in front of a capacity crowd. Albright halfback Dick Riffle ’37 scored the only points of the game to add to his illustrious career at Albright.
It would be the last time the two teams would meet. The next day’s issue of the Reading Eagle reported, “The football team of Albright College is one of the greatest threats in its class.”
The 2007 season is the 100th season of play for the Lions and in those 100 seasons fans of Albright football have been treated to some exciting wins, heartbreaking losses and spectacular highlights like the Georgetown games.
The first game of record was played in 1892 against Reading High School. It can officially be said that Albright has never lost to a high school team - they did in fact beat the Red Knights. This game was the only game played by the Lions that season and it was not until 1900 that the team would again take the field for competition. No team was fielded in 1901 and play was dropped again from 1907-1911.
Records before 1912 are sketchy at best but the football program struggled in the early years. It wasn’t until the 1930s that Albright would get a taste of perfection. Coach Biggie Munn saw his 1935 and 1936 squads post only one loss each of those seasons, much to the credit of halfback Dick Riffle’37 who led a powerful running attack. When legendary coach Lone Star Dietz came to town in 1937 the Lions managed an undefeated season spoiled only by a scoreless tie to Ursinus.
The 1941 training camp, held outside of Myerstown, Pa., was forced to shut down after only a couple of days because of a polio outbreak in the nearby town. The team went 7-3 that year despite the interruption in preparation.
While football at Albright survived World War I the team was not as fortunate in 1942 when World War II broke out. Only two of the 30 players from the 1941 squad returned to campus that fall. The rest had been drafted. Coach Lone Star Dietz was able to fill a roster with volunteers; however, they too began being drafted throughout the season. The 1942 squad started out 3-0 but finished 4-5 as the number of players dwindled. No team was fielded from 1943-1945.
Albright vs. Franklin & Marshall (1960).
photo courtest of Photo courtesy Michael Varano ’61
Football returned in 1946 with the Lions getting shut out by Muhlenberg 39-0. Coach David Strong and his team went 1-7, beating only Juniata that season. It was also in 1946 that Albright began its affiliation with the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC), the predecessor to today’s Middle Atlantic States Collegiate Athletic Corporation (MASAC) of which Albright is still a member.
It is difficult to find an Albright football supporter who does not know the feats of the 1959 – 1961 squads. In week seven of the 1959 season, a 3-3 Albright squad beat Moravian 33-12 and the team never looked back. Lion Quarterback Gary Chapman ’62 led his team to victories in the final four games that year.
The 1960 squad has a list of triumphs to their credit including ending the 35 home-game win streak of Juniata College. On November 12, 1960, the Lions were winning 27-19 when fans from Albright paraded past the homeside bleachers with a sign reading “Another Streak Ended.” Shortly after, the Juniata faithful paraded past the Albright fans with the Pretzel Bowl sign which had disappeared from the front of Gene Shirk Stadium the previous year. No one knows if the sign was ever returned, but in 1960 the Lions achieved the perfect season winning all nine games. It was the first and only Albright team ever to go an entire season with no losses or ties.
The 1961 season started off exactly where the 1960 season had left off. By week three of the season Albright had won 17 games in a streak stretching back to that pivotal Moravian game in 1959. It was the nation’s second longest win streak at the time. Ironically, on October 28, Moravian College ended the Lions streak with an 8-8 tie; however, the Lions were still undefeated that season with a record of 7-0-1.
The 1970s brought victory to Reading with MAC Northern Divisional Championships in 1972, 1975, 1976 and 1977. These teams had a combined record of 31-7. In 1984 Head Coach John Potsklan retired after completing 30 seasons on the Lions sideline. Potsklan is regarded as one of the finest coaches ever associated with Albright. He holds the record for longest tenure as well as most coaching wins at the College with 144. And of course, he is also known for the“Potsklanisms” which alumni adore, such as“You either get beat or you lose.” After his departure from Albright, the team went 18-61 over the next eight years.
The 1995 season brought a renewed spirit to the Lions den, their first winning season in 12 years. In 1996 Ron Maier took over the reins for a single season as head coach but was able to lead Albright to its first NCAA Division III playoff victory, a 31-17 win over Washington and Jefferson. Coach E. J. Sandusky would begin his 10-year career at Albright in 1997 with a 9-1 season that included a win over Wesley in the ECAC conference championship.
Today, the 100th football season is under the leadership of Head Coach John Marzka, with the Lions at the top of their conference. Marzka, who is in his first year at Albright, has big plans for the team both on and off the field. “As I researched Albright College and its rich football tradition, I began to realize that this was the job I had been preparing myself for my entire career,” he says.
“I am looking forward to leading this football program back to the top of the MAC and into the national spotlight. “Most of all,” Marzka says, “I’m excited to have the chance to work with the young men in this program to help each one of them reach their full potential as people, students and athletes.”
Albright Football Facts
Overall record: 399-447-24 (1892-2006). Albright has a record of 4-3 against Schuylkill College, the institution that called Shirk Stadium home until the merger of Albright and Schuylkill in 1929. Most Played Opponents: Lebanon Valley College 53-30-3; Moravian College 35-24-1; Juniata College 33-22-1; Widener University (formerly Pennsylvania Military College) 14-39-0. Most Touchdowns: 1936 vs. Muhlenberg - 11. Most First Downs: 1932 vs. Widener - 33. Most Points: 1920 vs. Juniata - 77. Most Yards: 2003 vs. Juniata - 644. MAC Conference & Divisional Titles: 1959, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1996, 1997
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