By Carter Krouse
Some impressive football dynasties have reigned at both Swarthmore and Strath Haven high schools through the years. With the 2016 Strath Haven football team facing a true test of its early promise against Central League rival Ridley tonight (Friday, September 16), let’s look back at squads of a different era, in the hopes of inspiring similar heroics in today’s team.
The football teams at Swarthmore High School from 1946-1950 were some of the most dominant teams ever in Delaware County. During that span, the team won 28 games in a row, shutting out 19 of its opponents, while outscoring the competition 602-54. The football team provided a sense of community on Friday afternoons, as virtually everyone in Swarthmore would turn out to watch the team play its home games on the Rutgers Avenue field (behind the current location of CADES).
In 1949, Swarthmore High School was unanimously named the Philadelphia Suburban area and Delaware County champions. A member of the 1949 team, Paul Tarr, recently reflected on the squad and its style of play. Swarthmore was a small high school, and the team back in 1949 had 35 players — much smaller than many high school squads then and now. Many of these Swarthmoreans went on to play for their college teams. Tarr stated that the team was “a run-oriented team that loved to plow down the field. The high school game today is a lot faster.”
Tarr remembers his time as a member of that team not only because of its historical significance, but also for the relationships that continue to connect the players. Among 42 people from the Swarthmore High School class of 1949 who remain in contact, Tarr has his own group of six guys who meet every three months for lunch. Conversation often involves golf, but always turns to memories of the teams from the 1940s and 1950s.
The coaches that led the team so successfully were Millard P. Robinson and Henry Hoffman. Coach Robinson, a graduate of West Chester University, also taught and served as athletic director at Swarthmore High School. During his 25-year reign as head coach, which included the years 1954-1956, he led the team to 26 consecutive wins. He also accumulated eight titles and finished with a record of 173-80-8.
These 1940s-1950s teams remain as two of the best ever, not just at Swarthmore/Strath Haven, but in the entire Philadelphia/Delaware County area.
More recently, Strath Haven had a very successful stretch of seasons during the late 1990s and early 2000s, winning consecutive state championships in 1999 and 2000. During that time, led by coaches Kevin Clancy and Jim Connor on the sidelines, and future NFL player Mark Jones at wide receiver and defensive back, the Panthers went to four straight PIAA Division III title games from 1999-2002.
In 2002, Strath Haven won the District I Class AAA championship and its seventh straight Central League title. The team also carried a 57-game Central League winning streak into the 2003 season, with a team that featured future Penn State All-American and NFL player Dan Connor at fullback and linebacker. In some ways the teams during this time were the most successful ever at Strath Haven or its predecessor schools.
The tradition of powerhouses at Strath Haven — which has an aggregate football record of 264-115 since opening in 1983 — has fans hungry for another winning team. Current head coach Kevin Clancy believes that, “Football is continuing to grow in our communities,” which “is starting to help us at the varsity level. The Strath Haven program is moving in the right direction.”
It looks as though a new dynasty could be in the making.