Alumni in attendance rekindle East York tradition

When Ken Hills played football at East York Collegiate in the 1950’s, the program was at the height of its success.

A dynasty began with a team so good it was given its nickname.

“There were football teams at East York before 1949,” said Hills.  “But the press called the 1949-50 teams the Goliaths because they were so big and that’s where the name originated.”

The Goliaths went on an unprecedented 47 game win-streak beginning in 1949 and they were as popular as they were good.

“The games were on the radio, on CKEY,” said the former right guard/linebacker.  “So that team became the centre of attention in the East York community.

“They never lost a game and they set a standard for the teams that followed.  Not only were they good players, but they were good people and we’ve always looked up to them.”

East York was so good that a long-standing tradition was born.  The team would play every Friday night under the lights against teams from Toronto and as far away as Peterborough.

On Friday, Oct. 1, members of those successful squads came together for an alumni event that lasted three days beginning with a reunion at the school.

“[Football] was a very big part of my life,” said Jaydee Davidson, a former offensive end on the 1949-50 team.  “I enjoyed it very much.  It shaped who I was and it made me understand confrontation and the physical aspects of the game.  I enjoyed the camaraderie of the guys and I enjoyed enhancing the reputation of the school.”

The proud tradition of Goliaths football lasted many years, but for a variety of reasons it began to wane and the program was finally disbanded in 1995.

“It was a sign of the times,” said former head coach Frank Szewczyk.  “School demographics had changed, kids coming in didn’t have an appeal or an interest in football and it became a little more difficult getting them out to play.”

Szewczyk, who coached the team for nearly 30 years dating back to 1967, understands the importance of re-kindling a connection between the multiple generations who have graced the Goliaths’ uniform.  He also gives credit to the next generation of football coaches, who made significant fundraising contributions to resurrect the team in 2002.

Mike Perovic is looked upon as the saviour on the sidelines by the long-time coach.

“The revival of the program through his work brought it back to where it is today,” said Szewczyk.  “It was through his efforts with the golf tournament he ran that [the team] got these new uniforms and other aspects of the physical education program have improved.”

Perovic, head of the Athletic Department, is an East York alumnus himself and he largely spearheaded the football revolution that saw the rebirth of the program.  Yet, he is quick to acknowledge the contributions of others.

“We’ve had great community support,” he said.  “The alumni have given their time, money and encouragement.  People keep helping out, that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Although he passes on some of the credit, Perovic has had a large hand in initiating a six-year fundraising project that culminated in $100,000 being raised for the school’s athletics.

The charity golf tournaments he ran were crucial to the revitalization of the football program. But, the golf is only part of it. Hills, who is head of the alumni association, helped develop a scholarship that connects former coaches Harry Hall, Bruce Miller and Mr. Hager to the current student body.

The Hager-Hall-Miller Scholarship donates between $10,000 to $15,000 per year to two girls and two boys deemed to have made outstanding contributions to the school.  Leadership is also a core component in any recipient of the award.

“We also give money to the valedictorian of the school,” said Hills.  “We quietly fund other student leadership activities that the school sometimes needs support in.”

Guidance and support were an important aspect of the alumni event, where the glory days of the old school Goliaths were connected, for the first time, with the current football team.

Warren Kazor, an offensive tackle with the 1954-55 squad, envisions a bonding experience resulting from the weekend’s festivities.

“We’re hoping that we provide a little inspiration [for the young guys],” said Kazor, who drove in from New Brunswick for the event.  “Hopefully these guys see that there is a past, and a tradition and there was a tradition when I played ball here too.”

Popularity may be on the rise again.  East York is starting to bring back the tradition it once held so dearly, as the sixth annual Friday Night Lights football game was played on Oct. 8.