The Granville gridiron warriors of yesteryear laughed, cried and embraced one another for the first time in decades at an informal reunion honoring the 1980-1981 football team.
Not being able to celebrate 40 years in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Granville American Legion hosted the Granville Golden Horde’s 1980 Class C Northern Division co-champions and 1981 Section II Division V champions on July 16. That year’s team had six Northern-Adirondack all-stars selected.
Former quarterback and defensive back Jeff MacEachron was heavily involved in the last-minute process of locating as many players as possible to reunite and reminisce for the evening, despite being “social media inept.”
“We were so lucky to grow up in Granville,” MacEachron said. “It’s just a bunch of guys trying to relive the glory days and see each other for the first time in a while… I’m embarrassed it’s taken this long to get back together!”
More importantly to the players and coach Mike Macura in the ‘80-’81 season was the first victory (17-0) over Whitehall since 1968. He said the approach to that game was the same as every other in the memorable season.
“Whitehall basically owned us for years,” Macura said. “All we did was go get ‘em!”
In one final motivational speech to his players, Macura let the 12 members able to make the event know that it was their determination to prevail that generated their success.
Macura also credited deceased co-coach Ken Burch for being a “master motivator” with his “extra sense” and for his influence on offense with the Wing-T formation while he ran a 5-4-2 defense that emphasized creating pressure on the quarterback.
“Every single day I think about that man (Burch), he had such an influence on my life and I miss him dearly,” Macura said. “But we knew how things were going to go because you guys made it. We just happened to be there and had the privilege of being able to coach you guys. You guys did it.
“It was between your ears and what you stood for, and your work ethic, and the drive that you had that you weren’t going to lose. Coach (Burch) and I would say to ourselves when we were at a game, ‘we are not leaving this field today losing. It’s not going to happen. Even if we have to play a double-header! If we have to play three games, we’re going to win it!’”
Macura’s coaching legacy extends 47 years and counting as he continues to be involved with wide receivers and defensive backs at Glens Falls High School after spending 10 seasons with defensive backs at Castleton University in Vermont.
The only true disappointment of the ‘80-’81 season was the dreaded coin-flip the Horde lost that sent Hoosick Falls to the Super Bowl, after Granville and the Panthers played each other to a 0-0 tie in the rain earlier in the season.
For the impact Macura left on them as young adults, the players pooled money together to send their coach to a resort at a destination of his choice for seven days with his wife.
MacEachron, a retired colonel in the Air Force, was grateful for the pride displayed by fellow classmates, teachers, staff and parents in the community. He said the next step for the proud members of the successful team is to give back to the next generation of athletes and support systems at Granville High School.
His vision is not formally established, but he would like to establish a “Granville Horde Foundation.”
“We’re going to get with the school and see what we can do to help,” MacEachron said.
A fellow colonel, but in the Army, who was able to make the gathering was defensive back Ned Fish. Fish highlighted the importance of the Granville-Whitehall rivalry, the losing streak being broken and learning how to be a part of a team.
“Growing up in Granville, you always dreamed of playing football for Granville,” Fish said. “This is the first time I’m seeing some of these guys in 40 years… I didn’t just play football with these guys, I grew up with them.”
Linebacker and tight end Bob Casey touched on how amazingly meaningful it was to be back with his old teammates. He recalled the 21-20 victory over Class B school Fonda-Fultonville, where Granville was viewed as significant underdogs.
Casey credited Burch and Macura’s coaching consistency for all four years of high school as a focal point of the team’s success.
“We all grew up playing for Coach Burch and Coach Macura from our freshman year all the way through our senior year,” he said.
The team chemistry of the championship team was brought up frequently during the reunion. Each member of the team had a nickname, with Casey’s being “Cobra.”
“They used to say, ‘Cobra, go kill the guy with the ball!’” Casey said.
“J.C.”, Casey Warren, was a captain of the ‘80-’81 squad and played every aspect of the game on the offensive line at right guard, on defense at inside linebacker and on special teams. He currently works in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for the U.S. Department of Defense after retiring from the Air Force.
Warren vividly remembers the day his coaches visited him at his summer job the summer of his senior year of high school asking him to switch from running back to offensive line.
“I just want to win,” Warren told his coaches. “If I had to live something over again, it would be with these guys playing football.”
On the other side of the ball, both Warren and Macura said the turning point of the 17-0 Granville victory over Whitehall came on a 4th-and-1 play when Warren delivered a devastating hit on Railroaders running back Paul Diekel to force a turnover on downs.
“Coaches like ‘Doc’ Macura, I would follow him through fire,” Warren said.
The night ended with stories being re-told, catching up between the long-lost brothers, and the hand-in-hand singing of Granville’s alma mater for one final victory.