50-year football alumni reunite at Homecoming
In 1965, before an era of technical procedures and well-thought out plays, a very dedicated football team at Grayslake Central, coached by William C. Eiserman, won the Northwest Suburban Conference championship.
Now 50 years later, 15 members of the most successful football team in GCHS history reunited for the 2015 Homecoming game, including Eiserman, for a unforgettable experience.
If the name does not ring a bell, just look up at the press box. Eiserman has been a heavy donor to Grayslake Community High School athletics and is thought to be one of the most influential coaches on the history of GCHS. He still resides on the same farm in Lindenhurst, and coached his teams to four conference championships.
“It took dedication,” Eiserman said. “They wanted to be a part of something big, so they did the greatest effort they could to be involved with the team.”
One example of the team’s dedication was co-captain Pat Brady, who needed to live in his mother’s house to be able to go to GCHS because of his father residing in the Warren Township High School District. Brady didn’t approve of his mother’s treatment towards him, so he spent every night sleeping in his car outside of her apartment because he was determined to be a Ram.
“We were a team that nobody expected too much from, 2–5 as juniors,” co-captain Rich Varner said. “[Eiserman] taught us the importance of being ready. If we had anything amongst ourselves we were able to synchronize our wills. We always asked ourselves before every game if we were ready to go out and meet the challenge. Fortunately we were, and a lot of that came from the philosophy of coach Eiserman.”
The 1965 team in particular has been the only team since to go undefeated, in Eiserman’s time, 8–0. Later, as IHSA rules expanded and GCHS entered the Fox Valley Conference, the season extended to nine games, and there was a four round playoff for the State Championship.
“I often wonder, and speculate, how far this team could’ve gone if there were playoffs at the time,” Eiserman said. “They had super leadership, great captains, they made the game fun.”
The team only gave up five touch downs through the season, four of which were scored in the last five minutes of the game, where at that point, the game was in their control.
“We had two-a-day practices before the school year started, and unlike today’s practices, we were not given water or replenishments,” fullback Jim Spychela said. “I would come to the night practice with excruciating headaches because we didn’t know to be hydrated.”
The team’s success was a clear result of their dedication outside of practices. According to Spychela, on Saturday afternoons, the team had walkthroughs and personal improvement drills. On Sundays, the usual off day, they played pickup games of touch football.
“Offenses and defenses are much more complicated than they were when we played,” Spychela said. “It was pretty much mono on mono, you go knock that guy on his butt. Make a hole for him, run right down the middle and make a short pass. Three yards and a cloud of dust.”
The reunion was made possible because of a simple Facebook post made by current head football coach Jason Schaal that got a response from one contact who was able to reach out to several more. Eiserman, a contact to GCHS, helped as well and was able to bring players as far away as Western Oregon.
“I had the opportunity to talk to each of them on the phone, and all I had to say was tell me a little about the 1965 season, and they all perk up right away. It shows what sports can do,” Schaal said. “They had a successful season, but when you start to talk about teammates, it’s a whole other ballgame.”
With the entering of the Northern Lake County Conference for the 2016–2017 season, the Rams will play similar teams as in the NWSC. Eiserman received word of the change and was very excited to see how the team will do.
Originally published in the Grayslake Central Rampage.