RAM FOOTBALL, 50 YEARS OF TRADITION AND EXCELLENCE
"The tradition of excellence, then, now and forever"
In the fall of 1956, Richland High School opened its doors to the freshman and sophomores of Richland and Pine Townships earmarking the official beginning of what is now the Pine-Richland School District. Prior, students from the two townships were required to attend the Mars School District. In the beginning, it was decided to only allow freshman and sophomores to attend the new building while the juniors and seniors finished out their careers at Mars. Therefore, on there wasn't a graduating class until the spring of 1958.
Richland's first head football coach, Mickey Puskar, was trying to field a varsity football team comprised of all underclassmen. Coach Puskar, who was also the Principal of the building, welcomed twenty-six eager youngsters, with very little if any experience, on the opening day of practice. The first varsity football game played by the Rams was against another new district, South Butler, which is now known as the Knoch School District. Since neither team had a home field to play on it was agreed that the game would be held at the Hampton football field. On the very first play from scrimmage left halfback Bill Dayton ran a "left 25 dive" for an 80-yard touchdown run. No more scoring was done the rest of the day and Richland had its first and last football win in the 1956 season. Assisting Coach Puskar that year were Dick Dilts and Em Girdwood, both of whom would play a role in the early development of Ram Football.
Citing a conflict of interest, Coach Puskar, resigned from his coaching post after having accumulated a won/lost record of 7 wins and 16 losses. Assistant coach Dick Dilts took over the fledgling program in the spring of 1959 and proceeded to bring respect immediately by going 8 and 2 in his inaugural year. Coach Dilts coached for three years at the Richland going 19 and 9 in that span of time. He left Richland to coach at Kiski Area and went on to become the all-time most winning coach in their history.
Almyer "Em" Girdwood took over the Ram football fortunes in 1962 and coached for two years. He then turned the program over to a young coach by the name of Eugene Sullivan who played his college ball at the University of Maryland and was an assistant coach in the Bellevue School District. Coach Sullivan got off to a very rocky start going 0 and 18 before his first win.
During Gene Sullivan's tenure, the Ram Football Program not only won more than they lost but they went undefeated two years in a row and captured the elusive WPIAL championship in both of these years. This Rams team, led by a young and aggressive head coach, was a team to be respected and admired as they won game after game in the mid-'60s. Under Gene Sullivan, the Rams won 84 games in his 12-year tenure were undefeated twice and had four seasons with 9 wins. In the spring of 1976, Coach Sullivan left Richland to become the head football coach at Geneva College.
New head coach, John Seftas, a longtime assistant under Sullivan. Coach Seftas spent 5 years as the head coach of the Ram program accumulating 22 wins over the course of his stay.
Bill Riley took the Ram program over in 1981 and spent three years at the helm before resigning and turning the team over to Tim O'Malley.
Tim O'Malley, who is the current director of the WPIAL, spent one year with the Ram program winning 7 games before moving on to coach at Hopewell High School.
Following Coach O'Malley was Frank Rocco, a Penn State and New England Patriot quarterback who was testing the waters as a young head coach. Coach Rocco was at the helm one year before he left for the Highlands School District to become the head football coach/ athletic director.
In 1986 Hank Marzialle became the 8th head coach in the young history of Ram Football. Coach Marzialle had been an assistant coach under Jack McCurry at North Hills High School, a long time perennial winner in the WPIAL. Coach Marzialle spent 8 years as the Rams head coach winning the section title in 1988.
The newly named Pine-Richland School District announced John Haddad as its new head coach in the spring of 1994. Coach Haddad came from the Northgate School District and eagerly began instilling a "hard work ethic" into the Ram program. Under his direction, a 7th and 8th-grade team was formed to help channel young talent into the varsity program. Coach Haddad spent three years as head coach before resigning from his position.
Clair Altemus was named the new coach of the Rams program in the spring of 1997. Altemus came to the district after having coaching stops at North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, and Grove City. Under his direction, the Ram football program has grown to include over 240 boys, 6 levels of competition, and a new state of the art stadium.
The Rams have won six section championships, played in two WPIAL title games, winning it all in 2003, and played in the PIAA State Championship. Altemus begins his 10th year at Pine-Richland placing him second only to Coach Sullivan, as the longest-tenured coach in the school's history. His 69 wins are second only to legendary coach Gene Sullivan's 84 wins. The future looks bring for Pine-Richland football as they celebrate their "Golden Anniversary" in grand style. "The Tradition of Excellence, then, now and forever" hopefully will be carried on for decades by the dedicated legions of young Ram football players who aspire to wear the green and white.