Harry Williams formed the East Lynn Pop Warner.
By STEVE KRAUSE
Until 1965, aspiring football players from East Lynn had a disadvantage when compared to their West Lynn brothers-in-arms in that there wasn’t a Pop Warner program.
That meant that for anyone living on the other side of the official Washington Street dividing line, the extent of football experience was the schoolyard.
“I never played any organized football,” said Ray McDermott, who was later a quarterback and then head coach for St. Mary’s. “It was always at the park or in playgrounds. I’d played Little League and CYO basketball, but never football.”
That changed in 1965 when Harry Williams and a group of friends that included Pat Ryan formed the East Lynn Pop Warner.
“Harry was the mainstay,” Ryan said Sunday, remembering his friend who died two weeks ago. “West Lynn already had a team, and if I remember correctly, you had to be from West Lynn to play. Harry thought that East Lynn boys were ill-served (by comparison) so we went about forming the league. Harry did most of the work. He went out and obtained the franchise. At the time, we just had an A team and then a B team. Now there are all kinds of teams.”
“It got bigger than anyone could have imagined,” said McDermott, who recalls practicing that first year in a lot off to the side of the Meadows behind English where parents had to drive up and shine their headlights so the players could see.
“We had a couple of practices by headlights,” said McDermott.
Another player on that first team was Bob “Moona” Mullins, whose father, Bill, was one of the coaches.
“It was fantastic at the time,” said Mullins, one of the most sought-after high school basketball officials in the area. “There was never an East Lynn program before (Williams). There was nowhere for the youth in the city to play.
“(Pop Warner) came of age at the right time for us,” Mullins said. “Before that we’d always play down the park, two-handed touch, things like that, but we never had a place to learn how to play contact football the right way.”
And that, Ryan, was the greatest gift Pop Warner gave to kids like McDermott, Mullins and Clark Crowley, who were captains in their second year with the program, and all of whom ended up playing and coaching the sport (McDermott and Crowley as head coaches and Mullins as an assistant).
“We took the boys and molded them into a team,” Ryan said. “We had to find out who was suited to play in what positions, who could run the ball better, or who was a better blocker. We had to teach them how to tackle, and how to follow plays.
“(Williams) was good with boys,” said Ryan. “He had a good way about him, and he could draw the good things out of the boys.”
Of course, said McDermott, Williams was a semipro player and that didn’t hurt his credibility among the 11- and 12-year-old boys who played in those first two seasons.
“I remember finding that out very quickly,” said McDermott, “and we all thought that was special. I remember him being kind of an intense guy, but he was a good guy. He taught us football.
“And he must have taught us well,” McDermott added. “Two of us became head coaches and the other one was an assistant.”