Thanksgiving Day Football - 2
Pete Zizka


My friend Mike Tirone guest wrote an article about Windham vs. Manchester Thanksgiving Day football games. Due to the article’s length, some parts were left out and so this week, we’ll take a look at what was omitted since the lists of names should evoke some great memories. In the 50's and the early 60's, some of the WHS football players were the Francis brothers, (Steve, and Richard) Johnny Wheaton, Lou Sorrochi, Tommy Kowalski, Bill Chowola, Bob Twerdy, George Williams, Jim McLaughlin, Mike Lombardo, Bill Schamback, Alan (spaceman) Ferrigno, Alexis Caisse, Wayne Maheu, Nick Moore, Richard Cormier, Mike Curran, Bob Muir, Bob Haynes, and many others, whose names I have forgotten. In the later 60's, players like Jim Nelson, Tim Hart, Walt Wanagel, Dave Geissler, and many others. My era 65-69, there were players like Robert Francis, the Hammon brothers, Bill, Marty, Jim, and Tom. Jack Noheimer, Doug Robinson, brothers, John, and Mike Green, Ed Ferrigno, Rich Duchesneau, Donald Pelc, Brian Vertefeuille, Art Smith, Pete Wielock, Johnn Kowalski, and others. Steve Marrotte, Eugene Wittenberg, Fred Mondino, Jeff Dente, and others too numerous to mention. During the undefeated1968 season ( during which WHS adopted the slogan “Farmer Power”), the only team that gave Windham a rough go, was a scrimmage that Windham had with state powerhouse, New London, during the summer. New London was far and away the best club in Connecticut that fall, and if it were not for the fact that New London had an open date, while a team from downstate, who was ranked #2 played, New London would have won the mythical State Championship. There were no state playoffs, and the New Haven Register made the choices of who was the top team, in the state, and teams from Eastern Connecticut were not given their due credit.” Windham finished the season 10-0 and was one of 6 teams honored by Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference the for a perfect season. In November, 1974, Chronicle sportswriter John Bozadjian wrote and article about the traditional Thanksgiving Day game and mentioned that, “almost every level of football has that one game each year that is THE game to the two respective teams playing….it makes or breaks the season regardless of titles or records. In 1974, Windham went into the Thanksgiving Day game 3-6 and Manchester 2-6.  

What was special about Bozadjian’s article was that he included quotes from the thirteen seniors who were coming to the end of their WHS football careers. They had suffered through a losing season and the Thanksgiving Day game wasn’t going to turn it around but it would still be a special day for them and they all spoke about what this traditional arch rivalry meant to them. Art Radcliffe (44), the team Captain, Said, “this is my last game and this season has been rough on all of us. A win would taste good. This game makes more difference to me than any other”. John Shea (81) said it was his last high school game and, “I’d like to win it. The season has been disappointing. We beat ourselves most of the time. I’d like to win without making any mistakes”. Steve LaFlamme (83) Was very emphatic and, with a stern look, said, “To prove ourselves as a team we have to win this game”. Mark Phelps (51) was hopeful and said that since it was the end of his high school football career, ”It means a lot to me to win. I’d like to top off the season with a good game. I just hope we win”.  Mike Naumec (86) and Dave Shepaum (26) both said that the game had special meaning to them and that they felt that they would “put a little extra into this one”.  Nate Schilberg (32) said that, “a win would be great. It would give us some respect from our fans and opponents. It’s been a disappointing year and I think the fans thought we’d do better. Dave Walencewicz (31) said he hoped, “we can put it all together and play a game we can be proud of”.  Other seniors on the team were Marty Graham (80), Tom Keegan (64),Andy Urban (72),Steve Sanborn (65). I received a note from Mark Phelps who was one of the seniors. He said it was a “memorable game” and that Windham won the 1974 Thanksgiving Day game….for the first time in four years. Visit “” for more photos and articles and to discover more facts about Willimantic, Windham and surrounding towns



Other seniors on the team were Marty Graham (80), Tom Keegan (64),Andy Urban (72),Steve Sanborn (65). I received a note from Mark Phelps who was one of the seniors. He said, it snowed a couple of days before the game and I think they had to plow the field so we could play.  He also said It was a “memorable game” and that Windham won the 1974 Thanksgiving Day game….for the first time in four years.

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