Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame,
Wake up the echoes cheering her name,
Send a volley cheer on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky!
What though the odds be great or small,
Old Notre Dame will win over all,
While her loyal sons are marching
Onward to victory!
Chorus from the University of Notre Dame Victory March
This is the year, finally, that University of Notre Dame football is going to get back on track. Yeah, yeah, I know, the ND faithful — of which I am one — have been saying this for a while now.
And during this long time in the collegiate football desert the Irish have given us some good starts — and then fell apart. But this year is going to different. Really.
It was a big win for No. 20 ND on Saturday night in East Lansing over the No. 10 Michigan State University Spartans.
With its 20-3 victory over Michigan State, ND beat a top 10 team for the first time since 2005 and snapped a six game losing streak against ranked opponents.
(And, you Easton people who have been here for a while, and who follow college football, may have become aware of Michigan State’s standout junior linebacker, Max Bullough. He is the son of Shane Bullough and grandson of Hank Bullough, both star football players for the Spartans. Max’s uncle, Chuck Bullough, himself had great career for MSU, and played in the pros. The Bulloughs lived on Baltic Avenue in Easton in the 1970s when Hank Bullough was a defensive coach for the New England Patriots. Truth be told, I wasn’t aware of the third generation of Bulloughs playing at MSU until Gatehouse Media award winning sportswriter, John Quattrucci, an Oliver Ames High School grad, posted it on Facebook during a televised MSU game last season.)
I grew up following and rooting for Notre Dame football.
Easton has strong ties to Notre Dame and the Fighting Irish. Stonehill College, of course, is the sister school of the University of Notre Dame; both schools are Catholic and founded by the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
Because of the close relationship of the schools, many Notre Dame undergrads and grads spend time in Easton.
My dad graduated from Notre Dame, where he co-captained the track and field team. My father was a roomate of Bob Williams, the ND starting quarterback. Three of the four years my father was at ND, the football team finished undefeated.
My dad would go on to coach football at Oliver Ames High School. He also ran summer athletic camps at Stonehill College, including a football camp where some of the top collegiate football coaches in America worked, among them those who were on the ND coaching staffs when they won national championships in 1973 and 1977.
For example, five of the ND coaches on the 1973 championship squad worked at the camp.
I have many fond memories of that camp.
There is an old newspaper photo out there somewhere (I think it was an Enterprise photo) that shows me at either six or seven years old, sitting on a table at the 400 Restaurant and putting a finger to my mouth, feigning interest and making a questioning pose, and looking at a blackboard on which football plays were diagrammed in chalk. Standing next to me and pointing at the board — as if to be describing the play — is Notre Dame offensive coordinator and backfield coach Tom Pagna.
Yes, the photo was staged.
One of Notre Dame’s greatest players, Ken MacAfee Jr., All American tight end for the 1977 national championship squad, lived briefly in Easton as a young boy, before the MacAfee family moved to Brockton. His father, Ken MacAfee Sr., was an all-around star athlete at OA (Class of '48), and went on to play football at Alabama — and following service in the U.S. Marine Corps — in the NFL, for the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins. Ken MacAfee Sr. is widely credited as being the first tight end in the NFL.
Ken MacAfee’s younger sister, Martha (OA ‘51), also excelled in athletics in high school, and, like her brother, is in the OAHS Athletic Hall of Fame. Most people in Easton know the former Martha MacAfee as Martha Gomes. Martha was married for 47 years to Al Gomes, a civic fixture in Easton, who passed away in 2001. Martha and Al had eight children, all OA grads.
I have seen only one ND game at Notre Dame Stadium. It was a great, great experience. It was the 1987 edition of the series between ND and my alma mater, Boston College, which is called the “Holy War.”
I drove out with two ladies from Easton — Marilyn Cooke and Karen Friesen — who who were a few years younger than me, and who had recently graduated from OA. Karen was going out at the time with Brian Fitzgerald, an Easton kid who was attending ND.
We started out on Friday afternoon — and about 15 hours later, we arrived at the ND campus and I saw the Golden Dome in person for the first time.
Soon after getting to the campus, I went over to wake up Ed Marcheselli (OA ‘84), a junior at ND, and announce I had arrived.
Ed’s mom and dad had come out for the game from Easton, and had rented an RV, and put on a great tailgate spread in the parking lot before and after the contest. Father Murphy, a priest at Holy Cross Church in South Easton, and an ND man, stopped by.
It was good one — the game — with my BC Eagles putting ND on the ropes, but the Irish came back and won, 32-25.
I was at the inaugural game of the Holy War which was nationally televised and played on Monday night, Sept. 15, 1975 at Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro. BC was more competitive against the Irish than many thought it would be — but the Eagles lost 17-3.
While ND was in town of the game, the team’s offensive coordinator, Joe Yonto, a good friend of my dad’s, had dinner at our house on Andrews Street. My dad also managed to corral Coach Yonto into being the featured guest while he was here at a "time" my father put on at the Knights of Columbus on Foundry Street.
If I remember correctly, Coach Yonto got the crowd laughing that night when he proclaimed that the event was the “first and last meeting of the Notre Dame Club of Easton.”
Two seasons later, when I was a freshman in high school — and an unremarkable wide receiver for an OA frosh team that won only a single game — I saw ND play Army at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. This was a Fighting Irish team that won a national title.
ND versus Army in football is an American institution.
My mom and my dad, my sister, myself, and my good buddy, John McEvoy, made the trip. John’s father, Leo McEvoy (OA ‘52), a member of the OAHS Athletic Hall of Fame, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy where he was a starting catcher for the Army baseball team.
The Fighting Irish won that afternoon, 24-0, and kept its championship hopes alive.
Gotta love Notre Dame football.
I could go on and on.
But let’s just say this — this is the year that ND is back.