A WINNING TRADITION
(Written by Robert Michler -- 1994) (Updates by Matt Baltz)
Football had been played in the United States for about three decades when it was introduced at Easton High School in the lat 1890's. In the fall of 1894, members of the senior class played in two games. The first recognized contest was against Phillipsburg and resulted in a 26-0 Easton victory. Thus, a tradition of football excellence. Now, nine hundred and thirty-five games later (Now over 1,000), we are embarking on the 100th year (1994) of this gridiron odyssey. Red Rover teams have won 66% of their games (Over 700 games total). Over the years, thousands have been directly part of this legacy as players, coaches, and support people; many more have encouraged them from the sidelines and stands as cheerleaders, band members, and fans. All have helped perpetuate the heritage that is Easton football. Certainly many things have changed in 100 years time. For example, the nickname for Easton teams since 1934 has been the Red Rovers, but in former years, the teams were called the Red and White, the Red Tornado, the Red Robins, and the Red Eagles. Today's home games are played at Cottingham Stadium. However, early teams rented various area fields, then used March Field on the Lafayette Campus and the Twelfth Street Field near the site of the present stadium. After construction, Cottingham Stadium was first used in 1925. Easton fans sat in the south stands until 1930 when the north stands were completed. Since then the home fans have always occupied the north stands. Lights were not added until 1953. Red, white, and black have been the predominant colors in Easton uniforms. Red usually has been the basic color with white and black trim. But at times, both white and black have been the basic uniform colors of choice. Blue has also been a color used in the trim. In the attempt to superficially chronicle Easton football, the years can be conveniently divided into coaching eras.
The Early Years 1894-1911
During the early years of football at Easton High School, there was very little continuity as coaches constantly changed and opponents were different from year to year. Not until 1900 were all the players representing Easton actually students at the school. Also, the costs of games and uniforms were borne by the student-run Athletic Association, with the help of businesses. Al Sigman was the head coach that first season in 1894. When there was a head coach, he served only for a year or two. In other years, the team captain was most likely the head coach. One constant figure on the football scene was H. Oscar Meeker, who has been referred to as the "Father of Football at Easton High School" by writers of that time. Because many high schools had not formed football teams, very diverse opponents found their way onto the schedule. Easton played such teams as the Lehigh Valley Railroad Clerks, Pen Argyl Athletic Club, Perkiomen Seminary, National Farm School, and Bordentown Military Institute. Contests against Moravian College, Muhlenberg College, and freshmen and sophomore teams from Lafayette College were also held.
The James B. "Pat" Reilly Era 1912-1930
Reilly played football at Easton from 1908-1910, was assistant coach during the 1911 season, and in 1912, at the age of 20, became head coach. As head coach, he became a legend, serving until he resigned in a deference to a P.I.A.A. ruling that forbid anyone other than a teacher from serving as a coach in Pennsylvania after 1930. Reilly did not coach in 1918 because of World War I. During Reilly's Tenure, his teams were 129-21-10, winning an astounding 81% of their games. Four of his teams (1917,1919,1923,1925) were undefeated and untied, while four more (1914,1915,1922,1924) were undefeated but had at least one tie. Easton played 24 consecutive games without losing from 1921-1926. The "Golden Era" lasted from the beginning of the 1921 season through the second game of the 1926 campaign. During this span, Easton lost only one of 45 games. The Red and White also staked its claim the the State Championship in 1917 and 1924. In his last years, Reilly took on two men as trainers, Clifford "Babe" Michler in 1928 and Elwood "Gouge" Andrews in 1930. They would serve in that capacity through 1974. John Kressler, a former Easton player and assistant coach, became head coach when Reilly resigned in 1931 and continued through the 1934 season. Easton football experienced a downturn, winning only 10 of 37 games.
The Elmer Carroll Era 1935-1946
Elmer Carroll came from western Pennsylvania with a mandate to set football in Easton back on the right track. His teams were up to the task, sporting a 20-5-2 record in his first three years. Overall teams of this period were 74-32-8, winning 65% of their games. They were known for their outstanding defense. Only during the 1946 season, Carroll's last, did all opponents score more than 100 points combined. The 1939 team was the only undefeated team of this era, finishing the season at 10-0. A great defense allowed but 19 points all year. When Carroll resigned after the 1946 season, a former Bangor High School coach, Frank O'Hara, was appointed head coach. He stayed one year; the 1947 team finished 5-5-0.
The C. Robert Rute Era 1948-1967
Bob Rute was a first-team All-State selection at Easton in 1939 and went on to play at Duke University. He assisted at Easton for two years before becoming head coach. Rute's tenure began with the worst possible scenario, an opening-game loss to Wilson High School. But, out of the disappointment, a coaching legend was born, one that would continue for many years. Rute's teams won more games than did those of any other coach (until Steve Shiffert) . His overall record was 130-56-9, winning 67% of the games played. The 1958 team was undefeated and untied, ranked 4th in the state, while the 1967 team finished undefeated with a tie. The 1966 team shared a Big 6 championship. The 1967 Rovers won a Big 6 title outright. Easton played 15 consecutive games without a defeat from 1957-1959, and Rute's last two teams were a part of a 24-game unbeaten streak lasting from 1966-1969.
The Wayne Grube Era 1968-1979
After Bob Rute retired following the 1967 season, Wayne Grube, a former player for Rute in the early 1950's and a longtime assistant at Wilson and Easton, was named head coach. He started off with a bang; the 1968 team finished undefeated and untied. It won the Big 7 championship and claimed the #1 ranking in the state. Ten years later, in 1978, Grube had another unbeaten team. A tie was the only blemish on its record. This group was champion of the three-year-old East Penn League. As previously mentioned, the 1968 and 1969 teamed contributed to a 24-game unbeaten streak. In addition, Easton played 14 consecutive without a loss from 1978-1979. The squads of this era won 62% of their games, and Grube finished with a 81-44-6 record. He resigned after the 1979 season to pursue coaching in the collegiate ranks.
The Robert Shriver Era 1980-1992
Bob Shriver, another former player for Rute and an assistant under Wayne Grube, was appointed head coach in 1980. His teams won 105 games, lost 50, and tied 2, winning 67% of their games. From 1985 to 1992, Red Rover teams averaged nearly 10 victories a season. The 1986 and 1987 squads played 19 consecutive games without a defeat or tie to set a school record. East Penn League championships were won by the 1987 and 1991 teams, while the 1986 team earned a co-championship. In 1990 and 1991, Easton won District 11 championships and finished as runners-up in 1987 and 1988. The 1991 Red Rovers were also Eastern State Finalists.
The Stephen Shiffert Era 1993-2017
Longtime assistant Stephen Shiffert replaced Shriver as head coach in 1993 after the latter resigned to take the position of Director of Athletics. Shiffert's group completed the season at 11-2-1 and were crowned District 11 champions. The Rovers were also Eastern State Finalists. Shiffert coached the team through the landmark 100th season. Also, Shiffert's teams since 1993 have achieved several benchmarks for the program: the 1000th game (1999), the 700th (2004) and 800th (2013) victories, a Mountain Valley Conference Championship (2001), four Lehigh Valley Conference Championships (2003,2004,2009, 2012), seven District 11 runners-up (1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2011, 2013), four District 11 championships (2003,2004,2009, 2010), five Eastern Conference South Championships (1996,2003,2004,2009,2010), the school's first state playoff game victory (2003 vs. Cumberland Valley), and three Eastern State Finals (1993,2003,2004). On Thanksgiving 2006, Easton played Phillipsburg in the 100th meeting of the great rivalry and won 21-7. Following a victory over heavily-favored Phillipsburg on Thanksgiving Day 2008, Coach Shiffert tied Coach Rute for the title of all-time winningest coach in Easton football history. On opening night 2009, Shiffert defeated East Stroudsburg South to become the All-Time Coaching Victories leader in Easton history.
The Jeff Braido Era 2017-Present
Jeff Braido was named the new head coach of the Easton Football program in early 2017.
Over the past 100+ years Easton Area High School has established a tradition of football success that is nearly unsurpassed nationwide. Presently, it has the second-winningest program in Pennsylvania and is ranked 8th (were as high as 7th) nationally in total football victories. The Easton community has taken tremendous pride in past accomplishments and looks with anticipation to the future. The tradition developed by the participants in the first century of Easton football will be inherited by those to come. May they continue the "winning tradition" for another 100 years.
-This piece was written by Robert Michler and included in the 100th anniversary football game program by the Varsity E.-