"It's a great thrill to be back and see the teammates and reminisce and see Coach Fern (Tetreau), who we get to see occasionally over the years," said Jack Schneider, who kicked the game-winning field goal against Bridgeport Central in the last game of the 1959 season to preserve Warde's undefeated record. "It's great to be back here at Andrew Warde."
Walt Beck, pictured above holding the jacket, was a tri-captain and all-state guard on that team. He was moved by the occasion. "We've lost a lot of guys (over the years)," he said. "That's sad. But, they're still here (in spirit)." Beck was especially happy to see Coach Tetreau, who was elected to the FCIAC Hall of Fame in 2008 and after whom the Warde field was named and dedicated in 2006.
Tetreau, pictured above looking at a photo of the 1959 team, still attends many Warde home football games. His heralded gridders, one of just four unbeaten high school teams in the state that year, posted six shutouts, including four straight to open the 1959 season, and they outscored their opponents, 175 to 24. The Eagles blanked arch-rival Roger Ludlowe High School, 26-0, to highlight that memorable season.
Following a reception in the Warde cafeteria, the former teammates watched the first half of action from just below the press box and rooted for the Mustangs. Schneider, Beck, Phil Golino, Larry Gill, Ed Magi, Ronnie Toth, Fred Gates, Dave Larsen, and Todd Flanagan, son of the late Jack Flanagan, joined Tetreau at the 50-yard line at halftime.
Tetreau received a hearty ovation from the crowd and spoke about his memories from that magical season. His former players were introduced individually and given plaques from Fairfield Warde High School athletic director Chris Manfredonia. Fairfield First Selectman Ken Flatto offered a proclamation saluting the accomplishments of the 1959 Andrew Warde Crimson Eagles.
Todd Flanagan, seen in the foreground in the photo below, was joined by his sister, Kerry, and their children. He brought a wealth of newspaper clippings, photos, and memorabilia which his father saved. They included detailed statistics and play-by-play descriptions of each game. Naturally, the guests of honor were riveted to the material.
Schneider vividly recalled the dramatic ending of the final game of the 1959 season, in which the Eagles were tied, 6-6, against Bridgeport Central. "We probably should have been ahead by quite a few more points than we were," he remembered. "We got down to the end of the game, and we were getting nip and tuck, and I guess we were down to the 30-yard-line or so.
"Fern Tetreau decided that it was time to kick a field goal," he continued. "We had practiced a lot of field goals during the year. (We) did not kick extra points in those days. As a matter of fact, we ran for two (points following touchdowns) during most of those games. So, we went in and kicked a field goal, and from that point on, the game kind of turned our way." Warde eventually won, 15-6.
Despite Warde's outstanding defense, Beck is still bothered by the first points scored against the Crimson Eagles during the fifth game of the season against Staples. "The first team that scored on us, I had the guy behind the line of scrimmage," said Beck, who had an interception in the victory over Bullard Havens.
"I had him," he lamented. "It was a screen pass, and he just stepped out of my tackle and went on and scored. A good friend of mine he turned out to be." Warde eventually blanked New Canaan and Ludlowe the following two weeks, so that was the only score yielded by the Crimson Eagles during the first seven games of the season.
"It was a great defensive unit," added Schneider, who has been the director of the Joe Namath Football Camp for the last 38 years. "We were just talking about that first touchdown being scored (against us). We almost felt like we lost the game."
What was the highlight for Beck 50 years ago? "Coming off the field after the last game," he answered, fighting back tears. Now, a half century later, Beck was back on that very same field with seven of his lifelong friends and former teammates as they were recognized and applauded for their tremendous season. It was well-deserved.