Extra Points: LCMR Honors 1962 Football Team
Floyd Hughes no sooner arrived at Lower Cape May Regional High School's parking lot last Friday night when he ran into former football teammates Ed Sherretta, Terry Shields and Ed McDuell.
"Hey Flash!" Sherretta yelled. "Great to see you."
He earned the nickname at football practice in the early 1960's, when football coach Norm Weinberg had all the players line up and run pass patterns in an effort to determine the best receivers.
Hughes, one of the biggest players, lumbered downfield. Minutes later, he was taking reps as an offensive and defensive tackle.
"Every player ran downfield as fast as they could," Hughes recalled with a chuckle. "Needless to say, it took me a while. When I got back to the sideline, someone behind me yelled, 'You took off like a flash.' I've been called 'Flash' ever since."
Hughes, Sherretta, Shields and McDuell participated in the coin toss last week prior to Lower's 26-10 victory over Pennsville, along with former cheerleaders Betty Ann (Favorite) Sherretta, Bev (Johnson) Shields and Sue (Smith) Morse, and coach Weinberg's oldest son (me). We were honored in recognition of the 60-year anniversary of the first game played on what is now called Steven Steger Field, a 6-0 win over Hammonton on September 27, 1962.
The field has hosted roughly 300 games over the years, but the memory of that first one remains vivid to those who played. Sherretta, a junior quarterback, threw a touchdown pass to Shields, a senior end, in the second quarter for the game's only touchdown.
Lower Cape May had opened a year earlier in January of 1961, but the football team played its home games that first season on Lafayette Street in Cape May near the current Cape May City Elementary School. It was the same field where a certain 10-year-old first played organized football with the Cape May Rockets for coaches Hap Riddle, Charlie Wise, and others. Before practices, the Rockets would watch in wonder as Shelton College played this strange game called soccer.
Before LCMR was built, kids went to Cape May High School on Washington Street, where the police station is currently located. Football games were played on the beachfront where the Beach Shack (formerly the Coachman's Motor Inn) now sits until the field and bleaches were destroyed by a hurricane in the mid-1950s.
"We used to wait at the locker room to carry the players' helmets," Sherretta said. "As a kid, it was really cool. We would walk with the team down Washington Street. All the men would out come out of the bars and pool rooms and cheer. When we got to the game, we would run in with the team and not pay. We all thought we were hot stuff. It's what got me interested in football."
The Weinberg family arrived in 1959, when Norm was hired to succeed coach Steger. Norm, Patricia and their infant son David spent their first night in the Admiral Hotel. Patsy, an Irish Catholic big band singer from New York City, reportedly looked out the window at the empty beach and barren lots and said, "Norman, what the (heck) have you gotten me into?"
In 1962, the Caper Tigers finished 2-5-2. Each run, pass and tackle is still fresh in the players' minds.
Times were certainly different. If you were thirsty, you scooped hose water out of can with a ladle. At halftime, players ate orange slices and swallowed salt tablets to ward off dehydration.
Practices were grueling.
"I can still remember your dad standing on our stomachs while we did leg raises," McDuell said. "He would walk from player to player, from stomach to stomach. ..."
"And he was wearing cleats," Shields added.
It was a special time in their lives, however.
Ed and Betty Ann will be married 60 years in February and are great-grandparents. Terry and Bev will be celebrating their 58th anniversary next year.
And everyone still calls Floyd Hughes "Flash."