top of page

Franklin’s Westminster Connection


Dave Bierbach, Fred Blackhurst, Rich Hancox, Dave Hasson, Mike Bell, Casey Hancox


QB Dave Bierbach, OG Fred Blackhurst and DB Rich Hancox all started on the first of Westminster's six NAIA Division II championship teams.


The Titans won the inaugural NAIA Division II title, defeating Anderson (Ind.) College 21-16 at Taggart Stadium in New Castle to complete a 10-0 season in 1970.


Blackhurst, a year younger than Bierbach and Hancox, also played on the 1971 team that reached the title game before losing to California Lutheran. The Titans finished 10-1 in what was coach Hal Burry's (127-31-1) last season as coach.


Both Bierbach and Blackhurst are members of the Titan Sports Hall of Fame. 


Bierbach finished his four-year career with 3,277 yards total offense. He completed 205 of 412 passes for 2,472 yards and 42 TDs with 27 INTs. He also scored 15 touchdowns and netted 805 yards rushing on 336 carries.


The Associated Press named Bierbach first team college all-state in 1970 when he completed 73 of 147 passes for 1,073 yards and 16 TDs for the Titans' national championship team.


Westminster didn't begin to keep defensive stats (tackles, etc.) until 1972, but Hancox had six career interceptions, averaging a whopping 29.5 yards per return and scoring two TDs.


WR Dave Hasson played on the Titans' next two NAIA Division II championship teams in 1976 and 1977. The Titans were 10-1 after beating Redlands (Calif.), 20-13, to complete a 10-1 season under coach Joe Fusco in 1976.


They defeated California Lutheran, 17-9, to cap an 11-0 season in 1977 and received the Lambert Trophy as the top small college team in the East.


Hasson caught 23 passes for 331 yards in 1977. He also had 23 receptions, but for 430 yards in 1976. Hasson finished his career with 67 catches for 1,051 yards and 12 TDs. He also returned 10 punts for 53 yards and five kickoffs for 99 yards and  netted 15 yards rushing on three carries. Hasson scored 76 points in his four-year career.


Both LB Casey Hancox and OT Mike Bell were members of the Titans' sixth NAIA Division II national championship team. This one came after a 27-7 victory over Pacific Lutheran in 1994 when Gene Nicholson, a member of the staff since 1969, was named NAIA coach of the year.


Hancox made 65 tackles for the '94 team, but his biggest season came in 1996 when he totaled 124 tackles and scored 243 defensive points. He finished his four-year career with  274 total tackles, including 202 solo. He intercepted two passes, broke up 17 others and recovered a fumble.


Westminster, incidentally, won its fourth and fifth national titles in 1988 and 1989. It ended its charter membership with the NAIA and joined NCAA Division II in 1998.


Oil City’s Frantz brothers, Gary and Glenn, plus Kevin Kresinski


Gary went to Clarion; Glenn to Westminster


Frantz, a 5-10, 195 pound fullback, was a four-year starter for Clarion from 1976-79, helping the Golden Eagles to the Pennsylvania Conference title in 1977, a  second-straight PSAC West crown in 1978 and a 33-7-1 record.


Frantz finished his career with 2,778 yards rushing, a school record at the time and now. No. 3 on Clarion's all-time list, and 17 TDs. He was a three-time All-PSAC West and NAIA District 18 performer and was named District 18's MVP in 1979. Frantz still holds the Clarion record for most carries.


A three-sport standout at OCHS, Frantz also wrestled for Clarion.


Gary's younger brother, Glenn, was a starting  defensive end for Westminster's 1981 team that finished the regular season unbeaten. The Titans lost 23-17 to Concorida in the NAIA Division II semifinals to finish the season with a 10-1 record. Westminster was seeking its fourth NAIA title.


Glenn Frantz was in on 66 tackles, made two interceptions and batted  down three others and recovered a fumble for 127 defensive points that season. He totaled 158 tackles in four years,  recovered four fumbles and intercepted two passes blocked four others for 283 defensive points.


Another Oiler at Westminster: Kevin Kresinski


Kresinski was a solid safety for Westminster from 2001-03, making 134 career tackles (85 solos), including 88 (51 solos) as a senior. He also made four interceptions in his career, one of which he returned 97 yards to the 2 to set up a TD against Thiel in 2003. A former Pitt walk-on, Kresinski returned 19 punts for 91 yards in his career.


He was named Special Teams Titan of the Week for his play against West Liberty in 2001, and Defensive Titan of the week in Westminster's season-ending victory over Waynesburg in 2002. The 5-10, 175-pounder blocked a punt,  made four solo tackles and added two assists in that game. He later was named honorable mention all-Presidents Athletic Conference.



Edinboro Greats


Franklin’s Dave Smith

Smith, 6-3, 250, was a four-time all-PSAC West selection for Edinboro at outside linebacker/defensive end from 1999-2002.  He made first team his first three years and second team as a senior. Smith was named to the USA Football freshmen All-America team in 1999.


He finished his career with 196 tackles (93 solo) and 57 TFL, which, as of 2014, was still a school record. His 20 TFL in 2001 is also a school record that still stands. His 25.5 sacks is No. 2 on Edinboro's all-time list.



Smith was inducted into the Edinboro Hall Hall of Fame in 2014.


Smith was one of 55 players  and eight defnesive linemen named to Edinboro's all-time team in 2006, holding school records for tackles for loss in one season (20 in 2001) and tackles for loss in a career (57), and sharing the school mark for career sacks with 25.5. The team was selected in connection with the school's 150th anniversary.


Smith also forced five fumbles and recovered two others in his career. He blocked a kick in one of his games as a senior.


Oil City’s Matt Miller and Chris Conway


Miller was a starting defensive tackle and Conway was a kick returner for Edinboro's NCAA Division II playoff teams in 1989-90.


Miller, a transfer from Clarion, played 33 games in three seasons for the Fighting Scots., registering 192 tackles, nine for losses and 19.5 sacks. He forced five fumbles, recovered five, blocked a field goal and made an interception. 


Miller was named second team All-PSAC West in 1990.


Conway, probably the fastest Oiler ever,  played 38 games not only as a kick returner, but a backup tailback, amassing 2,392 all-purpose yards and 15 TDs.


He rushed for 1,034 yards on 215 carries in his career, and returned 44 kickoffs for a 25.8-yard average.  He ranked seventh in NCAA Division II in kickoff returns in 1989. Conway also added 219 yards receiving.


Conway scored on a 47-yard run -- his only rushing attempt of the game and an 85-yard kickoff return in seventh-ranked Edinboro's 45-32 loss to North Dakota State in the first-round of the 1989 Division II playoffs.


The Scots reached the second-round in 1990, losing to IUP, 14-7, after beating Virginia Union. Edinboro was 16-6 in those years, winning the PSAC West title in 1989.


A state champion in the long jump and a District 10 record-setter in the 100 for OCHS, Conway also starred in the sprints for the Edinboro track team.


Franklin’s Rich Cerro 


Cerro, began his college career at Clarion and then transferred to Edinboro where he blossomed as a wide receiver. He was named second team all-PSAC West in 2007 and 2008.



Cerro caught 126 passes for 1,686 yards, including 58 for 647 his junior year when he scored five TDs. He added seven TD catches his senior year when he had 41 receptions for 611 yards.


His sophomore year, Cerro was second on the team in all-purpose yards with 951, an 86.5 average.  In addition to catching 27 passes for 428 yards, he averaged 6.6 yards on 17 punt returns and 21.6 yards on 19 kickoff returns, one of which went for 73 yards. He caught seven passes for 84 yards (which ranked eighth on Edinboro's all-time list)  and scored TDs on consecutive offensive plays covering 78 and 28 yards in a 54-30 victory over Shippensburg.



From little Tabor College to the NFL


Franklin’s Bay Lawrence


Bay Lawrence followed his brother Curt to the tiny Hillsboro, Kan., campus so the two could play together, and Bay  not only became a three-sport star, but a legend at Tabor College, according to Tabor statistician Brett Thiessen whose father was manager of the basketball team when Bay was there.


"In addition to football, Bay played basketball, which he was decent at, and he excelled at track, most often times competing in five or more events per meet," Thiessen said.


But back to football. Lawrence played four years at Tabor, and as a member of the school's first team in 1969, scored on a 99-yard quarterback sneak against Friends College. 


Lawrence finished his career with 3,327 yards total offense and 4,981 all-purpose yards. He scored 36 touchdowns and passed for three more.


He rushed for 3,008 yards on 568 carries for 29 TDs for his career, including 1,076 yards on 157 attempts in 1971. 


Lawrence also caught 63 passes for 852 yards and completed 31 of 89 passes for 319 yards in his career. He returned 25 punts for 326 yards, 25 kickoffs for 476 yards, and on defense made 110 tackles and intercepted eight passes.


Lawrence still holds school career records for yards from scrimmage, all-purpose yards, rushing yards and attempts, rushing TDs and scoring. 


He also holds season records for all-purpose yards, yards per carry and  rushing TDs (13 in 1971) and is tied with the record for points scored.


Another Clarion guy – Franklin’s James "Bo" Hamlett


Hamlett was a standout nose guard for Clarion during the late' 80s. He was a first team All-Pennsylvania Conference Western Division selection as a defensive lineman in both 1989 and 1990. He was a pre-season All-America pick by Don Hansen in 1990.


Oil City’s Stew Wilson – W&J


Wilson was a captain and fullback for Washington & Jefferson, receiving an honorable mention on the AP All-America team in 1931.


In his final game against West Virginia, Wilson passed for a touchdown and kicked both extra points in the Presidents' 14-13  victory. His running set up the other TD. In 1930, he threw a touchdown pass and kicked the extra point in W&J's 7-6 decision over WVU.


An outstanding punter, the left-footed Wilson received an honorable mention on the Coaches Tri-State all-district team in 1928. That team included players from Pitt, West Virginia and Carnegie Tech.


Wilson signed a pro contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1932.


Oil City’s Ken Pleger – Little All-American at Capital


A Little All-American and All-Ohio Conference player for Capital University in Ohio, the 280-pounder later was a defensive tackle for the Columbus Capitals in the United Football League in the 1960s. Pleger also had stints with the Chicago Bears and the Ottawa Rough Riders. In fact, he was taken by the Bears in the 16th round of the 1958 NFL draft.


Pleger was inducted into Capital's Hall of Fame in 1979 and was rated by his coaches as the school's "greatest tackle ever." He received the Mike Gregory Award as the OAC's outstanding lineman in college. Pleger also lettered four years in track for the school.


Franklin’s Jon Turner – Allegheny


Turner finished his career at Allegheny in 2003 with several school receiving records.


His 164 catches for 2,004 yards and 20 TDs in his career were all school records. He also holds the school single-season record for receptions with 62 his senior year. Turner was second-team all-conference as a senior, helping the Gators to the NCAC title and a berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs.


Turner's 62 catches were good for 649 yards in 2003. He had 43 catches for 495 yards as a junior when he also led the team in punt returns with 11 for 120 yards and was second in kick returns with 11 for 232 yards and  in all-purpose yards with 853 -- a 77.5 yards per game average.


Turner caught a then-school record 59 passes for 802 yards and 10 TDs as a sophomore. He set a school record with four TD catches against Kenyon.


Stagg Bowlers: Oil City’s Matt LaVerde (Mt. Union) and Bill Miller (Allegheny)


Both played in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl for NCAA Division III championship teams.


LaVerde was the starting middle linebacker for Mount Union in 2000 and Miller (pictured) was on the special teams as a sophomore for Allegheny in 1990.


A transfer from Penn State where he was a walk-on quarterback, LaVerde was named to the Ohio Athletic Conference first team as a senior in 2000. He also was an academic all-conference player.


LaVerde had 12 tackles, two for losses, in the national championship game for Mt. Union,which posted a 14-0 record and won its fifth national title. He also was a starter for Mt. Union's 12-1 team in 1999 that was unbeaten during the regular season.

Miller was a three-year letterman for Allegheny, and caught 11  passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns.


Thiel steals


Oil City’s George Sterner, Nate Neely and Craig Sparks and Franklin’s Steve Grace, Buzzy Scott and Bob Witherup all played for Thiel, most in the early 1970s.


Sterner was inducted into the Thiel Hall of Fame for football and baseball in 2007.  He was a four-year letterman for the Tomcats in both football as a defensive back and in baseball. He was second team all-Lutheran in 1974 and honorable mention in 1973 and 1975. Other homors: second team all-state in 1975 and first team All-Presidents' Athletic Conference iin 1974. 


Sterner was also a two-time All--PAC selection in baseball and an AACBC all-district first team pick in 1976.


Back to football: Sterner is still No. 4 on the Tomcats’ interceptions list with 12. He returned 37 punts for 258 yards, a 6.97 average.


As for the Franklin graduates, all are on Thiel’s all-time lists in some capacity.


Witherup finished his career (1971-74) with 1,760 yards rushing, good for 12th all-time. He had a breakout game as a freshman with 207 yards, still No. 7 all-time. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry.


As with Sterner, Grace (1969-72) and Scott starred in the secondary and returning kicks. Grace averaged 10.2 yards returning punts (No. 5 all-time). He also returned 45 kickoffs for a 24.3 average (No. 3), including a 26.9 average (No. 4) in 1971.


Scott averaged 23.2 yards on 23 kickoff returns.


Neely was an all-Presidents Athletics Conference down lineman for the Tomcats in the early 1990s. while Sparks was an honorable mention lineman then


Former Grove City Wolverines


Franklin’s Jarred Frawley and Blane Gold and Oil City’s Jackson McFall all played for Grove City.

Frawley was a four-year starter at nose tackle from 2008-11.  The 6-1, 285-pounder registered 131 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks for the Wolverines. He was first team All-Presidents Athletic Conference as a junior and senior and the team's rookie of the year as a freshman.


Gold appeared in 25 games for the Wolverines from 2007-10.


McFall played in 35 games from 2016-19, including all 22 as a junior and senior. He made 139 tackles and four interceptions, defending 15 other throws.




Oil City’s Todd Piendel – Piendel played four years at Mercyhurst College, starting at defensive tackle his junior and senior years in 1987 and 1988.


Oil City’s Brandon Hall – Hall lettered at Lafayette, where he entered as a quarterback hopeful in 2002, and finished as a backup tight end, lettering his last two years.


The 6-3, 230-pounder played in 21 of  24 games for the Leopards in 2004 and 2005. They were 8-4 and tied Colgate for the Patriots League title in 2005, but lost to second-sseded Appalachian State in the first round of the Division I-AA playoffs. Hall, an understudy to second team all-conference Chad Walker, caught six passes for 78 yards.


Hall switched from quarterback to tight end between his sophomore and junior years. He played in nine games in 2004, including the first round of the playoffs against defending national champion Delaware, a 28-14 loss. Lafayette was 8-4 that season, and Hall was one of 40 lettermen on the team.


In 2005, Hall and DL Stephane McFarlane were recognized at halftime of the spring game as the most improved players on the team. Hall caught a 20-yard pass in the spring game.


Oil City’s Joe Way – He played everywhere -- linebacker, safety, fullback, halfback and was a candidate for defensive end -- at the University of Rochester. During his sophomore season in 1959, Way averaged 10 yards on 28 carries, and caught three passes for another 27 yards. Way set a freshman team record with 46 points in 1958. He was the fastest player on the team, running the 100-yard dash in 10.7.

Franklin’s Lyn Sturdevant (1973) and Larry Turner (1975) – Both were  named to the Geneva College Top 100 players list for 1950-75.


Franklin graduate Braden “Coonie” Hughes is an Allegheny College Hall of Famer. The 1929 graduate was MVP of the 1928 team. He was a four-year letterman in football, excelling on defense, and also earned a basketball letter from the Gators. Hughes was inducted into the Hall of Fame with none other than Branch Rickey. The baseball great coached the Allegheny football team in 1904 and 1905. 


Special Recognition


Jack Shanefelt –  a former Oil City resident who moved to California, Shanefelt made the Look magazine 1953 All-America team as a 212-pound tackle for Penn. The team was picked by Grantland Rice and the 700-member Football Writers Association of America.


Dan Sachs – An Oil City native, Sachs was an All-Ivy player for Princeton as a sophomore in 1958. Back and knee injuries sidelined him as a junior. A tailback, he also made the All-Ivy scholastic team. He captained the Princeton cub team to an unbeaten season in 1957.


Sachs moved from Oil City to Ohio when he was 9 years old, and then moved to Emmaus, Pa., where he went to high school.


Kevin Harris –  The son of Mick Harris, who played on the Knights' unbeaten 1971 and 1972 teams,. Kevin played his high school ball in the Orlando, Fla.,  area before he received a football scholarship to Wake Forest. Kevin's time in Winston-Salem, N.C., was marred by injuries, but he had some memorable games. The best would be the Eagle Bank Bowl at the end of the 2008 season in which he rushed for 136 yards on 24 carries in a 29-19 victory over Navy. That was the best by a Demon Deacon that season.


Kevin missed two other Wake Forest bowl games with injuries -- a broken wrist for the 2007 Meineke Car Care and a knee for the  Orange as a red-shirt freshman in 2006. He had his best season in 2006, scoring six TDs and rushing for 393 yards on 78 carries. The 6-1, 225-pounder was used mostly as a blocking back during his career. His senior year, he finished with 156 yards on 36 carries and scored three touchdowns despite missing three games with an injury.


Ron Baughman – Baughman didn't play college ball, but he had put on a great performance in the 1961 Big 33 game. According to Franklin teammate Ed Valeski, who attended the game, Baughman  played most of the game at defensive tackle, and in the second half entered the game at offensive guard for Rich Arrington who was having difficulty handling his opponent.


Baughman neutralized the guy, stopping him cold. Arrington later became an All-American at Notre Dame. 


"If I remember correctly Baughman was recruited heavily by (Alabama coach) Bear Bryant and (Arizona State coach) Frank Kush, and probably others," Valeski said. "The Bear really wanted him, as he had already recruited a quarterback from Beaver Falls (Joe Namath.) For some reason, Baughman never played football again. His last game was the Big 33 game in Harrisburg. I always thought he was the one player who would have played in the NFL, big and strong and tough."

bottom of page