The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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In 1939, the New York Yankees were World Series champions and the Green Bay Packers ruled the professional football landscape.

Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Greta Garbo and Betty Grable were making American males' hearts skip a beat.

Gone With The Wind" won the Oscar for best picture, and Dorothy was seen on the silver screen pleading with some Wizard to help her get back to Kansas.

That same year, a local priest, Father Andy Blasko, started the Holy Rosary Royals, a football team for Catholic youths in East Toledo. The Royals, who competed against five other CYO teams in the area, later became known as the East Side Raiders.

The Raiders formed two separate teams, a Pee Wee squad for grades 4-6 and a Junior team for grades 7-8. The teams had dedicated coaches - most of whom were former Raiders - who stuck with the team for a decade or more.

John "Jack" Barber was one of those coaches.

Barber coached the Holy Rosary/East Side Raiders from 1956-2003, He took a few years off here and there, but his coaching days ended following heart surgery in 2003.

"He went in for heart surgery and never really fully recovered after that," said Raul Quiroga, 45, who played for the Raiders as a kid and later coached Raiders teams from 1989-2009. "He never came back into coaching."

 

Barber, who led Holy Rosary to seven Toy Bowl championships, died Nov. 12 at age 77.

Terry Kamelesky, 50, knew Barber all his life.

"He was a mentor to us," Kamelesky said. "By the time we got to high school, the high school coaches said they didn't need to teach us the fundamentals because we already knew them. That was because of Jack. We knew how to block and tackle. He used to take a group of us fishing for catfish on the banks and do stuff like that. He was a good friend.

"It's ironic that Jack passed away at the same time the Raiders are done."

The Raiders, an East Side institution for 70 years, may have played their final season this fall.

Declining enrollment in the local Catholic schools reduced the Raiders' roster at the Pee Wee and Junior levels. Citing a declining number of students, this past year the Toledo Catholic Diocese adopted the Kateri Catholic Schools.

Phase one called for the Sacred Heart campus to close at the end of the 2009 school year. Students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade now attend Kateri Catholic Academy, either at the Walbridge campus (formerly St. Jerome School) or the Toledo campus (formerly St. Thomas Aquinas).

Students in grades six through eight now attend middle school at the Kateri Catholic Academy-Oregon campus, which is housed in a designated wing at Cardinal Stritch High School.

Parents whose children attended Sacred Heart had the option of choosing which campus their children would attend. Holy Rosary and St. Stephen also closed their doors.

"Kids who played for the Raiders this year will have the chance to play for the public schools in the East Side or go to Kateri Schools if they belong to the Catholic churches on the East Side," Kamelesky said. "It's hard to keep the kids coming to play without the schools being there anymore. Losing the schools definitely hurt. I'm sad about it. We were together for so long."

Quiroga said Sacred Heart gave up football in the early 1990s, and those kids went to play for the Raiders. Shutting down a 70-year-old institution like the Raiders "hurts," according to Quiroga.

"There are a lot of sentimental and personal things," he said, "like coaching with my brother, Noel, for so many years. He passed away in 2005. There were 15 teams in each (CYO football) division this season, and at one time there were twice as many teams. Now there are fewer teams because parishes are closing down and merging together, kids are playing soccer and there are too many video games. And, people are moving to different school districts.

"A lot of it is the parishes closing down - and that's happening because people are moving out of the area."

The Raiders usually started practice during the second week in August. The seven-game CYO season ended the first or second Sunday in November, culminating with the Toy Bowl championship game between the top two teams in each division.

This year's Toy Bowl was held at Central Catholic High School, but the championship games were often held at the University of Toledo.

The Raiders played all of their games on Sunday. CYO teams used to play at the St. Francis de Sales CYO fields on Bancroft Street, but they now play at the complex on Holland-Sylvania Road near St. John's Jesuit High School.

Quiroga said the Raiders' Junior team went winless this season, and the Pee Wee team won two games.

"We were losing a lot of the Catholic kids because they have a weight limit in CYO," Quiroga said. "If they live in a public school district, they can play for that school. Public schools don't have a weight limit for defense. You can't blame a kid if he wants to tackle somebody and doesn't want to block somebody."

Kamelesky said, "For at least 20 years one (Raiders) team was in the Toy Bowl every year. If it wasn't the younger kids, it was the older kids. We had a lot of fun. We had just as much fun if we went 2-5 or if we went 5-2.

"When I first started in the late 1970s or early '80s we were lucky to have 15 kids on a team and we'd be competing against teams who had 30 kids - and we were beating them. After that we got it up to 25 kids per team all through the '80s and most of the '90s. In the 2000s, that's when they started closing the churches and (participation) started going down."

Kamelesky, a 1977 Cardinal Stritch graduate, began coaching the Raiders one year out of high school, at age 19. He continued coaching through this season.

"Jack Barber had coached me, and when I got out of high school I felt like coaching kids," Kamelesky said. “Over 25 years, we had at least 10 coaches with at least 10 years in. It was a good program and we kept kids off the street and kept them busy. We had a lot of neighborhood kids from St. Jerome, St. Thomas, Sacred Heart ..."

The list of men who coached the Raiders for 10 years or more included Fudgie Wlodarz, who coached from the mid-1940s through the mid-1960s, Noel Quiroga, Steve Alexander, Greg Breuer, Wayne Ahumada, Tim Kamelesky, Joe Nemecek, Jeff Koren, John Fejes, Ben Durant, George Duran and Gene Reynolds.

"We got the satisfaction of trying to mold these kids into young men, decent men, instead of watching them have nothing to do," Terry Kamelesky said. "Nowadays all they do is play Nintendo. When I was a kid we played baseball, basketball, football - anything with a ball."

When the local Catholic schools tightened their budgets back in the late 1970s and early '80s, it looked as if the Raiders might be history. That's when Terry Kamelesky stepped in.

"None of the schools could afford the program," Quiroga said. "Terry and a bunch of guys started raising money to buy equipment to furnish the team and keep it going."

That was in 1982. Kamelesky and other coaches and parents held fundraisers and went to local businesses to solicit money to keep the Raiders in helmets and pads.

"We would take a coffee can and collect money at the doors," Kamelesky said. "If we made $100 that day, we'd go buy two helmets. It was up to the coaches at the beginning and then the parents got involved. The churches couldn't afford it anymore. Football got so expensive. They weren't giving us any money in the early '80s. They had to take care of the church and the school and they couldn't afford football."

Kamelesky added that the Raiders always maintained their Catholic principles.

"We used to take the whole team to church on Sundays," he said. "We'd go to different churches, and we'd pray at the end of every practice. We were trying to teach them something about life instead of just football.

"That age group, it’s fun to see them come in all cocky. Pretty soon they start saying 'yes, sir.' Respect and teamwork were important things."

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