July 25, 2014

1974: NY Stars Edge Bell on Fourth Quarter Field Goal

For the third week of the World Football League’s 1974 season, a natural rivalry took center stage on July 25 as the Philadelphia Bell hosted the New York Stars. There were 64,719 enthusiastic fans in attendance at JFK Stadium for the nationally-televised Thursday night contest, including Commissioner Gary Davidson – although the luster would dim weeks later when it was found out that most of those present had received free or significantly-discounted tickets.

The Bell were 1-1, having won their opener in front of a similarly large crowd before bowing to Houston the previous week. Head Coach Ron Waller’s team featured an exciting offense directed by QB Jim “King” Corcoran, a colorful veteran of minor league football. The ground game was strong and featured running backs Claude Watts and John Land, who also were experienced minor league hands. The most notable player on the defense was LB Tim Rossovich, a colorful figure in his own right who had played for the NFL Eagles.

New York was coached by former pro quarterback Babe Parilli and had yet to win in two hard-fought contests. There were several ex-Jets on the roster, including WR George Sauer, DE Gerry Philbin, and DT John Elliott. QB Tom Sherman had spent three years with the Boston Patriots before toiling in the minor leagues.

The Bell struck first, completing an 89-yard drive in five plays when Jim Corcoran threw to Claude Watts for an 18-yard touchdown and then successfully added the action point on a quarterback sneak, following three offside penalties on New York, to gain an 8-0 lead (in the WFL, touchdowns counted for seven points and were followed by an action point, which couldn’t be kicked).

New York got on the board when RB Dave Richards scored on a one-yard carry to finish off an 85-yard series, but the Stars remained a point behind when the pass attempt for the action point was unsuccessful.

The Stars took a 14-8 lead just before the end of the first half when RB Bob Gladieux dove one yard for a touchdown following a 20-yard completion from Tom Sherman to WR Al Young. However, they again failed to convert on the action point.

Philadelphia moved back in front a little less than six minutes into the third quarter on a Corcoran pass to TE LeVell Hill that covered nine yards for a touchdown. The score was set up by a 19-yard completion to WR Don Shanklin on the previous play. The Bell were unable to add the action point.

Moses Lajterman (pictured at top), an Argentine kicker out of Montclair State, booted a 40-yard field goal at 3:12 into the fourth quarter to put the Stars in front, following an 11-play, 50-yard series. Lajterman was playing in his first pro game, having earlier been cut from the squad but then re-signed when PK Pete Rajecki suffered a rib injury, and adding to the drama was the fact that Larry Butler was making his first snap of the season, having moved over to center due to an injury to Bob Kuziel.

The Bell had two chances in the last two minutes as Corcoran effectively passed them down the field, but Jack Simcszak missed to the right on a 36-yard field goal attempt and George Chatlos failed from 26 yards at the end of the contest. New York won by a final score of 17-15.

The Stars led in total yards (322 to 301) and first downs (17 to 12). Most of their yardage came on the ground (201) while Philadelphia was more productive through the air (215 yards). The Bell turned the ball over four times, to three turnovers suffered by the Stars.

Tom Sherman completed 7 of 15 passes for 121 yards with no touchdowns and one intercepted. Bob Gladieux rushed for 74 yards on 21 carries that included a TD and RB Ed White was right behind with 70 yards on 18 attempts. Al Young was New York’s top receiver, catching four passes for 74 yards.

For the Bell, “King” Corcoran was successful on 14 of 24 throws for 215 yards and two TDs, but also tossed two interceptions. John Land gained 59 yards on 14 rushing attempts and Claude Watts was held to 19 yards on five carries that included a score while also pulling in three passes for 31 yards. WR Don Shanklin had three pass receptions for 87 yards and WR Linzy Cole added 55 yards on his three catches.

“We played better against Jacksonville and Birmingham, but I’ll take it,” said Babe Parilli. “This is a tough, competitive league. All the teams are evenly matched. Nothing could have been bigger for us.”

Having finally broken into the win column, the Stars proceeded to put together a five-game winning streak. They were 8-5 when the franchise was shifted to Charlotte, where they were renamed the Hornets, and finished out the year with a 10-10 record. The Stars won their next two games but remained inconsistent, going 9-11, although they reached the postseason and lost in the first round. The revelations that the high early-season attendance figures were inflated by free and discounted tickets damaged the credibility of both the WFL and the Bell, which resulted in a dramatic decrease in fan support for games later in the schedule.

Moses Lajterman went on to kick 7 field goals in 11 attempts in his only pro season. George Chatlos, whose missed field goal attempt at the end of the game sealed Philadelphia’s fate, never got another opportunity to try for another, although he did remain with the club as a linebacker and scored a touchdown. The Bell had trouble with placekicking all season, with three kickers accounting for eight field goals in all.