Daily News Sports Editor
The coveted barrel sets somewhere in Gary today.
It was a typical Gary-Welch battle with a few attractions added last night in chilling weather at Coaldigger Stadium before an estimated 3,500 football fans.
Coach Bill Bingham's lads won, 19-14, and therein lies one of the most exciting football finishes in the history of the gridiron classic that dates back to 1922.
The chilled fans on hand not only enjoyed a knock down drag out ball game but were treated to a rousing finish that featured a free-for-all involving players, coaches and fans from both schools.
Halfback Johnny Harsanyi instigated the game-ending festivities when he charged up to the line of scrimmage on the final play of the game as the clock ticked away with Gary in possession deep in local territory. He started his lunge, even before the ball was snapped.
What followed prompted several series of scraps near the Welch goal line and by the time coaches and officials had settled the disagreement, the game had ended.
Four crucial plays, a blocked punt by Gary in the second, a fumble and short punt by Welch in the third and an incomplete Bill Christian to Dominic Delgrande aerial in the fourth period, paved the way for Welch's first downfall in the past four years of the ancient series.
The locals drew first blood in the opening stanza when Christian skirted around end from the nine for the first Wave touchdown. Johnny Jackson's conversion was true and Welch had taken a quick 7-0 edge.
Gary rolled right back early in the second period when Benton Bingham blocked a local punt and recovered the apple on the Wave 30 giving the 'Diggers a first down within scoring distance.
Four plays and a first down later, Billy Clark had moved the Coaldiggers to the enemy 14. Joe Molnar dashed around the Welch left end for the touchdown.
Johnny Lester stepped to the placement line and split the uprights and Gary was back in the thick of the race, 7-7.
Welch, not satisfied with a 7-7 tie, bounced back for the second straight time near the end of the first half when Christian found Otis Linkous on the end of a 14-yard scoring toss. Johnson found the range on his second attempt and the locals led at halftime, 14-7.
The hard running of both Steve Bland and Johnny Harsanyi sparked the locals on both of their scoring drives in the first half and it appeared as if Gary was doomed for its fourth straight licking at the the hands of their arch-rival.
Coach Bill Bingham, smiling happily and shaking hands in the dressing room after the game, summed up the second half with his simple observation, "Our seniors and the whole team just played their best game ever. They just gave everything they had--and it was enough".
A crucial fumble opening the third period paved the way for Gary's second touchdown.
Gary kicked to the visitors and fullback Sam Cochran recovered a local fumble on the Wave 15. Gary lost five yards back to the Wave 20 before Cure picked up six yards to the enemy 14 on the next two plays.
Seemingly aware that chances weren't too good for yardage through the stubborn Welch forward wall that featured the gallant return of Nick Hawthorne, the Coaldiggers went to the airways with Cure as their number one pilot.
On the fourth play Cure tossed to flankerman Charlie Blevins in the endzone for the clincher. The Gary followers went wild.
A time penalty moved the ball back an extra five yards on the extra point attempt and Lester missed his first attempt of three as the ole pigskin sailed wide and Welch still held a tight one point advantage, 14-13.
A stubborn Gary defense, led by Louis Lutian, Cochran, Bingham and Dwight Parker, rose to the occasion after the kickoff to Welch and ended the local threat when Lutian smothered Christian on the Maroon Wave 42 when Bill dropped back to pass.
Gary started its winning drive from the Welch 44 when a short, bad local punt rolled out of bounds.
Clark and Cochran moved the apple to the Welch 27 and two plays later Cure found Cochran on a pass play that was good for a first on the Welch 18. Molnar toted the mail to the enemy nine and Clark added another first on the local seven. Molnar plunged to the Welch four and one play later Cure had moved the apple to the Maroon Wave two.
Bill Clark, a main offensive threat in Gary's attack all season, smashed over the middle for the final two yards and the winning touchdown.
Lester's boot for the bonus marker was blocked by the hard-charging Roy Hutcherson.
Gary kicked to Welch and the locals started a drive that eventually ended on the Gary 10 where the winners held on downs.
The drive had started on the Wave 33. Steve Bland, Harsanyi and a Christian to Linkous aerial moved the apple to the Gary 14 before the Coaldiggers held. Roy Smith, starting at offensive halfback in place of Sandy Bright also played an important role in moving the ball to within striking range.
The locals received one more chance to score late in the final sanza but fumbled when Harsanyi took a Gary punt at midfield and fumbled on the Gary 40. Clark recovered the bobble for the 'Diggers.
Gary drove to the Welch 17 in the dying seconds that followed with Cure and Clark doing most of the running. Gary, playing to finish with possession, had the apple on the local 17 with less than 30 seconds remaining when Harsanyi launched his fatal charge.
The victory last night avenged a 13-7 loss to Welch here at Maroon Wave Stadium last November before a packed house.
Cochran and Lutian were joined by Jack Hayes, Blevins and Bingham in pacing the Gary defensive attack.
Clark was the main offensive threat for the winners with serveral key first downs and 62 yards on 11 carries.
The win enabled the 'Diggers to finish with a 6-3-1 mark. Welch finished its season with a 4-5 record.