First of all, my two sons, Craig and Chris, asked me, “why would you write an article about a specific person from your past?”
My answer was simple. Dave Zumbach played in the same era as Jimmy “The Jet” Cefalo, and while Cefalo certainly had a career for the ages along with being one of the greatest high school football players ever produced out of Northeastern Pennsylvania, he touched (the newest rage in football language today is “touches”) the football many times more than Dave.
But let’s start from the beginning.
During my school year in 1962 at Washington Elementary, there were many outdoor activities that we as children played, but football was always first and foremost − especially for me and my friends. One day in the middle of the fall semester (I believe that was the time frame), another boy entered the school as a transfer from Dunmore (again I believe that to be the case, as 58 years is a long time ago). The first time Dave touched the ball in the back of the school where we played, it was off to the races, and me catching him on the opposing team was never going to happen.
Three years later, as 11-year-olds, we played on the same Little League team, Bruzshinski Jewelers. We were lucky to play with a dominant player by the name of Myron Pietryka (who went on to have an excellent high school career in baseball). Mike Wincovitch and Jimmy Digwood were two other very good players that I remember.
During the last game of the first half of that Little League season, we played a team led by Carl Zuby, a fast pitcher for his age. I hit a home run to win that game. The second half of the season, we blew through the schedule and went on to play the Jessup Carbino Club Championship team. That is where I had my first experience with two players who Dave and I would go on to compete against in football while they were at Valley View: Mark Marchegianni and Charley Scalamonti. (Me especially, as Mark Marchegianni and I have been friends for 46 years.) These two players were the cornerstone of the great Valley View teams of 1970 and 1971, losing only one game in those years and achieving two Northern-Southern Division High School Football Championships against Mount Carmel and Pottsville. Ironically, Mark threw a touchdown pass against Pottsville to “Scholar” (as Charley was known back then) to win that game in 1971, 6-0.
By the way, the home run I hit in that 1965 Little League game was my only claim to fame as one upping Dave in our athletic careers.
In 1966, we both played on the Taylor Biddy Basketball All-Star Team where we lost to Holy Cross, 58-56, for the right to go play in a tournament in Philadelphia.
Gary Scheuch and Eddy Brudnicki were the leaders of the Holy Cross team which, by the way, was put together from the city of Scranton which encompassed a little more geography and population than Taylor. Our team included Marty Adryan, Jack Robochick, Dave, myself, Tom Lenns, Jimmy Ott, Jackie Ott, Ed Woloszyn and my younger brother, Bobby. I am missing someone in there – just can’t lock in the last player. Charley Brady, one of the most dominant high school basketball players of this era, did not play, because he was taller than Biddy League rules of 5’ 8” (I believe).
But later on in high school basketball from 1970 through the 1974 seasons, Charley, along with Mike Popieski, Bob Drusbosky, Ed Wolozyn, Steve Bieryla and Mike Morgan, formed, in my mind, the best four-year run in Riverside basketball to be (arguably) seen.
That is a story for another day.
The 1970 and 1971 high school football seasons brought Dave the complete respect of every high school football coach in the “old Big 11” conference.
As a wide receiver in 1970, Dave scored two touchdowns in the first half against the vaunted Valley View defense of that year. Unfortunately, Frank Pazzagilia (great football coach) made adjustments that doubled up on Dave and gave them the opportunity to come back and win with Marchegianni scoring three second-half touchdowns to lead the comeback.
The first touchdown pass my younger brother Bobby threw in his Riverside career was to Dave for 79 yards against Lakeland in that 1970 season. All in all, Dave scored 12 touchdowns that year and set the stage for the 1971 season, our senior year where Dave and I were co-captains of the Riverside team. Dave scored 13 touchdowns during that season in just about any way you could have – running, receiving, kick returns, you name it, he did it.
Against Abington Heights, which was led by Duke University-bound Bob Corbett at quarterback and Billy Ware/Mike Brennan on defense, Dave scored four touchdowns and had two touchdowns called back on penalties. I have that game on DVD, so trust me, what he did against a team where all the starters on defense were seniors and only lost to the Marchegianni/Scalamonti Valley View team, is something I will never forget. In that game, I scored a touchdown catching a pass from Jack Robochick, who faked a reverse to Dave. Later in the game, Dave was to get the ball this time around to fake a run and pass to me. Hopefully I would again get behind the defense for a chance at catching another touchdown with Dave throwing this time. I thought it was a slam dunk for that to happen. As the play unfolded, Ron Enslin, the Abington defensive back, stayed closer to me than I thought, and before Ron and I knew it, Dave was running past us for one of his four touchdown plays of that game.
To further demonstrate the respect coaches had for Dave, I asked Mark Marchegianni once, “what did Frank Pazzagila say about the Valley View-Riverside game of 1971?”
We opened the season with an upset over the Scranton Tech Team led by Willie Smith, Fran Roedel and Mike Lally, so we hoped for a good game at home against Valley View in the ensuing week.
Mark said Frank’s game plan was simple: “stop Dave Zumbach and we should win.”
Well, that happened, somewhat, and we lost 35-15. But there was no doubt Valley View was centered in on #19, Dave Zumbach.
A few weeks later, Dave scored three touchowdowns against North Pocono. In the 1972 Dream Game, Dave and I both played with teammates Jack Robochick and Donny Oleczulin, and Dave turned in another stellar performance catching two touchdown passes – one each from Robochick and Marchegianni. Unfortunately, we lost the game 22-15 in the last few minutes on a touchdown pass from Joe “Fuzzy” Marciano to Tony “Dipper” Donato, both teammates from Dunmore.
Jim Cefalo touched the ball a minimum of 500 times in his three-year career at Pittson Area. Dave, being hurt most of his sophomore year, maybe touched the ball 175 times in the 1970-1971 seasons, so you can start doing the math on touches versus success ratio. My thoughts are not on minimizing Jim Cefalo’s career, as he was truly an all-time great. I am just pointing out that if Dave touched the ball as much as “The Jet” did, or even Lou Mariani’s great senior season at Valley View in 1973 where Louie scored more than 20 touchdowns, Dave would have had a minimum of 25 more touchdowns than he ended up with in his career.
Dave went on to a stellar college career at Boston College catching 108 passes. This would have been more, but Dave had an ACL injury going into his senior season that caused him to miss the 1975 season and come back for a fifth season in 1976. He was the Boston College career leader in receptions for many years following the completion of his college career in 1976 and is in the Boston College Athletic Hall of Fame.
As we both graduated from college, our paths drifted away. Dave stayed in New England, and I worked in the transportation industry in Northeastern Pennsylvannia. Dave’s first claim to employment fame was with Reebok Sneakers then Spalding and Rawlings Sporting Goods. Our paths crossed again in 1985-1986 up in Salisbury, Maryland when I was regional vice president of operations and Dave held a similar executive position with Rockport Shoe.
We have maintained steady contact through our retirements. I respect Dave a great deal in all phases of life from athletics and employment to being a genuine person.
My friend, Dave Zumbach is near the top of the food chain for memories in my life.
And last but certainly not least, Dave was picked by The Scranton Times several years ago as one of its Top 100 Athletes of all time for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.
Ironically, Jack Robochick’s first varsity career touchdown pass was also to Dave in the 1968 Riverside-Old Forge game won by Riverside 26-6. Jack replaced three-year starter quarterback, Joe Semion to seal the 1968 victory versus arch rival Old Forge.
While my older son Craig was playing football for Trinity College in 2009, a friend of mine whose son played with Craig introduced me to a father of another Trinity player. The gentleman’s name was Jeff Dziama.
As we talked a while, I asked Jeff if he played college football and he replied, “yes.” I asked where, and he said “Boston College.” I said a close friend of mine played there for three years in the early to mid 1970s. Jeff asked who it was, and I said “Dave Zumbach.”
A smile came over Jeff’s face, and I quickly realized Jeff probably played at some point with Dave. Jeff had a stellar career with Boston College, and his recollection of Dave was “speed, hands and moves all wrapped in one.”
Jeff’s freshman season was 1976 – Dave’s last.
There are several other people I have come in contact with who, when it comes up in conversation that they played football at Boston College in the early to mid 1970s, they all knew #21, Dave Zumbach.