Unsung heroes crucial to championship team

Charley Robinson

Staff writer

Championship teams are comprised of a host of talented individuals. Some of the most important individuals often do not receive the recognition they deserve, possibly due to the position they man, like an offensive or defensive lineman.

When you followed the 1972 Uvalde Coyotes all the way to the state football championship, you may have never heard or seen in print names such as, Mike Gallaway, Richard Torres, Billy Sansom, Gilbert Charles, Uvaldo Losoya, Clay Ammerman, Robert Lara, Ernest Lira or Deets Finley.

Coaches will tell you it all starts with the snap. Championship teams can’t get away with mediocrity at the all-important position in the center of the offensive line. Mike Gallaway (5-11, 165) played incognito in the shadows of three all-state linemen, Mike Bingham, Ronnie Rogers, and Randy Gerdes.

Never before or since has a Texas high school football team had three all-state performers that played side-by-side at guard, tackle and tight-end. Therefore Gallaway was obscured primarily because the sports writers didn’t have the courage to make it four in the same line, or even unanimous, across the front.

The rest of the Coyote offensive line consisted of Losoya (5-10, 155) or Lira (5-10, 162) at the guard position and Charles (5-10, 161) at tackle.

Buck Laning (6-2, 200) would have given the sports writers more of a problem as the left tackle, but Coach Marvin Gustafson chose to rest him on offense and utilize his talents as an inside linebacker, where he did receive notice. Laning was a legitimate all-state performer on either side of the ball. 

Talk about unsung performers stepping up and taking over, Torres was the backup to Laning on defense and also number three on the depth chart at left tackle. In the championship game versus Lewisville, he found himself going both ways the entire second half because of injuries to Laning and Charles.

If you took a vote for 1972 Coyote MVP among team players, the winner most probably would have been cornerback Billy Sansom (5-7, 137). His teammates recognized how talented he was.

Clay Ammerman (5-11, 165) was another unsung hero. Ammerman relinquished the starting quarterback role to Lynn Leonard. As a team player, he patrolled the Coyote secondary at the safety position. On a team with fewer all-state selectees, he might have garnered some consideration.

This was a team of unselfish individuals, all with one important goal in mind – a state title. Most of them had been together since the seventh grade.

Robert Lara was the starting fullback at the beginning of the 1972 after Mike Paradeaux, the incumbent, had broken his foot and missed the first four games.

What a luxury to have when you have a reserve running back to fill a spot in the backfield that includes Oscar Mireles,  Steve Stoy and a quarterback named Lynn Leonard.

Lara averaged 4.6 yards per carry, scored six touchdowns – three in one game against Del Rio – despite suffering a bruised shoulder in the second game of the year and a kidney bruise in the fourth game that finally grounded him.

To show you what a warrior Lara was as a competitor, he played during the playoffs with a broken jaw. 

Ruben Alcorta was a star on both sides of the ball. As a wide receiver he led the team in pass receptions with 46 for 731 yards and seven touchdowns, plus a couple of extra points.

Alcorta was also a defensive corner back, leading the team in pass interceptions. There never was a bigger one than the one he picked off at the goal line in the Brenham game to keep the Cubs from going ahead.

He was called on to attempt one pass during the year and it might have been the biggest play of the season.

As a wide receiver, he took a lateral pass from Leonard in the Gregory-Portland game, then tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Gerdes that propelled the Coyotes to a 13-7 victory.

Deets Finley, only a junior in ‘72, was a starter at defensive tackle. Those guys hardly ever get any recognition unless something goes wrong.

Waiting in Wings

Depth is vital, especially in a long season and this one turned out to be 15 games – the longest in Coyote history.

A trivia question 45 years later might be, “Who scored the last touchdown of the 1972 season?”

You can find the answer in the article on Page 6 of the Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, issue of the Uvalde Leader News.

Although the Coyotes didn’t punt often during the 1971 and 1972 seasons, Kim Sobieski averaged 38.8 yards per kick those two years.

Another key component of a winning team is the deep snapper. Not just anyone can do this chore, but Glen McDonald handled it very well for the state champions.

Even Kenneth Carter was surprised when he saw his name in print. It was his jersey number that received all the glory.   

That might take an explanation. Sanchez, who broke the hearts of the Brenham Cubs in the semi-final game with the famous guard-around play, switched jerseys because he wore number 86, which was an illegal number for an interior lineman. It was Carter’s number 75 that made the historic jaunt.

The Austin American Statesman reported Carter scored the winning touchdown for the Coyotes.

That play resulted in a rule change. It’s no longer legal to switch jersey numbers during the course of a game.

Charlie Ramos and David Rambie were reserve running backs. Ramos missed the last three games due to a broken thumb suffered in the West Columbia contest. Rambie probably would have been a starter on many other teams.

Gilbert Alejandro was a backup defensive safety and contributed mightily in the Lewisville game when Ammerman was injured.

David Toone suffered a knee injury during the third week of the season; he needed surgery and missed the rest of season. He got to suit up for the championship game.

Steve Wilson, Bobby Hall, Manuel Zuniga, Dan Valentine, Thomas Hicks and Steve Dishman were all dependable reserves, making vital contributions at various times during the season.

Zuniga and Rambie were the ninth and 10th leading tacklers on the team and Dishman tallied one of the two safeties during the year.

The only sophomore on the squad was place kicker Randy Stevens.

Head coach Marvin Gustafson rode the laurels of a state championship season to Churchill High School in San Antonio and took top assistants Jerry Comalander, Jack Peterson, Mike Honeycutt and Jay Young with him.

Those 15 victories made Gustafson the winningest coach in Coyote history, a mark that still stands 45 years later.

Other Coyote coaches in 1972 were Bruno Mata, Randy Gates, Lynn Neely and Lloyd Chisum.

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