Fifty years ago this fall, the Jesuit High School football team accomplished something no Tampa Bay area school had ever done before: win a State Championship.
Friday (Sept. 14) at Jesuit, that first championship team was honored on the 50th anniversary of the historic occasion. It was part of a ceremonial weekend during which the team gathered for a reception Friday at Jesuit before they were honored on the Corral Memorial Stadium field at halftime of the Jefferson at Jesuit football game. Saturday night they had dinner at the Columbia Restaurant, and Sunday they came to Jesuit for Mass.
Five decades later, despite several near-misses, they remain Jesuit's only football State Champions. The 39-25 defeat of Lakeland Kathleen at Tampa Stadium just down the road from Jesuit – clinched with two fourth quarter scores after Kathleen had tied the game at 25 – will forever be remembered as one of the great sports achievements in Jesuit history.
As historic as their State Championship is, the team will be more remembered for its remarkable brotherhood and its generosity. Despite the passage of five decades, 28 men affiliated with the team – 24 of the 41 team members, plus 3 coaches and the team physician – were in attendance Friday night, a remarkable testament to the brotherhood they share.
Also, 15 years ago the team members established an endowed scholarship to fund the annual tuition of a Jesuit student with financial need, meaning the team's impact extends far beyond the trophies, banners, and memories.
The 1968 team members who were in attendance Friday were: Andrew Alvarez, George Companioni, Kent Corral, Andrew Gilbert, Don Greiwe, Dan Harlow, Ray Kearney, Robert Kessler, Steve Krist, Tony Kubena, Michael Massari, Jim McKnight, Gary Meighen, Mark Mellon, Jim Moore, Robert Morrison, Tom Pepin, Robert Piccirilli, Arnold Sheidler, Bob Stemler, Karlson Strouse, Steve Thomas, Virgil Versaggi, and Tom Whitaker.
The coaches in attendance: Tom Campbell, Frank Fernandez ’59, and Ziggy Jasinski, plus team physician Dr. Frank Massari ’41.
Click here for a Tampa Bay Times story about the 50th anniversary of the 1968 State Championship team.
See below a video of the Friday night ceremony at Jesuit, and below that a photo slideshow of Friday's ceremony: