Gateway Tradition!! It all began in 1958. The creation of a new school district and the opening of Gateway High School brought together students who had previously attended several neighboring schools as well as two entire communities. The adjustment to this new setting was aided greatly through athletics. The first edition of Gateway football went a long way to help “unite” a diverse student body and create a high level of school spirit and pride.
Starting out in August of 1958, Coach Walter “Pete” Antimarino inspired this team by constantly reminding his players that they had a great opportunity to establish an identity for this new school and to put Gateway “on the map.” He emphasized how important it was for this team to represent the school and its two communities with a pride and determination second to none.
These original Gators faced several obstacles as they entered the season. Things such as no practice facilities, an unfinished stadium and a lack of a WPIAL classification proved annoying but, by no means, a deterrent. Starting with the pre-season August sessions and continuing throughout the season, practices were held on the grounds of the former Monroeville Junior High School (now Gateway Middle School). As the school year began, players boarded a bus and were transported across the highway at the end of classes each day. It was a long afternoon indeed for any player who missed the bus. Just as the lack of a practice area required an adjustment to what might be a “normal” routine, the lack of a “home field” created other issues. Thus the Westinghouse Memorial High School stadium in Wilmerding became the “Home of the Gators” for the 1958 season. All home games were played on Saturday nights so as to avoid conflicts with our neighboring high school. “Home” game preparations were quite different from what one might expect. Players had to get to Monroeville Junior High, put on their equipment and game uniforms and then board the busses for Wilmerding. This routine was reversed after the game. An additional factor was added to the mix when, due to the uncertainty of Gateway’s original enrollment, the WPIAL did not assign the Gators to a
competitive classification for the ‘58 season. In spite of these conditions, the players, led and motivated by their coaches, persevered.
North Allegheny High School played host to the origins of Gateway football history. On Saturday afternoon, September 13, 1958, the winning tradition began. A 25-7 victory over the Tigers created tremendous excitement for team members, students and the communities of Monroeville and Pitcairn.
The second game of the season brought Bellmar High School to our “home away from home” in Wilmerding. Bellmar is now part of the Belle-Vernon School District. The game played against a very tough opponent and in front of a huge home crowd, resulted in a hard fought 7-7 tie.
Next up were the Swissvale “Gold Flashes.” The game was played in Swissvale on a rainy Friday night. Harry Stevick returned an interception for a touchdown to give Gateway a 6-0 lead. This was the only score of the game and enabled the Gators to earn their second win of the season.
The following week saw an undefeated Freedom High School team come into Wilmerding stadium for the second home game of the season. Offense was the name of the game for the Gators. Hall of famer Dwain Painter threw two touchdown passes; one to Harry Stevick for 37 yards and one to a fellow hall of famer, Jim Fritchman, for 45 yards. Bert Solak, Eugene Corl, Bob Steffenino, another hall of fame member, and Ed Hahnfeldt completed the scoring for the Gators. The final score was Gateway 39 Freedom 6.
The Gators continued to roll in Game 5. Fifth Avenue High School, considered to be one of the toughest teams in the Pittsburgh City League at the time, came into the game very confident in their ability to keep their undefeated record intact. The Gators had other thoughts. Gateway scored first behind a strong running game led by Randy Cain, Eugene Corl, Ed Lobaugh and Bob Steffenino. Steffenino culminated the drive with a touchdown. A second score came when Randy Cain took it in from 14 yards out on a run that featured both power and
finesse. Final Score: Gateway 13 Fifth Avenue 0. Another undefeated team had fallen to these new Gators.
Kittaning High School was the next opponent facing the Gators. The march through the ‘58 season continued with a 24-13 Gateway victory. The win was highlighted by touchdown passes from Painter to Fritchman and Lobaugh and two scoring runs by Steffenino.
A trip to Tarentum provided the site of the next Gateway victory. The 33-7 score gave the team their sixth win of the year. Jim Fritchman scored on passes from Dwain Painter of 55 and 22 yards. Senior running back Cliff Lohr added a pair of touchdowns on a 9 yard run and a plunge from 1 yard out. Bob Steffenino completed the scoring. The 1958 Gators’ record stood at 6 Wins 0 Losses 1 Tie.
Next up were the Oakmont “Oaks.” The Wilmerding stadium was the scene of this very close and hard fought game. Oakmont scored on a last minute touchdown pass to defeat the Gators by a score of 19-13.
The final game of Gateway’s inaugural season was against the Hopewell “Vikings.” A very rainy night did not stop the Gators from going to their passing attack. Jim Fritchman scored twice and Harry Stevick once on passes from Dwain Painter. Cliff Lohr scored on a 4 yard run to close out the game and season scoring. With this 25-14 victory, the very first season was completed – and completed in a highly successful manner.
A season record of 7 Wins 1 Loss 1 Tie did, indeed, put Gateway “on the map.” Despite the many obstacles encountered by these players and coaches, they came together to give this newly created high school a base of pride and enthusiasm from which its athletic tradition of excellence has been carried on for well over fifty years. Within a decade, Gateway would win its first of five WPIAL football championships based on the traditions started in 1958.
Many members of the ’58 Gators went on to have successful athletic careers at the college level and some have been enshrined in their college’s hall of fame. Even beyond football, many highly successful
personal lives and professional careers were forged from the lessons learned as these young men were making history.
Senior leadership was outstanding on this team. Captains Ron Foster, Jim Fritchman and Wade Logan were very instrumental in “uniting” this group of athletes. They were aided tremendously by the other seniors including Randy Cain, Eugene Corl, Frank DeBone, Cliff Lohr, John Slack, Bert Solak and Harry Stevick. Their commitment and desire to excel was a positive force on many underclass lettermen who would continue on with these same traits for the years to come.
Any successful team needs coaches who understand, not only the game, but the complexities of molding a group of young men into a single unit. The ’58 Gators were guided by some of the finest coaches ever in the WPIAL. Head Coach Pete Antimarino, who, as we all know, went on to guide Gateway for many years and many victories and championships, led this group. He was assisted by Steve Klipa and John Moody both of whom also enjoyed success at Gateway for many years. A third assistant coach, Clark Kerr, provided valuable input and guidance to the team. It was the perfect group of coaches for the task of creating Gateway football.
Gateway football has been to the pinnacle many times. It is very easy to get caught up in the present day successes. The induction of the 1958 Gateway Gators acknowledges the foundation on which these successes were built.
GATEWAY GATOR INAUGURAL SEASON 1958
Gateway 24 North Allegheny 7
Gateway 7 Bellmar 7
Gateway 6 Swissvale 0
Gateway 39 Freedom 6
Gateway 13 Fifth Avenue 0
Gateway 24 Kittaning 13
Gateway 33 Tarentum 7
Gateway 13 Oakmont 19
Gateway 25 Hopewell 14
Coaches: Head Coach Pete Antimarino*
Assistants: Steve Klipa* John Moody Clark Kerr
Managers: Mike Rudman Rocky D’Ascenzo
1958 Gateway Gator Team Roster
Chuck Boyer Milan Drakulic
Nick Fiasco Ed Hahnfeldt
Ed Godich Bill Hoover
Gary Gosnell Bob McNeil
Jerry Grayson Ed Schmitt
Jim Heidler Dan Schukers
Wayne Jordan Jerry Sober
* Indicates Individual Inductees into Gateway Sports Hall of Fame