Honesdale varsity football will be celebrating 50 years this season

HONESDALE — High school football has a long and interesting history here in Honesdale, starting in the late 1800s and continuing to the present day.

While support for a local varsity squad waxed and waned in the early days, the Hornets eventually became an absolute fixture in the Maple City.

In recognition of what will be Honesdale's “Golden Anniversary” of high school football, team officials are putting together many special events for the 2018 campaign.

“We're very excited about it,” said Head Coach Mike Jurkowski. “We've got some neat things in mind that should be really cool for the school and for the community.”

While the 2018 season is admittedly far off, players and coaches are already deep into preparations to be competitive in the always-rugged Lackawanna Football Conference.

“The kids are working hard,” Coach Jurkowski said. “They're really looking forward to a successful season.”

In the Beginning

According to Keith Sutton's seminal book, “Wayne County Sports History 1871-1972,” the first local football game was played on Oct. 23, 1895.

The team, which wasn't yet known as the “Hornets,” played Carbondale in a two game set. The local lads suffered an 18-2 loss at home, then absorbed a 30-0 drubbing on the road.

Honesdale redeemed itself with a big win, dealing the Carbondale Juniors a 10-0 loss. The Juniors had already defeated Carbondale High School, so this is a solid indicator that Honesdale's team was greatly improved.

Research in our own archives and those of the Wayne County Historical Society reveal that football's popularity fluctuated in those early days. Honesdale would field a team for years, but then several seasons would pass without any games reported.

There were exciting games played high school teams and town-sponsored squads in sandlot action.

One in particular earned an enthusiastic write-up in The Wayne Independent. It took place on Thanksgiving Day 1904 and pitted the “Clark's University” against the Honesdale All-Stars.

It's reported that this game drew the Maple City's largest ever football crowd.

Clark's University (a team sponsored by a local business, TB Clark) defeated the All-Stars by a final score of 6-0.

Edwin P. Kilroe was the big draw, a standout halfback who starred at Columbia University and played for the All-Stars.

Kilroe was known for his toughness, which was on full display before the big home crowd when he suffered a “kneecap dislocation” on the game's very first play.

Despite the severity of this injury, Kilroe refused to come out and played the rest of the game on the line.

Honesdale's on and off flirtation with high school football continued until 1927, which was the final season with a Hornet squad under faculty supervision.

The sport lay dormant for more than 40 years before being revived in 1968.

Allen “Butch” Keller, a former standout player in high school at Tunkhannock and in college at Bucknell and Mansfield, was named head coach.

The Hornets undertook a JV schedule that first year, then began a varsity slate the following fall. Their records those first few years were: 1969 (2-8), 1970 (2-9), 1971 (4-7), 1972 (5-5).

Honesdale would go on to win division, league and Eastern Conference titles during Coach Keller's reign, culminating with Suburban Conference championships in 1980, 1983 and 1984.

Coming Soon

In anticipation of this milestone season, officials have already announced several special events honoring Honesdale's storied gridiron history.

Coach Jurkowski and his staff will once again host a benefit golf tournament. The event serves as a major fundraiser for the program.

This year's edition of the tourney will be held at Cricket Hill Golf Club on Sunday, June 3. Action gets underway with a shotgun start at 9 a.m. Cost is $85 per golfer.

That fee includes 18 holes of golf, post tournament meal, beverages on the course, door prizes and two individual competitions: Longest Drive and Closest to the Pin (separate divisions for men and women).

To register for the event or to sign up as a sponsor, please contact Coach Mike Jurkowski at jurkowsm2hotmail.com.

On the Field

Honesdale's 2018 varsity football schedule has been re-vamped and announced.

Listed below are the Hornets' regular season games, beginning with an exhibition game against Hanover on August 18 and concluding with Senior Night versus West Scranton on October 26...

8/24: Lakeland

8/31: at Paupack

9/7: Western Wayne

9/15: at Delaware Valley

9/21 at Valley View

9/28 Abington Heights

10/5: Scranton Prep

10/12: at Montrose

10/19: at North Pocono

10/26: West Scranton

The Red & Black will compete in Division II of the Lackawanna Football Conference along with Scranton Prep, Western Wayne, West Scranton and Valley View.