CITY SERIES: Shimshock Excelled In Running Game For Coughlin
Each week, staff writer Steve Bennett is highlighting
coaches, players, games and more as Coughlin, GAR and
Meyers play their final seasons as separate programs.
When the discussion of the great running backs to come out of the Wyoming Valley Conference pops up, Coughlin’s Dave Shimshock is near the top of the list.
Coughlin’s program has traditionally produced quality running backs through the course of its history. The list is long and quite distinguished.
Of course, a running back can’t do it all by himself. He needs quite a bit of help. And in Shimshock’s senior year, he had the fortune of running behind a pair of linemen who made their way to have NFL careers in Bruce Kozerski and Ron Solt.
Shimshock graduated from Coughlin in 1980, then went on to play his college football at Holy Cross. In 1979, he led the state in rushing with 2,068 yards, and then was selected to play in the Big 33 Game that was held that year at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium.
“Growing up in that era, it was all about football. Football was king,” Shimshock said. “You followed from the Plains Yankees to playing for Coughlin at Plains Memorial Stadium. It was a different culture. We had great assistant coaches. Ted Jackson and John Joseph were there. That made a huge difference. It was a great experience.”
Kozerski went on to play at Holy Cross and then for the Cincinnati Bengals. Solt played his college ball at the University of Maryland, then played in the NFL for the Colts and Eagles.
“Bruce and Ron played on the same side of the line,” Shimshock said. “Ron was the right guard and Bruce was the right tackle. We were in a lot of I-formation. When we would run to the left, Ron was pulling. He was faster than most of the defensive guys out there. He would be pulling when we would go away. That made it a lot easier. It was awesome. I knew it.”
As all three Wilkes-Barre City high schools are merging athletic programs next year, Shimshock, when he was going into his sophomore year, experienced teaming up with players from Wilkes-Barre Township.
“To the coaches’ credit, they created a culture and atmosphere that was very team-oriented,” Shimshock said. “You had the blending of players from Wilkes-Barre Township and Plains. We were all such good friends. We did everything together.”
Not only did they do everything together, but they started to win together. Especially in the 1979 season, when Shimshock led the state in rushing yards.
Coughlin finished that season 12-1, with the only loss coming to Scranton Central in the playoffs. While the offense was putting up points in extraordinary fashion, what was often forgotten was the defense.
“Coming back for (the 1979) season, we had a ton of starters coming back,” Shimshock said. “We had 9 or 10 starters back on each side of the ball. We had eight shutouts in a row. We gave up (21) points the entire regular season. Dallas scored a cheap one on us, then we ran off eight consecutive shutouts. Nobody realized how good the defense was.”
Shimshock always played in the era where the City Championship was a huge deal. Your team wins that championship and you have bragging rights for a year. Shimshock played on one Coughlin team to win the City title, but remembered the games being some of the biggest of the season.
So much so, that the Crusaders took Martz buses to the games. In his senior year, while the Crusaders had the shutout streak rolling, they were up big against Meyers, and Jackson, then the defensive coordinator, took the starters off the field. Meyers drove the ball down inside the Coughlin 10-yard line, and Jackson put the starters back in to try to preserve the shutout.
“My senior year going into the Meyers game, it was the last game of year and we had the eight consecutive shutouts,” Shimshock said. “Teddy takes starters off the field. Meyers gets the ball and they drive down the field get to the 7-yard line. Teddy put the starters back in so they wouldn’t score. They scored, anyway. That is just showing the mentality. There was a lot of pride with the rivalry with Meyers. There was no way we wanted Meyers to score.”
The same can be said when Coughlin played GAR. It was just as intense as it was with Meyers.
“We only beat GAR once in my three years playing them,” Shimshock said. “They were without a doubt the toughest team in the Valley year in and year out. Playing against them, you knew it was going to be a battle. You had to come ready to play or they were going to kick your butt. Our senior year, we came ready to play. It was a game. We ended up winning, but offensively, we didn’t do much at all. It was just a testament to (head coach) John Rowlands and their players. GAR was probably the most nervous game going into for me. It was always a big deal to win the City Championship.”