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Ruth Chapman’s last conversation with her son the morning of October 29, 1975 included an offer.
If Billy Emminger would stay home from school and get some rest from the mysterious illness that had left him achy, she would take a day off from work and take care of him.
Emminger had other ideas. Although tired, he considered the idea of laying around getting extra sleep a waste of time. Besides, he had a late-season freshman football game that afternoon.
“I begged him that day not to go to school and we’ll just rest a day,” Chapman said this week. “He said, ‘I can’t do it. I’m the captain.’
“I went to work. I wasn’t there when he got hurt.”
An injury on the football field combined with Emminger’s illness to create a medical emergency from which he was unable to recover.
By the time Chapman got home from work, she needed to head right to the hospital where Emminger’s condition had deteriorated to the point where she was never able to communicate with him again.
The Susquehanna Sabers football program celebrated better times in 2010.
The Lackawanna Football Conference Division 3 championship was the first title in 15 years for a program that struggled through a 34-game losing streak earlier in the decade.
The nine wins and a trip to the District 2 playoffs were a reminder of past successes by the smallest school in northeastern Pennsylvania to sponsor football.
Along the way, school administrators made sure the saddest day in the program’s history was not forgotten.
Thirty-five years after Emminger’s death, the football field on school district property finally includes a sign acknowledging that the field was named in William Emminger’s honor.
Each time Sabers fans looked at the new scoreboard that showed the home team on the winning side of every game this season, their eyes were also drawn to a large sign along the bottom of the scoreboard that declared it: “William Emminger Memorial Field.”
The sign was long overdue.
Susquehanna’s football program was in just its seventh season - and its best to date on the varsity level - in 1975 when Emminger was a promising running back working his way through a season on the school’s freshman football team.
Playing on the school’s original field on a brisk late fall afternoon, Emminger went to the sideline after being slow getting up from a tackle while carrying the football early in the game. He eventually felt well enough to return to and finish the game.
Later that evening, Emminger felt sick on a walk to his uncle’s house. He instead headed for the hospital’s emergency room.
Emminger had been playing despite undiagnosed mononucleosis, leaving him with an enlarged spleen that had ruptured. Emminger never woke up after complications developed during surgery.
Emminger was transferred to Wilson Hospital in Johnson City, N.Y. three days later. That is where he remained at the time of 16th birthday Nov. 6 until he died on Nov. 23.
Classmates, who gathered in the hospital parking lot waiting for word while he was in surgery and had trouble making it through classes in the weeks after this death, did not forget. When they graduated more than three years later, there were still tears being shed at the thought of Emminger not being there with them.
For 14- and 15-year-olds, it had been hard to fathom that their friendly and popular classmate had died, in part, because of his participation in a sport that had often drawn the town together.
The adults in the football community responded as well. Funds were raised, in Emminger’s honor, to make needed improvements in the school’s football facility. By school board decree, the field was designated in his name.
Then, too many people forgot the purpose of a memorial - to remember.
Chapman was told of plans for the field to include a memorial stone and a light over it. She was told of the fundraising dinners that were taking place for the project.
“At the time, I couldn’t handle it,” she said. “I wasn’t too up for it.”
Chapman waited for the day when she would be ready to visit a memorial for her son.
New sod was placed, a new press box/concession stand was built and bleachers were positioned for the field, which was placed in a different direction.
Emminger’s name was nowhere to be found at the field. Through the years, it was mentioned less frequently.
Head coach Dick Bagnall, then an assistant who was responsible for the freshman team that Emminger played on, was among those who wanted to see something done, something we discussed prior to this season. When possible, members of his coaching staff reminded others in the media that the field had a specific name.
“This is William Emminger Memorial Field,” Bagnall said. “People forgot. When they built this field in ’76, they named it after him.
“I had said that over and over.”
What Bagnall did not know was that another of his former players, Emminger’s classmate, Chuck Cuevas, was among those who remembered and spoke up.
Cuevas, a Susquehanna Community School District employee, went to superintendent Bronson Stone and asked if something could be done after a new scoreboard was donated by Pennstar Bank and added to the field this year.
Stone, who had been a Saber, playing on the same field from 1986 to 1989, was among those who did not know Emminger’s story. As a youngster, he had heard that a former player once died following a game, but did not know the details or that the field was a memorial to Emminger.
“I was asked by (Cuevas) if it would be possible to put a sign under the new scoreboard,” Stone said. “Until that, I was totally unaware.”
Stone confirmed the school board decision from more than three decades ago and asked Don Norris, the school’s head of maintenance, to order an appropriate sign.
“I think this is so great for my mom,” Kathy Chapman, Emminger’s sister, said of Ruth Chapman, who now lives in Binghamton and is thinking about the drive to Susquehanna to see the sign.
For some, Billy Emminger will never be forgotten.
A simple, long-overdue sign means others will ask the questions necessary to hear his story as well.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Official practice for the winter high school sports season opened Friday while many fall sports were reaching the state championship stage and football was in the district finals.
Abington Heights, Wilkes-Barre GAR and Riverside won District 2 football titles.
Dante Pasqualichio threw two touchdown passes to Mike Umerich in his first career start at quarterback and Abington Heights stopped West Scranton from inside the 1 twice in the final minute of a 28-21 victory in the Class AAA championship game.
GAR forced six turnovers, turning two into touchdowns during a 33-point streak to start the second half, on the way to a 40-21 victory over Lakeland in the Class AA final.
Corey Talerico passed 25 yards to Skylar Lavage with 8:38 left and Nicholas Dranchak intercepted a pass in the end zone with 2:42 remaining as Riverside beat Dunmore, 22-14, for the Class A title.
In professional hockey, Jesse Boulerice and Zach Sill set up each other’s goals as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defeated the visiting Binghamton Senators, 2-1, in an American Hockey League game.
Brad Thiessen made 31 saves in the win.
Robbie Johnson was named Most Valuable Player of the Laurel Line Tournament after leading host Misericordia University to the title of the men’s basketball event with a 75-68 victory over Marywood University Saturday.
Johnson, a 6-foot junior guard from Mountain View, hit five of seven shots and also had four assists in the win.
Johnson was one of four Susquehanna County players in the lineup for the title game and one of two to make an appearance.
Misericordia teammate Brandon Stone, a freshman from Susquehanna, did not play in the final.
Susquehanna graduate Brent Keyes started for Susquehanna. Kirk Fallon, another Susquehanna graduate with the Pacers, did not play.
Keyes led Marywood in points (19) and rebounds (nine) in a season-opening, 63-62 win over Hilbert College.
Johnson started the first three games for the unbeaten Cougars, averaging 17.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He is 17-for-29 (58.6 percent) from the floor and 17-for-20 (85.0 percent) from the line.
Stone had appeared in just one game for one minute.
Keyes averaged 12.0 points and 5.0 rebounds to help Marywood start 2-1.
Fallon played in just one game, scoring three points in six minutes.
Abington Heights and Riverside will represent the LFC in the state football playoffs.
Abington Heights, which is ranked third in the state by www.rodfrisco.com, will play top-ranked Allentown Central Catholic in Class AAA Friday at 7 at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
Fourth-ranked Riverside will face third-ranked Southern Columbia in Class A Friday at 7 at Valley View’s John Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium in Peckville.
Last week’s high school football predictions were 4-2 (66.7 percent), bringing our playoff record to 10-4 (71.4 percent) and our overall season record to 100-32 (75.8 percent). This week’s predictions: Allentown Central Catholic 23, Abington Heights 14; Southern Columbia 49, Riverside 28.
In professional hockey, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will play at the Binghamton Senators in an AHL game Thanksgiving night at 6:05 p.m.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Edwards Wins Race, Johnson Claims Championship
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Carl Edwards led 189 of the 267-lap Ford 400 Cup race on the way to his second consecutive victory, while Jimmie Johnson, who finished second, coasted to his fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
“What a great way to finish the season,” said Edwards. “If we can start like this next year, we’ll have a real shot at the championship.”
Carl Edwards, winner of Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead.
Johnson’s 2010 Sprint Cup championship is the 13th for Hendrick Motorsports across NASCAR's three national series, extending the team's all-time record. Richard Childress Racing ranks second among owners with 11 combined titles. In the car owner category, Hendrick has won 10 titles in the Sprint Cup Series and three in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Hendrick Motorsports also has won a NASCAR Nationwide Series driver championship, which came in 2003.
“I’m proud to be in this position,” said Johnson. “This year we showed what this team was made of. When we didn’t have the greatest speed, our team took over and made up for it with great calls and fast pit stops.”
Jimmie Johnson claimed his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Denny Hamlin, who finished 14th in the race, and second in points, went into the race as the leader, but early on, his car slid up the track and into the No. 16 driven by Greg Biffle. Hamlin slid down into the infield grass, but he was able to continue. His crew spent the remainder of the race trying to get him back up to speed, but he was never a factor to win.
“I’m disappointed,” said Hamlin. “Our car was lightning fast. The thing with the 16 car just knocked it out. It wasn’t the same the rest of the day. We held on as best we could. It was just circumstances, but we had a great year.”
Harvick had his problems also. He finished the race third, as well as third in final points. He came down pit road too fast during a caution. On the way out of his pits, he hit one of Kasey Kahne’s crewmembers, who had to be taken to the hospital. Harvick was forced to go to the tail end of the field on the restart for speeding.
“We went down swinging,” said Harvick. “We came here to win. We did what we had to do. All in all, we did what we wanted to do, except win the race.”
Late in the race Kyle Busch slid up the track in front of Harvick’s No. 29. Harvick never let off the gas and bumped Busch’s No. 18, sending him crashing into the infield wall, and out of the race.
“He drove me like a clown all day long,” Harvick continued.
But Busch didn’t see it that way.
“It was unfortunate,” said Busch, who wound up 32nd. “Apparently he is a guy that doesn’t have his head screwed on right today. I really hate this for my guys. They deserve something better than to come up to the last race of the season and have something like this happen.”
Jeff Gordon lost an engine in his No. 24 and wound up with a DNF.
Aric Almirola finished fourth, followed by, A. J. Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, and Greg Biffle.
Final top-12 Chase standings: 1. Johnson-6622, 2. Hamlin-6583, 3. Harvick-6581, 4. Edwards-6393, 5. Kenseth-6294, 6. Biffle-6247, 7. Stewart-6221, 8. Kyle Busch-6182, 9. J. Gordon-6176, 10. Bowyer-6155, 11. Kurt Busch-6142, 12. Burton-6033.
GIBBS RACING CLAIMS NATIONWIDE OWNER CHAMPIONSHIP
For the third straight year, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) won the NASCAR Nationwide Series owner’s championship. And for the third straight time, it was Kyle Busch who delivered the title.
The driver of the No. 18 Toyota Camry for JGR did it in style too, winning the season-ending Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to collect his record-breaking 13th Nationwide Series victory of 2010 and the 43rd of his career. It was another dominant drive, as Busch led seven times for a race-high 153 laps.
“Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and the guys prepared a great racecar back in the shop, along with all the chassis guys, the body hangers and the engine group too, that gave us a racecar to come out here and put up front,” said Busch, who ran just 29 of the series’ 35-race schedule, and despite yielding the seat of the No. 18 Toyota to JGR driver Brad Coleman in six races, still finished third in the driver’s points standings. “We qualified second to Joey (Logano, JGR teammate and driver of the No. 20 Toyota) and we were able to prevail and get the job done.”
Busch ends the 2010 Nationwide Series season with three poles, 13 wins, 22 top-fives, 25 top-10s and 2,229 laps led. His win tally surpassed the previous single-season win total of 10 originally held by Sam Ard and tied by Busch in 2008. Busch’s 9,466 career laps led is an all-time high, surpassing Mark Martin’s previous record of 8,082 laps.
Busch now has 86 victories across NASCAR’s top three divisions (Sprint Cup - 19; Nationwide - 43; Camping World Truck - 24).
Finishing .850 of a second behind Busch in the Ford 300’s runner-up spot was Kevin Harvick, while Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Logano, Brendan Gaughan, Paul Menard and Jason Leffler comprised the remainder of the top-10.
Final top-10 leaders: 1. Keselowski-5639, 2. Edwards-5194, 3. Kyle Busch-4934, 4. Allgaier-4679, 5. Menard-4467, 6. Harvick-4389, 7. Bayne-4041, 8. Logano-4038, 9. Leffler-3941, 10. S. Wallace-3940.
BUSCH WINS TRUCK FINALE
Kyle Busch took the lead on a restart with four laps to go, then ran away from Ron Hornaday to win the Camping World truck series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
It was the eighth victory of the season for Busch, and he clinched the owner points title for his first-year team.
Todd Bodine finished fourth after clinching the drivers championship last week at Phoenix.
“Well, you know, first I never thought I'd be a one-time winner, let alone a two-time winner, so that's a pretty big honor for us,” said Bodine.
“We’re proof that the never-give-up attitude works because last year we should have gave up. I mean, it was a pretty bad year.
“To come out of here champions with really no sponsor, these two guys on the end with their brother Rick made the commitment to this team last winter that they were going to race the 30 truck. They were going to fund it out of their pocket. They were going to make sure that we had enough to do to go win races and to race for a championship, and they had that kind of faith in Junior and myself and our team to put their money where their mouth was and we went out and did what they asked us to do, and that's win races and win the championship.”
Final top-10 points leaders: 1. Bodine-3937, 2. Almirola-3730, 3. Sauter-3676, 4. Crafton-3547, 5. Dillon-3377, 6. Peters-3383, 7. Hornaday-3310, 8. Skinner-3256, 9. Starr-3170, 10. White-2979.
Racing Trivia Question. Richard Petty has 200 Cup wins, the most of any driver. Which driver has the second most number of wins?
Last Week’s Question: Which Cup team does Kevin Harvick drive for? Answer. The No. 29 Richard Childress Chevrolet.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at : firstname.lastname@example.org.
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