They're history; Milford, Gardner among the leaders.


Byline: Mike Richard

Milford High can lay claim as the Central Mass. public high school with the most NFL products - four, thanks to the three-generation Pyne football family and Hall of Famer Howie Long.

Both Worcester Academy and Cushing Academy of Ashburnham also have had four of their alumni move on to pro football.

Ayer High and Gardner High each have produced three pros.

When looking at the all-time roster of the NFL, Central Mass. towns and high schools have been well represented and home to numerous players dating back to the start of professional football in the 1920s.

This two-part series will look at Central Mass. contributions to the NFL, with the first installment this week looking at pro football from the 1920s through the end of World War II.

In the early days of pro football, teams like the Providence Steamrollers, the Toledo Maroons, the Boston Bulldogs and Buffalo All-Americans all had players who hailed from Central Mass.

Thanks to an assist from Providence coach Archie Golembeski, a former player at Holy Cross, several Crusaders alumni debuted with the Steamrollers. There was Clinton's George Pyne (1931) as well as Worcester natives Albert "Hop" Riopel (1925) and Frank Garvey (1925-26).

Riopel became a Worcester sporting legend after his career as a three-sport athlete at Commerce High, when he became the only athlete in the history of Holy Cross to earn 11 varsity letters before his 1924 graduation. He turned down several offers to play pro baseball, but spent one season playing halfback in four games with the Steamrollers.

Later, he accepted a teaching-coaching position at Milford High before returning to Holy Cross, where he coached and served as athletic director for 33 years.

Ware native Red Maloney played high school football in Worcester, then moved on to Dartmouth before spending the 1924 season with Providence. He later saw action with two other grid teams, the New York Yankees (1925-26) and Boston Bulldogs (1929).

The Staten Island Stapletons, another well-known NFL team of that era, had Bob Barrabee (1931) and Ollie Satenstein (1929-32), both of Cushing Academy, and Fitchburg's Ed Lawrence (1930) on their roster.

Satenstein played four seasons with the Stapletons, who never finished better than sixth and had a combined record of 14-22-9. In 1933, Satenstein finally joined a winner and played for the Eastern Conference champ New York Giants.

In the first-ever NFL Championship game, the Giants lost to the Chicago Bears, 23-21, and Satenstein retired after that season, having played in 49 career NFL games.

Lawrence attended Lunenburg High for three years before transferring to Fitchburg High for his senior year in 1922. He later became a member of Brown University's famed "Iron...

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