Parasiliti: South's success has fans recalling Petry's heyday

October 15, 2012|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • Bob Parasiliti
Joe Crocetta

Phil Petry hears voices from the past.

No, really.

There is nothing Halloweenish about it. It’s just all his friends talking about his high school days with reverence.

And it’s not just his friends. It’s their friends … and their kids … and their grandkids … and even some coaches with long memories who aren’t even from the area.

That’s because when someone mentions South Hagerstown football history, the name Phil Petry soon follows. It would be like not mentioning jelly after peanut butter.

Petry is the dominant figure of a glorious past for the Rebels. He IS South Hagerstown’s Red Grange, Joe Montana and Jim Brown.

He is an icon in this town, even though Petry tries to politely deny it.

Nowadays, Petry’s name is a little more prevalent on everyone’s lips. And it’s not because of the Rebels’ past.

It’s more because of their present and possible near future.

That’s because South Hagerstown is undefeated and looking like it will stay that way until its Nov. 2 showdown with cross-town rival North Hagerstown.

Ironically, all this falls on the 50th anniversary of when Petry led South’s last march to undefeated glory as the area’s dominant player in 1962 — his undying claim to local fame.

Petry hears those voices rumbling all around him.

“Well, I’m not without an ego,” Petry said, with a laugh. “It’s interesting that I’m a big topic of conversation.

“I was in the paper the other day, mentioned in a column because South is undefeated for the first time in 50 years. More and more people my age are talking to me about that year and South Hagerstown. I’m becoming popular again.”

Fans remember Petry’s amazing performance in a 28-27 come-from-behind win over Chambersburg. They recall how he left town to quarterback the University of Maryland, taking over to guide the Terps through a difficult situation.

Petry humbly sidesteps those conversations. Instead of living in the past, he considers it as a possible cornerstone in what is happening with the Rebels now. It’s new bricks held together by some old cementing principles.

While many spout stats, Petry points to South’s building blocks of success: Teamwork, humility, respect, confidence, focus, diligence, direction and just plain old hard work with a side of extra effort.

Petry says, as a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he has been able to see some of those aspects grow in the Rebels first hand. He provides the team with speakers for Friday morning talks.

He has seen the framework of a program and the behind-the-scenes work South puts in to give football a relative footprint again, not only on the school’s campus, but in the community.

It has made Petry harken back to his days a bit.

“I told the players in one of the first weeks that I can remember when I was 17 and sitting like they were in those bleachers,” Petry said. “Not much has changed there … they might still be the ones I sat in.”

And maybe, sitting there staring back at him, was the same wide-eyed exuberance he possessed 50 years ago.

Yes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Half a century later, Petry’s love for football — and South Hagerstown — remains. The memories linger, but they have brought him to a different viewing angle.

“Back then, I was 50 pounds lighter,” Petry said. “I’m all beat up from playing the game. That’s why football isn’t the same for me as it used to be. It’s more spiritual.”

The spirit is alive and well, living at South Hagerstown again.

History has a funny way of repeating itself, but it happens in its own due time.

For 50 years, Phil Petry has been the face of football history at South.

And 50 years after this season ends, maybe he will have company when the voices bring up the glory days of Rebels football in the future.

Bob Parasiliti is a sports writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at

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