2000-06-21 / Sports
Mayes, Freeman enter Borough’s Athletic Hall
It was a different time and a different era. In the 1950s Freehold High School was the only high school in the area and drew its students from all over Western Monmouth County. It brought together a diverse group of youngsters from the inner city and the farms who learned their football on the nearby sandlots, then honed their skills under coach Hal Schanck at Freehold.
The decade was a good one for Freehold sports, especially on the gridiron, where Schanck built a powerhouse. Shore Conference and Central Jersey state sectional titles were the norm.
One of the teams that brought Freehold into the limelight was the legendary 1953 team that went undefeated (9-0) and won Shore Conference and Central Jersey championships. Its marquee name was running back Danny Lewis, who went from Freehold to the University of Wisconsin and then to a National Football League career.
However, Freehold was hardly a one-man show. Lewis was outstanding, but so were the rest of the Colonials.
Last week, Freehold Borough honored two of the standouts from that ’53 team when all-state quarterback Jack Mayes and wide receiver Walt Freeman were inducted into the Freehold Borough High School Athletic Hall of Fame, along with Mike Schibanoff who was represented at the induction ceremony by his brother Boris.
Both Mayes and Freeman were four-sport letter winners (football, basketball, baseball, and track and field) who enjoyed success in every sport. Freeman, would become the first 1,000-point scorer in basketball in the District.
"It’s a nice honor to be included in the Hall of Fame and it’s a privilege to go in with Jack, who is a friend of mine," said Freeman.
Mayes echoed those same sentiments.
"I don’t have words to describe it," he said. "My son (Rusty) introduced me and it was awesome. To go in with Walt was special."
The 1953 team was one to remember.
"What I remember most about that team was the togetherness we had," said Mayes.
Freeman, a junior on that senior-dominated team, recalled the talent.
"We had a terrific team; no one wanted to come to Freehold those days," he said. "We had so many good players on that team. Coach Schanck is the one who put it all together. He knew how to treat everyone individually on the team. He molded us."
Members of that 1953 team, including Lewis, who flew in from Detroit, were at the Hall of Fame ceremonies at the American Hotel in Freehold on June 13.
Nalton Goode was among those.
"I have great memories of that team," Goode said. "Jackie was a natural. He was a great leader and people didn’t realize how well he could pass.
"Walt was like a train; it was hard to take him down once he got his hands on the ball," he added.
Freeman won’t forget his first-ever touchdown pass against Point Pleasant his junior year. He met something that could tackle him.
"Jackie led me perfectly and I caught the ball in stride," recalled Freeman. "I took one big stride and I hit the goal post. It knocked me out but I held onto the ball."
It was that kind of season for the Colonials — they never once dropped the ball.
Mayes, who called the plays as Freehold quarterback, recalled the first play of the game against Matawan.
"They were keying on Danny, and I called a play where we split the backfield and used him as a decoy," he explained. "Stan Nixon went 70 yards for a touchdown. We went on to win 48-0."
That’s they way it went all year for the Colonials.
"I had the feeling we were supposed to win," noted Mayes. "We felt that we had a good team and just went out and did our job."
Freeman agreed that the Colonials had a silent confidence about them.
"We knew we had a good team, and we just thought we could beat anybody," he said.
The big game that year was week eight in Manasquan when the Blue Warriors hosted the Colonials in a battle of undefeated teams for the Shore Conference division title. It would take two goal line stands late in the game before Freehold prevailed. The Colonials would then beat Neptune on Thanksgiving to polish off their perfect season.
Mayes and Freeman recall a town in full support of its team and one that knew how to celebrate. After wins, there were parades through the town on the back of convertibles in front of cheering fans and free sundaes at the local soda shop for anyone who scored a touchdown (Goode remembers the day Danny Lewis scored four touchdowns and Goode said, ‘I’m going with Danny — he’s got four sundaes coming to him’).
"It was part of Freehold football," said Mayes, who rode on the back of 1906 Cadillac that King Oldsmobile loaned out for the parade after Freehold completed its undefeated season on Thanksgiving Day. "Everyone was a part of it."
Freeman recalled it the same way.
"It was all blue and gold. Everyone supported us 100 percent," said Freeman. "The whole town was involved."
There was something else that was very special about that team. Jack was the first black quarterback in the Shore, and the Colonials fielded an all-black backfield, which was unheard of then. This was, after all, the early 1950s and America was not all that color blind. According to Goode, Schanck received flak from opposing coaches and athletic directors over the all-black backfield, but Schanck did not back down.
"He kept it all from us," said Goode.
Mayes credited his former coach for letting talent do the talking.
"Coach Schanck was ahead of his time," he said. "I thank him for allowing the best talent to play without making race a factor. Remember, this all took place before Brown vs. Board of Education."
It’s easy to see why the Colonials had so much to discuss and be proud of last Tuesday night when Mayes and Freeman were honored. They were a truly special group of players.
Mayes had a second chance to share in gridiron glory. In 1985, the Colonials were again on top of the football world, and his son Rusty Mayes was a integral part of the club that had an undefeated regular season, won the Shore Conference C South Division and played for the Central Jersey Group II championship, losing to Somerville to finish the season at 10-1.