None of us had any equipment, so there was no blocking. Corduroy knickers, sweatshirts and sneakers were our uniforms. Once I tried to play wearing track shoes, but got howled down.
Strategy and tactics depended upon personnel. Tanglefoots such as the Gunn and Anderson boys played a sort of precursor to the zone defense. Giant Emerson Welch—six feet tall and growing at the age of 12—was a natural for charging into the offensive backfield. So was Roger Wessel, who was fast off the mark. Billy Braman and Wilfrid (Sap) Greenwood chased the ballcarrier. Tony Vigiano, Stan Klein, Carl Hodgdon and I played outside defensively to turn plays in, while Chas and Bobby Jones, scion of Windsor's only black family, usually defended as free safeties.
On offense, Chas and Tony were the tailbacks. By unspoken agreement, they always were on opposing teams. The rest of us were drawn from the pool of availables when sides were chosen, with the Gunn and Anderson brothers going as units. If one team proved too strong, a mid-game swap took place; Bobby Pfunder, say, for the Andersons, or Emmy Welch for Sap Greenwood.
One pre-monument play could be classed as typical of our game. We're running downhill, with about 130 yards to go. I'm the stand-up center, with Chas the tailback set about four yards back. I underhand the ball to Chas. Emmy Welch and Bobby Pfunder rush him. Chas tosses the ball to me. I cut left, running at three-quarter speed, easily dodging around Beebe Gunn, who obligingly falls down in front of brother Shot, who trips over him. I turn on full speed, heading for the easy boundary, where Tony is drifting along ahead of me, keeping the cutoff angle.
Meanwhile, Chas has ducked between Welch and Pfunder and is sprinting downfield behind and about a dozen yards inside me. Just as Tony closes in, I turn and flip a two-handed, end-over-end pass to Chas, giving him a good lead. He takes the ball in stride and cuts sharply toward the center of the field, making Bobby Jones overrun him. The remaining Gunn boy, Pop, is standing there, not quite sure what is happening but knowing enough to take a swipe at Chas, catching him on the shoulder. The play should have gone for a touchdown; similar plays often did. But a 50-yard gain ain't bad. We'd take it anytime.
That was pre-monument. The monument changed everything. Guile became as important as speed and agility, especially on kick returns.
The first thing a kick returner did was head for the monument, and it was any defender's guess whether he would burst wide, cut close to the monument, or, while hidden behind it, reverse his field or hand off to a teammate going the other way. Of necessity, the defenders had to split their forces, sending half their players down each side of the monument, with those on one side unable to see what those on the other side were doing.
A trick that worked for me once brought me much quiet joy, then and in retrospect. I caught a Welch punt about 15 yards from the monument, dashed full tilt for its cover, then, hidden behind the shrubbery, stopped dead. Defenders came thundering past me on both sides, and all I had to do was take off for the goal line with nobody in front of me.
In time, all players except the Gunns and Andersons learned to use the monument, both for cover on offense and as an immobile defender. Then Chas came up with the play that blew all past tactics off the field.
It was Chas' play, but typically, because Chas was a scholar, he got the idea from a book. This happened almost half a century ago, and I don't remember whether the book was Dink Stover At Yale, or the one about Knute Rockne and Gus Dorais. Whichever, the book told how passer and receiver spent a whole summer working out a spot-pass count system.