Great Pennsylvania Teams

Hal Wilson

HURST 1927

Located in Westmoreland County in the old farm and coke town area between Greensburg, Latrobe and Mt. Pleasant Borough, Mt. Pleasant Township’s Hurst High fielded a magnificent unscored-on perfect record team in 1927. Runaway winners of 11 games, this great squad scored 607 points. The closest game was a 19-0 win over rival Mt. Pleasant Borough.


1927 was the first year of the WPIAL’s Gardner point system – used to establish champions or playoff participants. Greensburg’s unbeaten and untied team was ranked first and declared champion. Clairton was runner-up and Jeannette third. To provide some perspective on the quality of this Hurst team, Greensburg had defeated neighboring rival Youngwood, 13-6, in hard-fought contest. Hurst buried the same Railroader team 51-0. Hurst, to join the WPIAL the next year and a smaller school, may have been the state’s best team.


Hurst had lost just one game in the 1925 and 1926 seasons, both to Greensburg who dropped Hurst from its 1927 schedule.


The magnificent 1927 season began with high hopes - 35 total candidates and many veteran players, including seven lettermen led by mighty fullback Mickey Vuchinich. The Red and White slaughtered Sewickley Township 82-0 in the opening game. Distant DuBois was considered a very strong team from the state’s major conference in Northwestern Pennsylvania, but Hurst prevailed easily. Parnassus – today a part of the city of New Kensington - fought gamely through the first half on its home field. In the second half, Hurst began to roll, and although Parnassus fought to the end, the Big Red assault brought a final score of 38-0.


Youngwood brought its band and half the town to Hurst for the first game between the two schools in a few years. The visitors, who had given Greensburg such a battle, were no match for the home team. In the opening quarter, from its own 30, Vuchinich smashed for 8, John Craffey circled end for 16 yards. After another first down, Craffey ran all the way to the Railroader 3. Youngwood stiffened but Vuchinich reached the end zone on fourth down and the rout had begun.


A determined Hurst team traveled to Turtle Creek for a game with the perennial WPIAL power. The Red and White won by an impressive 34-0 in the final game for star fullback  Vuchinich. He reached his 21st birthday the following week. Hurst’s total “tornado” attack, including sweeping end runs, off-tackle smashes and potent passing, was unstoppable.


At Vandergrift, scrubs finished a 69-0 thrashing of the home mill town team. Mike Craffey had moved from tackle to fullback, replacing Vuchinich.


The local rivalry game with Mt. Pleasant was played on an extremely cold day on a muddy gridiron. Three Hurst starters were missing against an inspired opponent. Nevertheless, Hurst won the game, 19-0. Blissman was outstanding.


On Armistice Day, visiting South Hills of Pittsburgh was overwhelmed 65-0. Reserve halfback Andrew Grabiak scored three times. A 32-0 triumph over neighboring East Huntingdon on Thanksgiving Day completed the amazing season.


The exceptional Hurst backfield included Vuchinich who called the signals; quick, alert halfback Andrew Evancho; slim halfback Joe Craffey; and quarterback John Blissman who had missed the 1926 season with a broken collarbone..


This backfield, along with a “tower of strength” line, led by Mike Craffey and Samuel Bronson, played an outstanding game in the Turtle Creek showdown.


Among the many Red and White stars, the big fullback Vuchinich went on to Ohio State where he was a three-year starter on strong Buckeye squads.   


The coach of this formidable Hurst team was Robert Mitinger, a star guard in 1918 for Greensburg and a member of Lafayette’s great 1921 team. He served as an assistant at Greensburg in 1923 and 1924, as well as 1944. He and his brother, assistant Ed, took charge at Hurst in 1925. Mitinger’s son, Robert Mitinger, Jr., was an All-America end for Penn State in 1961


Hurst’s mighty 1927 starting lineup:


E      Walter LEWIS

T      John MURTHA

G      John LABUDA

C      Joseph BIZUB

G      Samuel BRONSON

T      Michael CRAFFEY

E      Thomas MCPHAIL

B      John BLISSMAN       5-10

B      Andrew EVANCHO      5-9

B      Joseph CRAFFEY      5-9

B      Mickey VUCHINICH    6-0    185


Key reserves included end Don GIBBONEY, tackle John NOCK, guard Fred Jeffrey, and halfback GRABIAK. A total of 23 players won letters.


The sensational 1927 season record:


82   SEWICKLEY TOWNSHIP              0

46   DUBOIS                          0

99   ROCKWOOD                        0

38   PARNASSUS                       0

51   YOUNGWOOD                       0

34   TURTLE CREEK                    0

69   VANDERGRIFT                     0

19   MT. PLEASANT RAMSAY             0


72   RANKIN                          0




Hurst’s 1931 team won the WPIAL Class B championship. The league had gone to a two class format, based on enrollment, in 1928. In 1932, a AA classification was added.


A powerful 1938 Hurst eleven defeated Greensburg for the first time and conquered Wilmerding 7-0 to win the WPIAL A title. In 1942, Hurst again reached the championship heights, playing a 14-14 tie with Dormont in the A title playoff.


Uniquely, three Hurst Hurricanes from the 1938 club reached the National Football League, each with the Pittsburgh Steelers following World War II. Joe Glamp and Walt Gorinski had played collegiate football at Louisiana State, while big Joe Cibulas had been a tackle for the Duquesne Dukes.


1927 tackle John Murtha’s son, also John Murtha, has been a respected member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1974, representing a district based in Johnstown.


For many years, “Hurst School” was an important stop on the Latrobe line of the West Penn Railways’ electric interurban railway system. The distinctive orange cars carried many Hurst students to and from school.


The Hurst name in Mt. Pleasant Township dates from Colonial times. It is understood that the land on which Hurst High School was built was owned by the Hurst family and given to the School District.


In 1961, the Mt. Pleasant Township and Borough districts were joined and Hurst and Ramsay Highs became the present Mt. Pleasant Area - whose stadium lights are visible from the Pennsylvania Turnpike.


                                                                                                           HURST 1927 SQUAD


Coaches and starting team in the first row, l. to r. Assistant coach Joseph Millon, Andrew Evancho, John Blissman, Thomas McPhail, Mike Craffey, John Labuda, Joe Bizub, Sam Bronson, John Murtha, Walter Lewis, Michael Vuchinich, Joseph Craffey, Coach Robert Mitinger. In center, behind second row, Assistant coach Ed Mitinger.