When Millbrook Played Pro Football
*Picture of team by Sun Courier*
Back row standing, from left to right: George Andrews, Gary Andrews, Tom McDonning; second row, Will Simpson, Harry Higgins, Pat Connelly, C. Smith, C. Ollivett and J. Ollivet; first row Felix Simmons, Herbert Green and Sam Howard.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1897, just thirty-four years ago, Millbrook’s pro football team, one of the finest in the county, battled to victory over the Riverview Academy eleven of Poughkeepsie before a crowd of more than 2,000 spectators on Halcyon Field on which the Bennett School is now located at Millbrook. The Millbrook team, captained by Herbert Green, at that time the fastest and the best quarterback in eastern New York, employed the flying wedge to break through to victory over the powerful Poughkeepsie aggregation, and when the final whistle sounded the locals were perched safely on the top side of a 5 to 2 score.
In those days a touchdown was good for only two points, a kick after touchdown counting one just as it does under the present regulations. Although memories of the grid battle thirty-four years ago are rather hazy, a few of the stars who still reside in or near the village were able to recall a few of the highlights of the game.
The Riverview eleven plunged through for the first touchdown, but failed on the goal kick. Millbrook’s followers went wild a period later, however, when Will Simpson, playing at left haft back, took a short pass on his own 13 yard line and ran 87 yards to a touchdown behind superb interference. Sam Howard at left end, Clayton Ollivet, left tackle, and Pat Connelly, one of the best centers in the country, cleared the path for Simpson as he galloped down the field for the touchdown. The score remained tied at two when Millbrook also foiled on the kick.
The winning touchdown was scored for the village eleven when the flying wedge was used to shove Gary Andrews, fullback, through the center of the line from within a few yards of the Riverview goal line. Andrews also tried and made good on the goal kick, giving Millbrook its advantage of 5 to 2.
Those who remember either taking part in the contest or witnessing the gridiron battle way it was a wonderful from the opening kick-off to the final whistle. Although Herbert Green was the regular team captain, Will Simpson was field captain. William D. Smith, now head of Luckey, Platt & Co. of Poughkeepsie, was manager of the Millbrook eleven.
The line-up for the Thanksgiving Day game with Riverview in 1897 was as follows: George Andrews, right half back; Gary Andrews, f full back; Will Simpson, left half back; Felix Simmons, right end; Bill Woodhouse, right tackle; Harry Higgins, right guard; Pat Connelly, center; Herbert Green, quarter back; Sam Howard, left end; Clayton Ollivet, left tackle, and Harry Smith, left guard. Substitutes included Alfred Welling, who at the time was on crutches as the result of a previous grid clash; Tom McDonning, George Ball, and a brother of Clayton Ollivet.
Millbrook played Riverview Academy again still later in the season for the county championship, the Poughkeepsie team winning by a single touchdown in another hard fought game. This contest took place at Darrow Park, Poughkeepsie, where the present Smith Public School is located. A thrilling moment for the village fans ensued at one juncture of the contest when Bill Simpson took a pass on his own 40 yard marker and dashed 55 yards, finally being stopped on ;the five yard ribbon. The left half back received the pigskin near the boundary line, and dashed straight ahead. Seeing a dark object ahead, he ducked, hit the obstacle, and continued until he was finally stopped within five yards of a touchdown.
Simpson learned after the game that the dark object he had hit was no less than a policeman who was trying to keep the Millbrook rooters off the playing field.
The Millbrook line-up, so the veterans say, was not intact for the championship game, three of four of the stars being on the bench because of injuries. However, the village eleven put up a great fight, and Riverview had no little task in keeping them in check.
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