July 25, 1974
By Mike Weber
PHILADELPHIA - The New York Stars lead the WFL in offense. But, the Stars are also 0-2 and coach Babe Parilli blames that on his defense.
Thus, the Stars will present a new look when the Philadelphia Bell has the ball tonight in JFK Stadium. Channel 9 will telecast the 9:00 game at 11:30 due to the Mets game at 8:30.
"We've had some letdowns," said Parilli yesterday. "We have had to take some steps to try and correct them. We've been very down from our two losses but that hasn't stopped us from looking ahead to the remaining 18 games.
"We want to find the right combination of players now so we can be right in the thick of the battle when this whole thing ends."
To that end, Parilli has sent cornerbacks Charley Boston and Wendell Wilson to the bench. In their stead come Steve Dennis and Larry Shears. In addition, strong safety James Sims will move to linebacker, replacing Gary Champagne...while Lou Angelo will play in Sims' spot.
If all that sounds confusing, consider Parilli's plight. He firmly believes he has the WFL's best team and yet is winless. His frustration is shown in this wholesale position shifting.
Wilson was almost sure to hit the bench since it was he who took the blame for allowing Birmingham's Dennis Homan to be wide open for a 73-yard touchdown pass a week ago. The play came with just a shade over 2:00 left and capped a sensational comeback by the Americans giving them a 32-29 victory after trailing 29-3 at halftime.
The Stars will face the league's strongest defense tonight and that should make for interesting viewing by a national TV audience. New York has gained 388 yards per game; the Bell has allowed just 173.
The Stars will have to improve their passing game if they're to avoid a grind 'em out game. Philadelphia (1-1) has allowed just 48 yards passing per game and, while New York has gained an average of 178, QB Tom Sherman has been found lacking on his long distance accuracy.
Parilli maintains confidence in his quarterback, who played a strong first half against Birmingham only to be rendered totally ineffective in the disastrous second half.
The Bell's secondary features rookie cornerback, Ron Mabra, a two-time small college All-American from Howard, who has two interceptions. Joining him are cornerback Benny Johnson, a four year NFL vet, and safeties Bill Craven, a rookie from Harvard, and three-year NFL player Ed Hayes.
The standouts on the line are defensive ends Jeff Steinberger (6-4, 250) and Walt Mitchell (6-1, 245) while eight year pro Wally Dempsey calls the signals from his middle linebacker post.
"They have a strong defense and an aggressive one," said Parilli. "But we can move the ball on them, on any team. We know quite a bit about them since we scrimmaged them twice. We just have to get down to doing what we can do."
What the Stars did quite well against Birmingham was run, thanks to 106 yards from former Notre Dame star Andy Huff. Jim Ford is the team's leading rusher with 109 yards on 20 carries, followed by Huff and Bob Gladieux, who has 22 carries for 94 yards.
Philadelphia's offense is built around Jim (King) Corcoran, a never-was whose loquacious ways have made him better known than many NFL veterans. The subject of a TV special a few years back, the King has completed 32 of 68 passes for 384 yards and two touchdowns.
He throws to tight end LeVell Hill (7 catches for 71 yards) and wide receivers Don Shanklin (6 for 58) and Vince Papale (4 for 57), who made the team after attending a free agent tryout session.
Both running backs have NFL experience - Claude Watts, the league's seventh leading rusher with 107 yards in 23 carries, and John Land, 25 for 101.
Philadelphia has been inconsistent offensively, but the level of competition perhaps dictates that. The Bell rolled past hapless Portland (33-7) then lost to Houston, (11-0).
Nonetheless, they will challenge the Stars, who now have to worry about injuries as well as losses. Placekicker Pete Rajecki, accurate from short range and long, may miss the game due to severely bruised ribs. He was decked by Birmingham's Dick Trower on a kickoff and the resulting pain may have prevented him from making a game-tying field goal.
"He's still in a lot of pain," said Parilli, who has activated former Montclair State (N.J.) star Moses Lajterman, "It's gonna be tight."
Indeed, that last sums up tonight's game. Potentially, the Stars could romp...but they have yet to play up to their potential. Which makes Philadelphia's role as a one-point pick seem sensible.