I’ve known the May 3 Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant for over half a century. We were classmates and good friends from grade school through high school. Today he is a very successful CPA with two grown sons and a wonderful wife. We’ve spent many great times together over the years creating countless good memories in the process. But still, whenever I see his face or read his name somewhere, the recollected moment that pops into my head is the same and it always will be.
It took place on October 30, 1971 on a beautiful, Autumn Saturday afternoon, at historic Lynch High Stadium. The undefeated Kingston High School football team, ranked 15th in New York State, had come to Amsterdam to face John Los’s undefeated Rugged Rams, who were the defending Class A league champs. It promised to be an epic battle, so epic in fact that I faked being sick to get out of working my 12-5 PM shift at Montuoro’s Sunoco Station so I could go up to Lynch and watch the game.
Kingston proved to be as good as advertised. Their defense had given up just a single touchdown the entire season and they held Amsterdam’s high-powered offense scoreless in the first half. But Amsterdam’s defense wasn’t too shabby either. Bobby Gutowski, who I believe was one of the greatest if not the greatest defensive end in the history of Amsterdam football and Tony Greco, a superb cornerback on that same squad, led an inspired Rugged Ram defense that day. But Kingston had this all-everything halfback that year named Joe Riley and that kid was a thoroughbred. He carried the ball about ten times on a long second period drive that resulted in the game’s only score before the half.
In the second half, the powerful Amsterdam backfield trio of Dave Weissman, Jimmy Izzano and Rich Siudy got Amsterdam on the board and a two-point conversion pass from QB Gary Tuck to Siudy gave Amsterdam a one point lead. That’s when Amsterdam’s two-way lineman, Joe Turo became a legend.
Kingston had the ball and as usual handed it to Riley who got hit hard (I forget by who) and the ball came loose at about Kingston’s 30-yard line. The loose ball bounded right into the arms of a Kingston offensive lineman who was on a dead run toward his team’s goal line with what was about a 30-40 yard head start over the entire Amsterdam defense. Every person in the stadium was 100% certain this guy was going to score the go-ahead touchdown except for one, Joe Turo. He started running as hard as he could and at about the 25-yard line he leapt and made an incredible, game-saving tackle. Coach Los called it one of the greatest plays he’d ever seen.
Sure enough, the Ram defense, inspired by Turo’s effort, held Kingston right there and dominated the rest of the game. The 8-7 victory was one of the most memorable in the school’s history and my buddy Joe Turo was the guy who made it happen. Happy Birthday Joe.
And Joe if you’re reading this I may be calling you come November if the voters of Amsterdam give me the honor of serving as their Mayor. I could use the advice of a crackerjack CPA who’s already closed one of the biggest gap’s in Amsterdam history