The success of the Amsterdam football program under John Loss set the tone for the success of the Rugged Rams over the next five decades, but for Loss, there was no “magic formula” he provided to get the team there.
It was simply a matter of building on the foundation that was already in place.
“Basically, we tightened things up,” Los said. “I thought we could do a better job with teaching and emphasizing fundamentals and solidarity. That was a big part of it, to be a team and the sacrifices you make as an individual for a group.” .
The time of loss in the Greater Amsterdam School District was relatively short, but it made a big impact. He arrived in the district in 1966 as a physical education teacher and coach, and by the time he left in 1973, he had helped usher in a new era in Amsterdam football.
Los first served as an assistant football coach under Gene White before taking over as head coach in 1969, when White left the district for the colony. The Ipswich, Massachusetts native spent only four seasons as Amsterdam’s head coach, but compiled a 22-8-2 record during that time and led the Rams to Class A league championships in 1970 and 1971.
That 1970 title was Amsterdam’s first football championship in 22 years.
“The team went through some success” [the previous] 24, 25 years,” said team standout Dave Weisman. “But, he never won anything. He had never beaten any powerhouse at that time.”
Los and his 1970 team will both be honored Friday night as part of the GASD Hall of Fame Class of 2021. Inducting into the athletic wing of the Hall of Fame this year are coaches John “Jack” Tracy and Bob Noto, and athletes Giuseppe Lanzi and Mike. Angelotti.
Loss, who also served as Amsterdam’s first varsity boys’ lacrosse coach and was an assistant wrestling coach under Hall of Fame member Pat Reilly, was instrumental in developing many of the traditions that have benefited the football program over the past half century. roles, including the formation of Amsterdam’s Football Booster Club and the high school team’s close association with the Amsterdam Little Giants youth programme.
It was a group of players who were among the first to go through the entire Little Giants experience that led the way during Amsterdam’s 6-1-1 1970 campaign.
“We were the first age group to start from scratch and go through the years of playing at the Little Giants,” said Gary Pawlowski, co-captain of the 1970 team. “It meant a lot, because by the time we started playing as freshmen, we already had football skills.”
Amsterdam went 4–4 in Los’s rookie campaign in 1969, and the 1970 season began with a long bus trip to the Syracuse area and a loss to Liverpool.
This was the only time Ram had tasted defeat in that season.
“It didn’t take long for John Loss to excite us and get us back on track,” Pawlowski said.
Amsterdam’s signing victory in 1970 came just a week after losing to Liverpool, when Rams sent a Mont Pleasant team that had dominated their rivalry for more than 20 years.
“In those days, and for many years before that, to have a successful season you had to go through Mont Pleasant,” Los said. “That night at Mont Pleasant, it was the last more than 20 years since we beat them, and we did well and won the ballgame. That was the impetus to turn things into championship caliber.”
The only other flaw on the team’s record was a tie with Gloversville, but a full 4–0 point in league games gave Amsterdam their first Class A league crown since 1948.
It was a team, Pawlowski said, that the team bought wholeheartedly into Los’s philosophy of solidarity — sometimes to their own detriment.
“We hang out together after the games we attended,” Pawlowski said. “We had some champagne, and John Loss ended up hearing about it, so at Monday’s practice he did us a ‘champagne sprint.’ He said, ‘You guys want to party? Now you have to sprint.’ “
Weisman, who had moved from Perth High School to Amsterdam as a junior before the 1970 season, was relatively unaware of Amsterdam’s football traditions, but was immediately impressed by Los’s no-nonsense way of coaching.
“He was certainly a man of few words,” Weisman said, “but he got his point and did it in a way that wasn’t intimidating. He was a really strong, straight-faced guy. We weren’t afraid of him, we respected him a lot.”
For Los, it was about bringing the team together, something that stuck around long after he went to the likes of Brian Mee, Frank Derico and Pat Liverio.
“We played as a team. There were no two ways about it,” Los said. “That was the thrust. It bought players and coaches. That’s where the success started.”
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