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Throwback Thursday: 1985 Eastern York football team ended long winless streak

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This high school football offseason at Eastern York is much different than what followed 1984.

Last season, the Golden Knights qualified for the District 3 tournament for the first time since 1990.

Following a winless 1984, Eastern had undergone five years of futility. After 1979 — a 7-3 season in Ellsworth Kissinger's final year as head coach — the Golden Knights didn't win a game until Sept. 21, 1985.

That day, Eastern beat Kennard-Dale, 19-12.

"Going into that game we had a good week of practice," said Steve Kline, the Eastern quarterback at the time. "We just felt like, 'Hey, we got a shot here.' We all felt like this was the week it was going to happen."

And so it was, after more than five seasons, the Golden Knights found themselves back in the win column.

"We had athletes," said Kline, trying to describe what had caused the years of losing. "The program was still kind of new. We didn't have a feeder program. I think that kind of added to it."

The week of the K-D game, Eastern installed the shotgun formation. Not many teams used the shotgun then.

"I was 5-foot-7, 5-foot-8, so it gave me a few extra seconds to throw the ball," Kline said.

He used that extra time to hit Chuck Hershner for a touchdown during the victory.

As the Golden Knights traveled back to Wrightsville from Fawn Grove, little did the team know the community was treating this win like a state championship victory. There was a police and fire escort for the team from the edge of Eastern's school district up to the high school.

"That was pretty cool. We always had pretty good attendance through all of this," Kline said. "I never really thought of the streak. They took care of us once we got back to school."

In 1980 and 1981, under the direction of Mark Kirk, Eastern was 0-19-1. Terry Walker replaced Kirk in 1982 and it took him until the 1985 season to get his first win. The Golden Knights had some chances through the years, but could never quite get that elusive win.

"We had good athletes. We just didn't have great numbers," Kline said. "Some of the bigger schools would just wear us down over time. We would hang in, we never quit. We wanted to get the class of 1986 a win. The class of 1985 never got a win and that really stuck with us."

Losing can tear teams and players apart, but through the years, it only strengthened the bond of the team at Eastern.

"I guess throughout it all, it brought us together," said Kline, whose Eastern team finished 1-9.

"I called up Mark Gibson, one of my old teammates, and we hadn't seen each other much over the years, but it was like getting the band back together," Kline said. "He helped me out for two years, and I really think that's what it was all about. You can still hang out and talk with those guys. We can't remember the scores, but we remember the good times."

Things have come full circle for Kline, who resigned as the junior high coach following this past season to watch his son, Logan, who is also a quarterback, play at the varsity level this coming season.

"There is a foundation that has been laid at Eastern. It's comforting to know that they don't have such an uphill struggle like we did," Kline said. "It's kind of hard to tell these kids, that we didn't win a game. One of the big reasons I got into coaching was because I didn't want these generations of kids to go through what we did and not win a game."

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