The success the Amsterdam football program had under John Los set the tone for the Rugged Rams’ success over the next five decades, but for Los, there was no “magic formula” that he provided to get the team there.
It was just 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 togetherness. That was a big part of it, to become a team and the sacrifices as individuals that you make for a group cause.”
Los’ time in the Greater Amsterdam School District was relatively short, but left a major impact. He arrived in the district as a physical education teacher and coach in 1966, and by the time he departed in 1973, he’d 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 Colonie. The Ipswich, Massachusetts native only spent 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 had gone through some success over [the previous] 24, 25 years,” said Dave Weissman, the team’s standout running back. “But, they never won anything. They’d never beaten any of the powerhouses at that time.”
Both Los and his 1970 team will be honored Friday night as part of the GASD Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021. Also joining the hall of fame’s athletic wing this year are coaches John “Jack” Tracy and Bob Noto, and athletes Giuseppi Lanzi and Mike Angellotti.
Los, who also served as Amsterdam’s first varsity boys’ lacrosse coach and was an assistant wrestling coach under fellow 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, including the formation of Amsterdam’s football booster club and the high school team’s close bond with the Amsterdam Little Giants youth program.
It was a group of players who were among the first to go through the full Little Giants experience who led the way during Amsterdam’s 6-1-1 1970 campaign.
“We were the first age group to start from the beginning and go through the years of playing in the Little Giants,” said Gary Pawlowski, a co-captain on the 1970 team. “That meant a lot, because we already had football skills by the time we started to play as freshmen.”
Amsterdam went 4-4 in Los’ rookie campaign in 1969, and the 1970 season started with a long bus trip to the Syracuse area and a loss to Liverpool.
It was the only time the Rams tasted defeat that season.
“It didn’t take much for John Los to get us excited and get us back on track,” Pawlowski said.
Amsterdam’s signature win of 1970 came just a week after the loss to Liverpool, when the Rams dispatched a Mont Pleasant team that had dominated their rivalry for more than 20 years.
“In those days, and for a number of years prior to that, in order to have a successful season you had to go through Mont Pleasant,” Los said. “That night at Mont Pleasant, it was 20-plus years since we’d last beaten them, and we performed well and won the ballgame. That was the impetus to change things to a championship caliber.”
The only other blemish on the team’s record was a tie with Gloversville, but a perfect 4-0 mark in league games earned Amsterdam its first Class A League crown since 1948.
It was a team, Pawlowski said, that bought wholeheartedly into Los’ philosophy of team togetherness — sometimes to their own detriment.
“We hung out together, after the games we partied,” Pawlowski said. “We had some champagne, and John Los ended up hearing about it, so on a Monday practice he had us doing ‘champagne sprints.’ He said, ‘You guys want to party? Now you’ve got to do the sprints.’”
Weissman, who transferred to Amsterdam from Perth High School as a junior prior to the 1970 season, came in relatively unaware of Amsterdam’s football traditions, but immediately gravitated to Los’ no-nonsense way of coaching.
“He was certainly a man of few words,” Weissman said, “but he got his point across and he did it in a way that wasn’t intimidating. He was just a really strong, straightforward individual. We didn’t fear him, we respected him tremendously.”
For Los, it was all about bringing the team together, something that stuck around long after the reins passed to the likes of Brian Mee, Frank Derrico and Pat Liverio after him.
“We played as a team. There was no two ways about it,” Los said. “That was the emphasis. Players and coaches bought into it. That’s where the success started.”