It will be 37 years next month that William “Billy” Curtis and his teammates on the 1984 Chelsea High School football team accomplished something big, something that relatively few have accomplished: they beat Everett in the Thanksgiving game.
And what makes Billy Curtis and that Tony Cardarelli-coached team even more memorable, and history-making is that the Red Devils’ stunning 6-0 victory over Everett was one of the last over the Crimson Tide in school history.
Five years later in 1989 on a Saturday after a snowstorm postponed the Thanksgiving game, Chelsea played Everett for the last time, losing by a 32-0 score. Future heavyweight champion of the world John Ruiz played in that game.
A Pop Warner Football Standout
Billy Curtis was a standout halfback at every level in the Chelsea Pop Warner program.
“I played ten years starting on the ‘D’ team,” recalled Billy. “I had some great coaches, Billy Gould Sr., the Quevillon brothers (Mike and Steve), Robbie Tiro.”
“Billy Gould Sr. was fantastic,” said Billy. “He was the one who promoted me to captain on the ‘D’ team when I played football with Greg Carter and Bobby Washington. I was also captain on the C, B, and A teams.”
Remembering the ‘84 Season
Many of his Pop Warner teammates became his high school teammates, including star quarterback Mike Maronski.
“We all had played for years together in Pop Warner,” said Billy.
Some of his other high school teammates included offensive linemen “TT” Meiggs, Chris Borum, Robert Laffey, Jimmy Burke, and Fito Ramirez.
“My job was easy running behind them,” said Billy, who played three varsity seasons at Chelsea High and became a captain in his senior year.
Interestingly, Billy Curtis almost didn’t play in the 1984 season.
“My father [Ronald] had died [at the age of 36] on Sept. 7, a week before our first game,” said Billy, whose mother is Dolly Curtis. “There was a question whether I was going to play football that year, but Coach Cardarelli talked me into it.”
The Red Devils had won five games heading into the annual showdown against Everett.
“The game before we played Everett, we blew out Whittier Tech, 32-0,” recalled Billy. “I had the game of my life. I rushed for 120 yards, but I also had 115 yards in pass receiving from quarterback Chris Cooper. They gave me the game ball.”
Curtis and teammates had their annual breakfast at Al Zack’s the morning of the Thanksgiving game. “That’s where they gave TT Meiggs the MVP award and I received the Unsung Hero award,” said Billy. “They presented the awards at halftime of the football game.”
Billy said he had two outstanding running backs playing alongside him in the Chelsea-Everett game. “Mike Fields was the fullback, I was the halfback, and Tony Baker was the tailback. Tony and I couldn’t get anything going against Everett. Our defense was strong in holding Everett to nothing. I had six tackles in the first half.”
Billy said what turned the game in Chelsea’s favor was the Chelsea coaches noticing that “the Everett defense was keying on Tony and me.”
“The Everett coaches had scouted us from the Whittier game,” said Billy. “And in the second half, we started handing the ball to Mike Fields up the middle. Tony and I lined up wide, and that really opened up the game. Mike Fields was chewing them up inside.”
Chelsea scored the only touchdown of the game with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. “I believe Tony Baker scored the winning touchdown and I failed to convert on the two-point conversion,” said Billy, who wore No. 32 on his Red Devils and Chelsea Pop Warner jerseys.
Billy said that nobody gave Chelsea, then an independent team, a chance to beat Everett.
“Everett was Division 1 and they were our rival,” said Billy, who played every minute in the Thanksgiving game, at running back, free safety and on special teams. “Beating Everett was an upset and I knew we had done something we’d remember the rest of our lives.”
A Career in Sports Broadcasting
After high school Billy Curtis became a United States Marine and served his country for six years.
With a very distinctive voice, Billy launched a career in sports broadcasting as a sideline reporter for an NBC-TV affiliate in Ohio. He worked as a plant manager for Cintas, a uniform company. He also taught at Chelsea High School for one year and worked as a drug and alcohol mental health counselor for veterans.
“But I love being home now in Chelsea – it’s fantastic,” said Billy. “I don’t care what anyone says about Chelsea – it’s my heart. You can go anywhere you want but Chelsea is still the heart. I live right next door [on Admiral’s Hill] to the building I was born in – the Chelsea Naval Hospital.”
Looking back at his outstanding high school football and baseball career, Billy says, “Those days are the highlight of my life – those days are something that no one can ever take away from me.”
Those days also included a splendid career in the Chelsea Youth Baseball League, making the CYBL All-Star team and leading his team in home runs in all four years as a catcher for Coach Paul Goldberg’s Pirates team that included southpaw fireballer Jimmy Chesna and talented all-around athlete, John Cunningham.
Billy hit for the cycle and drove in eight runs in one CYBL playoff game versus the Royals.
“Larry Notkin called timeout before my last at-bat and Tommy Fay threw me a fastball and I hit a two-run homer,” said Billy.
Billy Curtis has two children, Sharon, 19, and Billy Jr., 17. He is planning to marry his girlfriend, Linda Gallant, next year.
Thirty-seven years after his team’s 6-0 win over Everett, Billy Curtis is back in Chelsea where his love for the city and love for athletic competition began.