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First 11-man Flyer football coach dies at 98

By DON HOHLER • Sep 9, 2018 at 6:00 PM

The St. Paul athletic family lost both a matriarch and a patriarch in the span of two weeks.

First it was recent Hall of Fame inductee, 97-year-old Norwalk resident Mary Hickey.

Then, word came from Florida last weekend that the coach who started 11-man football at the school, Bill Mazzocco, died at the Florida home of his son, Tod and his wife Carol.

He was 98.

Mazzocco, a Pittsburgh native who went to Penn State as an aspiring boxer only to have the program dropped the following year, took the football job at St. Paul in 1949. He was assisted by a postal employee from Huron named Rocky Larizza, who spend more than 50 years in education. He retired as the principal of St. Paul High School. A second football assistant that year was a recent St. Paul graduate, Tom McClain.

Two of Mazzocco’s former players, Ron Jaworski and Tom Nickoli, remember him as their coach.

“He was not real fond of me,” Jaworski said. “I was not supposed to be playing football because my brother, Ed, and I came out of a Cleveland orphanage and getting injured playing sports would have meant an insurance claim on the orphanage policy if the injury was bad enough and the coach knew that. But Ed and I played anyway — Ed most of the time with a badly broken nose which was never reported.”

Jaworski remembered Mazzocco traveling back and forth to Bowling Green in working toward his degree in education.

“The coach had a numbers problem in starting 11-man,” Jaworski said. “I remember my class having just 12 boys. Two of them are still in the area, Chuck Obermiller and Adolph Fischer.”

Nickoli remembers him as “the little Italian guy,”

“He was pretty cocky for his size but he had great boxing skills. He was quick and easily worked us bigger guys over, using that speed.

“As far as a football coach, I would say his strength was the way he motivated his players. I had him as a freshman and sophomore. Rocky Larizza took over in 1953 when Mazzocco had to report to the military and then we had Les Zorge as our coach when we were seniors. We had some nice players my senior year, guys like Dutch Landoll, Tom Shibley, Larry Mahaffey and Dave Roth. Even with them we probably were no better than .500 though.”

Records show Mazzocco’s win-loss record from 1949-51 and 1953 was 14-17. He spent 10 years in the St. Paul system as a teacher and football and later, baseball coach. He also coached at Fremont Ross for one year and then opened what would be a successful real estate business in that community.

Later in life he spent a lot of time at the local Elks Club when it was located in downtown Norwalk in what would later become Mihali’s Photography Studio.

“I remember spending a lot of time talking with an elderly fellow who I did not know at the time,” he said in an interview from his Florida home some years back. “I later found out he was John Ernsthausen, the founder of Norwalk Truck Line, the same company that rolled through Pittsburgh.”

Mazzocco, the seventh of eight children, is survived by two sons, Tod (Carol), of Florida, and Jeff (Diane), of Willard; a daughter, Michele Frayre, of Florida; a sister, Denise Mazzoccoa; a half-sister, Addie Neville; and a brother, Anthony “Sharkey” Mazzocco.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be officiated by Fr. Andrew Wellman at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 15 at St. Paul Catholic Church. Burial will be in the family plot at St. Paul’s Cemetery.

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