Fire Breather Episode 4-
From 1968-70, Purchase Line High School, may have had as much football talent roaming its halls, as it ever will. It was the golden era of offensive linemen at PL, with Division 1 recruits like John Williams, Max Falisec, Larry Poliyak, and Tom Riddle. But in 1968, it was the Sophomore Halfback that ran behind those star studded linemen that would begin to stake his claim as one of the finest all around athletes in school history.
Kenneth E. Deitmen was country boy tough and football savvy. His 900 plus yards rushing that season, were highlighted by an 11 carry 197 yard performance versus Apollo Ridge. But more importantly, it helped second year Coach Stan Bem and the Red Dragons to a 6-2-1 record, and set the stage for a tremendous career and PL’s first football championship.
That championship would be earned the next season (1969), as the Red Dragons pounded out 7 wins against 3 losses and captured the Appalachian Conference crown. Deitmen would lead the County in scoring, and rush for 1,027 yards, during his Junior campaign. His performance that season garnered him All Indiana County Team honors. Coach Stan Bem remembered Deitmen recently this way, “Ken was very elusive, he had great vision and instincts, like all great running backs, and a very good understanding of the game of football. He wasn’t big, but he was intelligent, like a coach on the field. In today’s modern era with all of the spread, read option offenses, I would play him at Quarterback, he just would fit that mold, with his ability to think on the fly.”
As a Senior, Deitmen once again rushed for over a 1,000 yards, tallying 1,006 and was joined in that feat by his backfield mate, speedster Tom Kerr, who added 1,066 yards. The duo was exciting to watch as they gave opposing defenses fits. The Dragons would finish 4-4-1, with Deitmen being named Johnstown Tribune Democrat Player/Scholar award winner and once again to the All Indiana County Team.
Unofficially, Ken Deitmen stands number two on the all time school rushing list with 2,933 plus yards (The Indiana Gazette did not keep stats until 1976), but it’s not a running play that is his favorite memory at PL. Deitmen explains,” During my Sophomore season, behind by less than a touchdown, we were driving the ball towards Laurel Valley’s goal line with under two minutes to play. We were first and goal and did not score on four tries. Dejected, we went on defense prepared for LV to take a knee and run out the clock. Much to my surprise LV ran a sweep left toward my position as right outside linebacker. I stole the football from an even more surprised running back and returned it for a touchdown as time ran out.” Those in attendance that would soon come to realize that with Ken Deitmen on the field it never is over until it is truly over.
Excelling not just in football and in the classroom, Deitmen was a force in basketball and track. He set and held the school long jump record for many years at 21 ft, 2.5 inches.
That athletic versatility would be put on display at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where Deitmen would star once again on the football field under Head Coach Bill Neal. Coach Neal played Deitmen at tailback, fullback, slotback, punt and kick returner, punter, holder for field goals, and he also had him covering punts. IUP lists him as a letter winner in 1971,72, and 74. He was slowed in 1973 by a nagging hamstring injury. In 1972 Deitmen started at Tailback on the 8-1 Indian team, scoring lots of touchdowns. The highlight of that season would be playing against Wally Chambers of Eastern Kentucky, who would go on to be the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1973. Deitmen also played against Ron Jaworski of Youngstown State, who would go on to fame in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and as a NFL analyst on ESPN. Deitmen’s 1974 Senior season was one for the record books at IUP. He would catch a 78 yard touchdown pass against Edinboro, which at the time was the longest TD reception in IUP history. He would also add a 75 yarder against Westminster. They still stand number 13 and number 17 on the list of all time longest TD receptions in IUP history. He would finish the season as one of the PSAC leading scorers, while averaging over 25 yards a reception. Just for kicks he added the then longest punt in IUP history of 60 yards. The Indians would finish 6-4.
During his college career, Deitmen also ran track, and he played baseball in the Indiana County League, which by the way he was named MVP of, in 1974. What else would you expect from a Fire Breather?
Deitmen graduated from IUP in 1975 with Bachelor of Science Degree in Education, received his Masters from Shippensburg University in 1977, and his Doctorate from Temple in 1988. Through the years, Deitmen has served as a teacher, counselor, supervisor, and consultant in the education field. He also coached football as an assistant at Susquehanna Township High School. He is currently the President and CEO of College and Career Solutions Consulting Firm. Deitmen is living in Harrisburg, PA with his wife Rebecca. He has two daughters, Rachel and Megan, and two sons-in-laws, two granddaughters, and a grandson.
Author’s Note: My Father was a teacher at PL during that era, and I grew up hearing stories of Deitmen and Kerr and all those other guys. How great they were, how much talent they had. I never saw them play, but I knew those names were football royalty at PL. The 2014 season will be the 45th anniversary of the 1969 Appalachian Conference Championship Team, I say lets bring them back and honor them.
***THE FIRE BREATHER SERIES IS INTENDED TO REVIST SOME OF OUR GREATEST FOOTBALL PLAYERS. THE DEFINITION OF A FIRE BREATHER, IS SOMEONE WHO IS A PASSIONATE, DRIVEN INDIVIDUAL WHO THROUGH HARD WORK HAS TAKEN THEIR GOD GIVEN TALENT AND CREATED SUCCESS AND MADE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON AND OFF THE FOOTBALL FIELD. THESE STORIES SERVE AS A TESTAMENT TO THE VALUE OF SPORT, IN DEVELOPING LIFE LONG CHARACTER TRAITS IN YOUNG MEN. IF ANYONE HAS ANY PERSONS IN MIND FOR FUTURE EPISODES, PLEASE DROP ME AN EMAIL. IT IS OUR GOAL TO CONTINUE TO DEVELOP FIRE BREATHERS AT PLHS THROUGH OUR FOOTBALL PROGRAM. TO READ MORE FIRE BREATHER EPISODES, GO TO THE ARTICLE TAB, CLICK MORE AND THEN CLICK HISTORY.