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Corley Catholic Club
of Southwark (Philadelphia), PA

 

Southwark is generally recognized as the oldest section of Philadelphia.  Pre-dating the founding of the city itself, this area was originally home to the Swedish trading colonies of Wicaco and Moyamensing.  Today it is a working class South Philly neighborhood that lies between the Delaware River and Passyunk Avenue, roughly bounded Washington and Mifflin Streets.  Early in the second decade of the twentieth century, Southwark was home to the Corley Catholic Club.  The Corley football team was founded in 1910 by Reverend M. J. Corley, as a way to help keep the mostly Irish Catholic young men of his parish off the streets and out of trouble…

The Corleys of Southwark

The Corley Catholic Club opened its inaugural gridiron campaign on October 22, 1910.  The club's foe that afternoon was a local South Philly team known as the Ritner Athletic Club.  Corley's ensuing 11-5 victory set the stage for what was by all accounts a very successful first season for newly formed eleven.  Fresh off of their success against Ritner, the team next traveled across the Delaware River, there to square-off against an opponent from Palmyra (NJ).  Although Palmyra would go on to claim the championship of South Jersey at the conclusion of the season, the Philadelphians' defense managed to hold their hosts to just five points.  Corley's offense stepped up as well, with a strong effort that sealed the team's second 11-5 victory in as many games.  A week later the team headed to Clifton Heights (PA), where it faced the Garretford Athletic Association Seconds.  No ordinary band of second-fiddle players, these "juniors" had reportedly gone un-scored upon over the five previous seasons.  In fact, this squad would later go on to nearly defeat the Garretford AA first stringers in a bitterly contested 5-0 tilt on Thanksgiving Day!  Living up to their reputation, Garretford forced a Corley fumble just minutes into the contest.  That turnover was quickly converted into a touchdown by the home team.  The Philadelphians countered with a solid effort and played gamely for the rest of the contest, but it was not enough.  That early score had provided the only points of the afternoon, and Corley returned to Southwark holding the short end of a 5-0 shutout.  Although it had suffered its first set-back, the rookie club's record was still a respectable 2-1-0 as the team entered the home stretch of what was quickly becoming a rather exciting schedule.

Corley Catholic Club football team, 1910
Standing: Jackson, Bob Watson, J. Meagher, Rev. M. J. Corley, George Roeletter, Snyder
Kneeling: Louis Watson, Tim Sheehan (captain), John Robbins (manager), John Kelley, "Rab" Robbins, J. Dougherty
Sitting: James Orr, McGowan, Ryan, H. O'Hara, Thomas, and "Don" (mascot)

The Corley's next squared-off against another South Philly team, the Reliance Field Club.  This game was played at Reliance's home gridiron, Vare Park. Located at Broad St. & Oregon Ave., Vare Park is today the site of Philadelphia's Marconi Plaza.  A strong effort against the overmatched Reliance eleven resulted in a 14-0 victory.  It also set the stage for a showdown with the Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Club on November 19.  The St. Thomas Aquinas team hailed from the nearby parish of the same name, and the upcoming clash was looked forward to with great anticipation as a sort of Catholic club championship of South Philly. The game, however, was never played. After an initial postponement until Thanksgiving Day, it was eventually cancelled at the request of the St. Thomas' management.  With Thanksgiving Day open, arrangements were quickly made to schedule an alternate opponent to fill the holiday slot.  The Transfiguration Catholic Club, hailing from the Transfiguration of Our Lord parish, in West Philly, fit the bill perfectly.  A strong passing attack helped the locals jump to a quick lead, and an eventual 21-0 blowout of their intra-city challengers in this, the Corley Club's season finale. 

During that first season the Corley Catholic Club compiled a very respectable 4-1-0 record over five games.  Through consistent play the young team had proven itself on the local gridirons, and had successfully laid the groundwork for rivalries with other South Philly teams, such as the Ritner Athletic Club and Reliance Field Club.  And having compiled a winning record against established foes, most of the team's players committed to returning the following year.  As a result, the Corley Catholic Club football team looked forward to continued success in following seasons, ...but that's another story. 

By the Numbers

While the Corley Catholic Club did not receive a lot of detailed coverage in the Philadelphia newspapers, there were enough reports on the team to learn some of the scoring information beyond the usual opponents and results.  Corley's offensive strength lay mostly in a backfield comprised of Rab Robbins at quarterback, brothers Bob and Louis Watson at halfbacks, and J. Meagher at fullback.  This strength was perhaps most evident against Palmyra, a team reported to have out-weighed Corley by an average of about twenty pounds.  In that contest team captain Tim Sheehan scored at least one of the Corley touchdowns.  It is not known who was responsible for the other.  In the Reliance game both J. Dougherty and Bob Watson contributed offensive touchdowns, while on the defensive side of the ball J. Meagher added two safeties to the points total.

The table below provides a breakdown of the Corley Catholic Club's 1910 season schedule and results, including links to some newspaper articles reporting specific games.

Date

Loc

Opponent PF PA W-L-T

Sat, Oct 22

H

Ritner Athletic Club
Philadelphia, PA

11 5 W

Sat, Oct 29

A

Palmyra
of Palmyra, NJ

11 5 W

Sat, Nov 5

A

Garretford Athletic Club Seconds
at Clifton Heights, PA

0 6 L

Sat, Nov 12

A

Reliance Field Club
of Philadelphia, PA

14 0 W

Sat, Nov 19

?

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Club
of Philadelphia, PA

Postponed

Thu, Nov 24

?

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Club
of Philadelphia, PA

Cancelled

Thu, Nov 24

H

Transfiguration Catholic Club
of Philadelphia, PA

21 0 W
   

Totals:

57 16 4-1-0

Pct:

.800


© John J. Fenton, 2007-2006, all rights reserved.