From Oct. 24, 1997 to Sept. 12, 2003, Windber won 49 consecutive regular-season games.
“You don’t plan it. It just started to evolve,” DeMarco said. “That took effort, it really did. We tried to keep things in perspective. We made a concerted effort to keep things in perspective. People were assuming we were going to do it again. Can you do it again? We just went season to season.
“No. 1, we had some tremendous athletes during that time period. We had great kids. Dedicated, loyal, hard-working kids. We worked at it.”
When DeMarco took over the Ramblers program, Windber had a combined two victories in the previous two seasons.
In his second year as head coach, DeMarco led Windber to a 9-1-1 mark and a District 5-AA runner-up finish in 1986.
“It didn’t take long when I became a part of the rivalry for me to realize what an outstanding job Phil did as a coach at Windber, and even before that, when he was at Westmont,” said former Johnstown High and Conemaugh Township coach Jerry Davitch, who was part of the intense Windber-Township rivalry in the 1990s. “We became friends from the get-go. I always enjoyed competing against him or even bumping into him outside of football. We had a lot of respect for each other. I respected how he conducted himself and his program.
“Windber’s kids played very, very hard. You knew they played rugged, disciplined football. You knew you had to be ready to play when you played Windber. Phil came to coach. His kids came to play. It never was going to be easy when you played Windber.”
Under DeMarco, Windber won district titles in 5-A (1989, 1994, 2005, 2008) and 5/6-A (2000).
The 2000 title against a powerhouse Bishop Carroll program is among the most celebrated in the program’s history. Windber won 10-7 on a late field goal.
“Obviously, I’m very excited for my brother. My brother is an old-fashion type of coach,” Ralph DeMarco said. “He can ‘X’ and ‘O’ with anybody. He watched endless hours of film when he coached. His attitude was we’d be positive and we weren’t going to be outworked or out-prepared. He’d be the first to tell you we had a lot of quality student-athletes who played for him.”
Phil DeMarco retired as a junior high social studies teacher during the 2010-11 school year. He decided the timing was right to step away from the football program as well.
His final team in 2010 went 5-5.
DeMarco left 17 returning starters and a junior varsity team coming off of an undefeated season to new Ramblers coach Matt Grohal, a long-time assistant who played on DeMarco’s first team in 1985.
Grohal has carried on Windber’s winning tradition for his coach.
Many fans, players and coaches, not to mention media types in the area, thought DeMarco would stay on another year or two to reach the coveted 200-win milestone.
“People forget that Phil coached for 40-some years. He coached at Westmont,” Ralph DeMarco said. “He was in the business a long time. He was a lifer in the business. In his mind, it was the right time to go.
“He always told me, and I’ll never forget this, ‘When I leave I don’t want to leave out of necessity. I want to leave feeling good and knowing that whoever takes over is not starting from scratch.’ ”
Phil DeMarco’s next football stop will be in Hershey.
“It really makes me feel good whenever we get a local coach inducted into the hall,” said Chuck Sponsky, chairman of the PSFCA Hall of Fame committee and hall of famer who coached at Forest Hills and Bishop Carroll. “Phil is very deserving. It’s a great honor for Phil.”