1961-62 North Harford Basketball

The 1961-62 North Harford High boys basketball team was honored recently to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their Maryland state championship. Front row, from left, Bob Bonhage, Nick Whiteford; back row, from left, Greg Beattie, Bob Garbacik (coach), Mac Lloyd, Dave Sanborn, Dave DeRan and Cliff Hopkins. Kirk Nevin and John Blaney were unable to attend. (Submitted photo / March 4, 2012)

If you're lucky enough to put your hands on a copy of the 50-year-old tome known as the 1961-62 North Harford High School Yearbook, open it up to the athletics section and thumb along until you come to the basketball team's page.

There, between individual shots of the squad's six most prominent players, is a drawing of a figure that looks to be a cross between Jughead Jones and Donald Duck, around which is written: "Let them call us DUCK FARMERS."

It seems a strangely designed page when one considers that North Harford's mascot is a much more fearsome avian, the hawk, but the decision to use an anthropomorphic waterfowl as the team's animal representative speaks volumes on the six young men pictured on that page, who as seniors in 1962 were nearing the end of their high school careers.

They were a consummate teammates, not a prima donna or lone flier among them, and they played without a thought for glitz or flash. Unashamed country boys, aware that some people in Harford County thought them and their classmates to be a bunch of bumpkins, they were content to let their playing do the talking.

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Most importantly, those six players formed the nucleus of a Hawk boys basketball team that charged out of Pylesville a half century ago to capture a Class B state championship.

They were the kings of the hardwood then and, 50 years later, they continued to be well remembered and honored for their achievement.

The hustling Hawks

The six seniors who played the lion's share of the championship season were Allen "Mac" Lloyd, the team's center and eventual Harford County scoring champion for the 1961-62 campaign, guard F.D. "Nick" Whiteford, who finished behind Lloyd in the county scoring race, power forward Dave Sanborn, small forward Kirk Nevin, guard Bob Bonhage, and sixth-man guard John Blaney.

The underclassmen of the team were Dave DeRan, Bobby Jones, Greg Beattie, Cliff Hopkins and Ron Cole, who were helped along the way by junior varsity call-ups.

At the helm of the Hawks was head coach Bob Garbacik, a math teacher at North Harford just three years removed from a college basketball career at Franklin and Marshall in Lancaster, Pa.

"North Harford was a country school, that's for sure," Whiteford, who grew up in Cardiff, a mile or less from the Maryland-Pennsylvania line, said. "I think a lot of people thought we were rednecks, and we definitely had some kids who'd come to school with a little manure on their shoes. But, we won the first state title in school history, and we only had two guys over six feet tall."

"We beat teams that season who were 23-0 when we played them, and we did because we were a team," he said. "There were no superstars, no one player who won games by himself. We played our game the whole way through, and it worked for us."

Duck farmers

"I pretty sure I know where the 'duck farmer,' stuff started," Lloyd, who is also from Cardiff and was childhood friends with Whiteford, said. "That was from when North Harford High first opened, in 1950. Over where Harford Mall [in Bel Air] is now there was a race track, and they would have farm fairs there. North Harford had a really good agriculture program, and some students got wind that the Future Farmers of America from Bel Air were grooming a steer to enter in a competition at one of those fairs."

"What the North Harford kids did was pull a couple of ducks from the pond at the high school and enter them. Well, the ducks wound up winning a blue ribbon, and I think Bel Air's steer didn't win anything," he continued. "So, the Bel Air kids started calling us duck farmers. I think they thought it was a put down, but I never thought of it like that."

The picture of the duck you see in the 1961-62 yearbook on the championship team's page was drawn by a DeRan, who was already demonstrating a talent for drawing and painting that would lead to a career as an artist. The duck made it into the yearbook via a happy accident.

"I was on the yearbook staff, and DeRan got that picture to me," Sanborn, a native of Norrisville, said. "Well, the day we were putting together the basketball team's page, the head yearbook editor was out sick, so I decided to use the duck drawing. I'm glad she was out, because I'm positive she would have axed it. We all loved it though."

Inauspicious beginning

Though recognized as a solid team coming into the 1961-62 season, the Hawks were not saddled with great expectations.

"A lot of people thought the 1959-60 team was the one that was going to win a state title," Sanborn said. "My brother was on that team, and I think they beat Havre de Grace by 45 or 50 one game that year. They could really play, but they wound up getting knocked out in the district tournament. Honestly, I don't think anyone put us in the same league as that team, but we did OK."