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The 1959 Hillsboro football squad: The road from Wilmington to HHS

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, in 1959, Bill Atsalis was hired for his first head football coaching job at Hillsboro High School at the age of 26.

Not too terribly long before that season, Atsalis was playing football himself. In 1950, he was a freshman quarterback at Wilmington College and was described as having “good football brains,” had “come along amazingly fast since the opening of the season” and was under center briefly when the starting quarterback missed some time. Atsalis, a high school standout at Yorkville, was the Quakers’ fulltime starter by 1951, though he missed some time with a broken wrist as Wilmington finished 6-2 under head coach Fred Raizk.

Raizk was also the Wilmington head baseball coach, and Atsalis was on the team as a shortstop, outfielder and third baseman.

In 1952, the injury bug hit the Quakers football team hard, as Wilmington posted just a 1-7 record with Atsalis at QB. For the season, Atsalis was 39-of-93 passing for 355 yards, plus ran for 186 yards and three touchdowns on 62 attempts.

During his junior year in 1953, the Army came calling in October. It was written that “Wilmington College’s athletic publicity department issued its most regretful news release of the 1953 grid season when it learned today that veteran quarterback Bill Atsalis had been called for induction into the United States Army. The popular Atsalis, who piloted the Quaker eleven over the past three seasons, will undertake his new assignment Tuesday. In his final preinduction performance against Manchester College last Saturday, Atsalis bowed out in scintillating fashion, tossing two touchdowns and plunging for another as Wilmington registered a 28-0 win.”

It was noted that, “Over the past three seasons, Atsalis’ rifle-shot arm has commanded the respect of all Quaker opponents. … Head coach Fred Raizk, who watched Atsalis over the past few seasons, had this to say about his Army-bound veteran. ‘I certainly hate to see Bill leave for he has become a valuable member of our football squads since 1950. He ranks among the best of the Quaker quarterbacks since I’ve been here at Wilmington.’”

Atsalis summed it all up like this, “I hate to leave because this year’s squad has plenty of potential, and I would like to have been part of the victories that are bound to come. I enjoyed my football under Coach Raizk and assistants Reese, Petty and Pusateri, and if I’m not too old, maybe I’ll have a few passes left in me when I return.”

With Atsalis headed for Army induction, Wilmington ended up posting a 3-4 record in the 1953 season.

In early 1954, it was announced that Mr. and Mrs. Henry Head of Hillsboro announced the engagement of their daughter, Marilyn, to Pvt. William Atsalis Jr., who was stationed with the U.S. Army at Fort Eustis, Va.

As the 1955 season approached, Atsalis was back from the Army and had to compete for his starting spot at quarterback. Atsalis won the job as quarterback, and by late October of 1955, he stood at sixth in the nation in passing and 12th in total offense. Wilmington was 5-3-1 in 1955, and Atsalis was named co-MVP of the Quakers and was a unanimous All-Mid-Ohio League football team selection.

In 1956, it was reported that Atsalis, as a senior, was ineligible to play football because he played in one quarter of one game as a freshman years earlier. He ended up working as an assistant coach with the team’s quarterbacks to help them along during the 1956 season. That also turned out to be Fred Raizk’s last season as Wilmington College head football coach, as the team finished 3-4 in 1956, and he had a 40-42-1 record in 10 years at the helm. A Wilmington High School and Wilmington College graduate, Raizk coached six sports at Wilmington College (football, basketball, baseball, track, soccer and golf), was a health and physical education teacher and
athletics administrator.

In addition to coaching, Raizk served as Wilmington’s athletic director for 25 years, dean of men and as a member of the college faculty from 1946 through 1990. He was also commissioner of NAIA District 22 and served as president of the Mid-Ohio and Hoosier Buckeye conferences. He retired from active coaching — at the age of 86 — of the Wilmington College golf team in 1999. Raizk passed away in August of 2003 at the age of 89.

After graduating from Wilmington College, Bill Atsalis was an assistant football coach of Beavercreek High School for two years before being hired by Hillsboro for the head varsity football job in the spring of 1959 after a meeting with longtime Hillsboro Superintendent Paul L. Upp.

As the 1959 HHS football season nears, let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next time.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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