Bill Race is one of the finest football coaches in not only Chautauqua County history, but also New York State. Falconer Central School is proud he decided to make his home in this area.
Race came to Falconer as a physical education teacher back in September of 1962 and that fall he was an assistant under Coach Skip Mathieson. Then he took over what has become one of the top-flight Class C programs in Western New York and across the Empire State. Thanks to what ranks as one of his greatest seasons with a school record ten wins and two defeats in 1994, Race had compiled a 32- year record of 169-91-6 as the Golden Falcons' mentor at the time of his induction into the CSHoF, ranking ninth on the active list of state coaches. By his retirement in 1995 he had accumulated 174 wins. That career number of wins was the most ever by a Chautauqua County football coach at one school and edged out former Jamestown-Salamanca Coach Joe Sanfilippo who had 170 victories.
Race was born on July 8, 1935, in the hotbed football area of Archbald, Pennsylvania, near Scranton. He graduated from Archbald High School in 1954 and was an outstanding athlete. All four years he lettered in football, basketball and baseball while making the Lackawanna Conference All-Star Team in all sports his senior year when he was captain of each squad. Race performed at halfback and safety in football. While in basketball, he was a guard and averaged 15 points in his finale season. In baseball, he was a pitcher, second baseman and shortstop. His teammate was Dick Tracewski, a former major leaguer who became a coach for the Detroit Tigers.
When not busy in high school, Race coached junior basketball at the St. Thomas Catholic Church and was a pitcher for the Ambros in American Legion competition in 1952. His Rebels lost the Pennsylvania state championship contest to Doylestown, 8-6, in 13 innings and he pitched the first seven innings of the eventual heart-breaking loss. Earlier, he had hurled five no-hitters during the season and led the club in hitting.
After graduation, Race enlisted in the Army for two years and performed in baseball and football in France where he was chosen All-France Division E in both sports. He hit at a .385 clip to lead the baseball squad to the South Division title and led the football team in rushing.
When he returned home, Race was a softball all-star in 1956 and 1957 for Daystrom Instruments, which made parts for missiles. He led the league in hitting those two years.
With college on the horizon, Race decided upon East Stroudsburg (Pennsylvania). He played freshman football competition his first year and moved up for a prolific career in his final three campaigns. Race led the team in rushing with 862 yards and in scoring as a junior plus he had 790 as a senior when he was the captain. The team was 7-2 when he was a junior and 8-1 as a senior. Both years, Race was an all-star on the Division 2 Second Team.
After graduating in 1962, Race looked over a few teaching offers and decided the best place for him was Falconer. After becoming Falconer's head football coach in 1963, Race had four undefeated seasons. The first was a 5-0-2 campaign when Tom Phillips, later Jamestown High School football assistant coach, was his star running back. Then, Race's Golden Falcons set the Chautauqua County mark of 28 wins in a row from 1973-77. The Golden Falcons started a string in 1973 followed with 8-0 in 1974, 9-0 in 1975, and 8-0 in 1976. The streak came to an end when Olean turned the trick in the early portion of 1977. Some of the outstanding players of that "Golden Era" were Joe Mistretta, Mike and Steve Garvey and Al Nalbone.
From 1977 through 1982, it was a struggle for the Golden Falcons competing in Division 6 against teams much larger and talented. So, in 1983, Falconer moved into Division 8 and began playing against schools with similar enrollments. The Golden Falcons have been a dominant team since moving into Division 8 as they have won 79 percent of their games with a 63-17 record (as of this writing in 1995). Race's team never finished lower than second place in any of those years. Overall, the Golden Falcons have had winning seasons the last 11 years with a record of 75-25-1, two Section 6 titles, a Far West Regional title and a tough 20-12 Class C semifinal loss to eventual state champ Walton in 1994. Race has racked up 13 either outright, co-championships or tri-championships in his career. Race always wanted to see how Falconer would measure up to other teams from the state and he was pleased with the performance versus Walton even though it was a loss but it showed that the Golden Falcons could measure up well with what turned out to be the best Class C team in 1994.
Among Race's former players is Ory Mee, the baseball coach at Hilton from Section 5 in the Rochester area. Race is also proud that Curt Fischer of Maple Grove and Mark Petersen of Cassadaga Valley are football coaches that got their starts playing for him. Race has been the Falconer athletic director since 1970 and headed up the physical education department beginning in 1985. Besides football, he coached junior high school basketball for seven years, was assistant wrestling coach for two years and for several years piloted the boys and girls junior high school track programs.
Volunteer work for Race has included being the youth activity director for the Elks Club and winter recreation director for Falconer. He has also served as vice president of the Western New York Football Coaches Association. Race received a key from the mayor of Falconer and a plaque from the Falconer Legion for his outstanding service to the youth of Falconer. Another big honor for Race was the football field being renamed the William R. Race Field in 1995. Certainly there is no one better to have a facility named after than the man who has dedicated his entire teaching career to the community of Falconer.
Bill Race was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.