Citizen Service Request Center
County Departments
Cumberland County Purchasing Portal
Sign up for Email Notifications

Our People of the Century
John Barbose:
Coach Shook Off Loss to Win More Titles

John Barbose and his Thunderbolt football team took a 31-game winning streak in to the 1955 Thanksgiving Day game against rival Vineland.

The Fighting Clan ended the streak with a 27-6 victory and sent an estimated 12,000 dejected fans home from Wheaton Field.

At halftime that morning, the Millville Thunderbolt Club brought to midfield a token of its appreciation for Barbose's coaching excellence –a brand new, 1956 Oldsmobile.

Barbose, disgusted by the loss, didn't have the heart to drive it home that day.

The car sat behind the school for almost a week before Barbose could justify driving it home. He later said he worried the people of Millville would interpret his actions as an unappreciated gesture.

Despite the loss, Barbose did plenty of winning in his 13-year tenure at Millville from 1949-61.

After a 4-5 season in 1949, Millville finished 6-2-1 and won the Sectional Group II title in 1950. Then came the remarkable string of four straight Group II championships from 1953-56. The '53 and '54 teams both went 9-0, and the Thunderbolts lost just twice in that four-year stretch.

Over time, Barbose formed a relationship with one of the greatest coaching legends of the modern era – Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

"They met when Paterno was an assistant coach,” Surace said. “And when I talked to (Paterno), he told me that John was 20 years ahead of his time. That's quite a compliment."

Return to Table of Contents