June 28, 2016

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LHS Sports Hall of Fame inductee
Restivo turned Indian program into winner
LAWRENCEVILLE - Paul Restivo's forte was turning downtrodden high school football programs into winners.

He did it first at Du Quoin, starting in 1958 and then again in his home town of Herrin, starting in 1969.

In between, Restivo spent six seasons in Lawrenceville, guiding the Indians to a record of 33-12-4.

In addition, Restivo guided the Indians' thriving track and field program and served as an assistant basketball coach during the highly-successful tenure of Ken Pritchett.

Restivo will be inducted into the Lawrenceville High School Sports Hall of Fame on Sept. 21, in a ceremony at the high school. A golf outing, to raise funds for the Hall of Fame, will take place earlier in the day at Lawrence County Country Club.

Now 78 and still very active, Restivo fondly recalls the falls of 1963 through 1968, when the Indians were winning in all sports with regularity.

"What I remember is that everybody in Lawrenceville seemed to be on the same page," said Restivo, who had a career football coaching record of 104-43-10. "They were ready to support a football program, and my enthusiasm level was well received by the community."

While Restivo's last two Lawrenceville football teams, in 1967 and 1968, both won seven games, he's probably better remembered for the 1966 team that was dubbed "Restivo's Runts."

On the way to posting a 5-2-1 record, the "Runts" overcame a big size disadvantage at nearly every line position.

"Pound for pound, that was one of the best teams I've ever coached," Restivo said.

At least in part due to injuries, Restivo was forced to move smaller, athletic players from the backfield into the line.

Restivo said the adjustment called for a "new system, which wasn't my invention." It called for a lot of crab-blocking, and cross-blocking.

"They were all small, 140, 155, 160 pounds," he said. "But they were all quick."

Restivo also took pride in playing platoon football. He felt those who worked hard in practice each day needed to play in order to be a part of the team. He tried to get as many players into the action as he could, even if it was just on special teams.

"We probably lost some games because I didn't have the best players out there at all times," he said. "But I wanted the parents to be able to say 'My kid's on the team.' I wanted to have a position for him."

Restivo says the decision to leave Lawrenceville was one of the hardest he's ever had to make. He'd produced six straight winning teams and he knew the 1969 squad - which would go 8-1 under Don Myers - would be very good.

"But I sort of felt like I could do the same thing I'd done at Du Quoin and Lawrenceville at Herrin," he said. "I felt like I could use the same philosophy and be successful."

He was. Although the Tigers won just two games his first year, they improved to 6-4 in 1970. The team eventually won 27 consecutive games while posting back-to-back perfect seasons.

He retired from coaching after the 1975 season, then served as the school's athletic director through 1993.

He now stays busy doing a variety of things, including managing merchandise for his son-in-law, the country music artist David Lee Murphy.

Tickets for the Hall of Fame banquet are on sale at the Daily Record, as well as the Kull Agency.


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