Thursday, December 5th, 2013
St. Marys dominated 1993 state title game
Last Curtain Call
By Robb Hemmelgarn
When St. Marys' football season drew to a close at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium at Massillon in 1992, the opponents on their schedule for the 1993 campaign likely couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief.
The Roughriders had lost just one regular season game in the previous three seasons and were celebrating their second state championship in the same span. Graduating from that squad were standouts Mike Elston and Dean Miller, both Division I college players, as well as a host of their classmates who steamrolled the Western Buckeye League throughout their careers.
"We didn't necessarily have the most talented group of players coming back in 1993, but we had all been through it before and knew what was expected to keep our tradition going," said former linebacker and WBL Defensive Player of the Year Jeff Kogge. "We weren't real big size-wise and all season long, especially in the playoffs, we faced a lot of bigger and stronger teams with Division I talent, so we were prepared for anything."
The Roughriders powered through the 1993 regular season unbeaten before knocking off Columbus Watterson, Columbus Eastmoor, and Piqua in the Division II playoffs. Up next were the Uniontown Lake Blue Streaks.
"Heading into the final game, there was a sense of finality for me personally since I knew it would be the last game I played with my teammates," recalled Kogge. "We started the season a little slow defensively, but by the time the playoffs rolled around we had really gelled as a group. We felt if the offense could score a couple of touchdowns, the defense would do their job and we had a good chance at winning the title."
The two squads were scoreless at the conclusion of the first quarter but the atmosphere shifted in a hurry. Uniontown Lake botched a field-goal attempt early in the quarter and St. Marys responded with a 36-yard pitch-and-catch from quarterback Tony Hirschfeld to receiver Bill Koeper. The first down set the table for Shawn Lamb, who finished with 83 rushing yards in the game, to power his way 13 yards to the end zone for the game's opening score. Jeff Hughes nailed the PAT kick to put his team in charge, 7-0.
"I had been running the same plays since I was eight-years old, so I can't really say it was anything fancy on that run," said Lamb, who rushed for 1,622 yards that season while earning WBL Offensive Back of the Year honors. "It all really started up front with my line. It didn't matter how big and strong I was, it was those guys who were the grinders that attributed to the success. That first touchdown got things going, but after that it became 'Air Baughman.' "
Uniontown Lake's ensuing offensive possession was smoldered by the Roughrider defense and following a punt, St. Marys started its drive at the Blue Streaks' 40-yard line. On third-down-and-seven, Hirschfeld delivered a pass through double coverage to Luke Kleinhenz for a 27-yard touchdown and the Roughriders were on top 14-0 after Hughes' second PAT kick.
"I can't say our running game was struggling at the time, but the coaches definitely noticed something in their coverage that they felt we could exploit with the pass," said Kleinhenz, who was a first team All-WBL selection on defense. "Tony made some great passes that game and we took advantage of what they gave us."
The score remained the same until late in the third quarter. Adam Kerns, who led St. Marys' rushing attack with 95 yards in the game, notched a first down with a 28-yard carry. A few moments later, it was fourth-and-two at Uniontown Lake's 15-yard line. Hirschfeld secured the snap, rolled left and fired to Kleinhenz at the five-yard line, where he strolled into the end zone untouched for a 21-0 Roughriders lead.
"I remember on that second touchdown, Tony breaking a couple of tackles to extend the play," said Kleinhenz. "We worked together as a team like that all season. We didn't have a lot of standouts. Everyone just did their job and it always seemed to work well."
St. Marys' first-team defense, which didn't allow a touchdown in the final 13 quarters of the playoffs, held tight the remainder of the way to secure a 21-0 victory. Uniontown Lake amassed just 103 yards on the ground and 83 yards through the air, while turning the ball over four times.
"Obviously St. Marys football had always been powered by a strong running game, so it was ironic when the newspaper headline mentioned that we lit the air up with footballs that day," said Duncan. "We threw only five times, but two were for touchdowns and one was the big one that Koeper pulled in at the beginning of the game. We always practiced passing because there were situations that called for it and we knew we had some very strong receivers while Hirschfeld was a great quarterback."
Unbeknownst to many of the Blue and Gold clad fans leaving Paul Brown Tiger Stadium that afternoon, the championship signified the culmination of a remarkable era for the St. Marys football program. With a senior class that had suffered just two setbacks in their career while winning two state championships since they were sophomores, the 1993 title game was also the final time on the sideline for coach Baughman. When he marched jubilantly off of the field on that December day, he took with him 272 victories in 36 years as the Roughriders' head coach.
"At the time we didn't realize how much that game was an end of a very special time," said Duncan. "We all wished Skip could have coached forever, but they say there is a time for everyone to go and when that time comes there isn't much you can do about it. He was a tremendous coach that had an unbelievable impact on so many young lives. Being his last game, it was certainly a fitting way to leave coaching after so many years."