By CHRIS LARICK
For the Star Beacon
Being honored in an Ashtabula County hall of fame isn’t exactly a new experience for the Hitchcock family.
But the other members of the Hitchcock clan have all been inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame. Gordie Hitchcock is the first to join the Ashtabula Touchdown Club Hall of Fame.
Gordie’s father (Gordie Sr.) was inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame last year, joining his brother, Bob, a member of the first class. Kim Hitchcock, a cousin of Gordie, joined the honorees in 2011.
Gordie might also eventually be considered for that august group, but the Touchdown Club tapped him first. His football credentials include four years for some good Pymatuning Valley teams and as a three-year starter at Edinboro at guard and center.
His high school career at Pymatuning Valley didn’t exactly get off to a rousing start. After playing guard in the eighth grade, Hitchcock suffered a hand injury in a farming accident before his freshman year. Brian Cross had left as head coach when Hitchcock was in the eighth grade, with Ken Parise taking over. Parise led the Lakers to a 10-0 season in Hitchcock’s freshman year.
When Hitchcock was a sophomore, PV was led by running backs Scott Bell and Keith Whitlatch, both of whom rushed for more than 1,000 yards. But graduation had claimed the big linemen and the Lakers struggled to a 4-6 mark. Hitchcock played backup tight end that season.
“I didn’t play a lot until my junior and senior years,” said Hitchcock, who eventually played at 6-foot-4, 215. “We were decent, but never 10-0 or 8-2.”
PV did have some very good players those years, including Sean Freeman at quarterback and receivers like David Dick, Doug Hitchcock (Gordie’s first cousin) and Rod Brown.
“We threw the ball more than ran it,” Hitchcock said. “I remember the kids spending a lot of time together, practicing.
“When you played football at PV, the big game was against Grand Valley. Jefferson and Grand Valley were the teams we looked forward to beating. GV had some very good teams, with Brian Snowberger, Mick Shoaf and Brian Turner. Those were very competitive games. Unfortunately, we came out on the wrong end of the score too often.”
In his senior year, Hitchcock remembers catching 30 passes and earning all-state recognition as a defensive end after winning first-team Star Beacon All-Ashtabula County honors.
During Hitchcock’s years at Pymatuning Valley, the football team’s efforts were easily eclipsed by those of the basketball team, then coached by his Uncle Bob.
That was pretty much a family affair, with first cousins Gordie and Doug Hitchcock, second cousins Rod and Andy Brown and another cousin, Jason Root.
“At one time, we’d have all cousins on the floor at the same time,” Gordie said. “That team I played on had our best record ever (20-0). Sean Freeman was on that team; his dad, Paul, had played on PV’s first undefeated team. Sean was a very good player in football, basketball and baseball.
“Doug (Hitchcock) was good. That was something you did growing up. Athletics was something that was expected of you; you did it all the time. At family reunions we were always focused on playing basketball, football and baseball.”
Gordie Hitchcock played forward his junior year on a team that included Justin Poole, Freeman, Rod Brown and Doug Hitchcock. Eventually they were beaten in the district finals by Hawken, with its star, O.J. McDuffie, later to play with the Miami Dolphins.
After graduation losses, the Lakers weren’t as good in basketball in Hitchcock’s senior year. The team lost big man Steve Oman to Grand Valley.
“We won the league, but we weren’t as good as that 20-0 team,” Hitchcock said.
Hitchcock also played baseball (first base and left field) at Pymatuning Valley
After high school, Hitchcock headed to Edinboro, where he found himself about sixth in a group of six tight ends. He was moved to center, where he found himself in competition with Scott Nichol from Conneaut. He was redshirted as a freshman, then started for three years at guard and center at about 6-foot-4, 265 .
“I was probably the smallest guy on the line; the others were 6-5, 280,” Hitchcock said. “We had one guy who was 310 who was drafted by the Seahawks.”
Edinboro was a very good team at the time.
“Four out of five years we make the playoffs,” Hitchcock said. “We were always ranked high. We won 40-some games in five years and won the PSAC. Edinboro was a Division II school but we’d get a lot of kids who were Division I, who had gone to places like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh. Our quarterback was from Michigan State. I was lucky to have Tom Hollman as my coach. As a senior, I was All-PSAC at center.”
At the time, the Scots recruited northeastern Ohio heavily. As a result, Hitchcock found himself on the same team as Grand Valley’s Lowell Moodt (who will also be inducted into the ACTC Hall of Fame on Dec. 3), his roommate all through college, Geneva’s Jason Perkins, Nichol from Conneaut and Harvey quarterback Sean Seibert.
“PV and GV,” Hitchcock said of the relationship between the two south Ashtabula Countians. “We took a ribbing over that.”
Hitchcock graduated from Edinboro in 1993 and went into education, beginning at Jefferson as a teacher-coach, coaching junior high school basketball with Mark Baker. He went from there to Conneaut as an assistant principal at the middle school. He currently is principal at Maplewood High School, in his fourth year there.
“Maplewood is a good system,” he said. “We are very good in athletics. Our cross country team is the marquee program in our area. It’s a very good place to be.”
Hitchcock married Jodie, from Rock Creek, whom he met after college. The couple has two sons: Gordie (the third), 9; and Nicholas (7); in addition to a daughter, Julia, 5. They all attend Pymatuning Valley schools.
“I think I owe a lot to my parents for what they instilled in me, the work ethic growing up on a farm, knowing how to be disciplined enough at setting goals,” Hitchcock said. “I think I’m fortunate to be where I am.”
Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.