The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 4, 2012

Gridiron celebration

Ashtabula County TD Club gala proves to be one hot ticket

By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — The Mount Carmel Community Center was packed on Monday night, undoubtedly in large part because Urban Meyer was the keynote speaker. But there were many more items of interest that took place at the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club’s 43rd Annual Awards Dinner, co-sponsored by the TD Club and the Star Beacon.

Fourteen new members were inducted into the Ashtabula County Football Hall of Fame. Retired Star Beacon sports writer Chris Larick performed the introductions.

Interestingly, the school that boasted the most new enshrinees was Harbor, which of course no longer exists, having consolidated with Ashtabula High School. Its three new members are fullback Brian Laffey (class of 1959), running back Brian Gaines (1964) and offensive and defensive tackle Gary Lillvis (1971).

“Wow — that’s all I have to say,” Gaines, who nevertheless went on to say plenty, related.

Gaines also referenced the “Ancient Mariners” — a club of Harbor gridders from the past that is looking for new members.

Ashtabula High placed running back Vaughn Tittle (1961) and offensive tackle Alvin Benton (1968) in the Hall. The other inductee from a school that no longer exists was John Peaspanen, a two-way tackle at Conneaut Rowe High School.

Geneva was the one existing school that placed more than one new member, as wide receiver Tim Coy (1973) and quarterback Rick Malizia (1981) were voted in. The other inductees are Grand Valley two-way tackle Lowell Moodt (1989), Pymatuning Valley tight end/defensive end Gordie Hitchcock (1989), Conneaut quarterback Mark Wheeler (1981), St. John lineman and fullback Francis Burke, Edgewood running back Lou Wisnyai (1987) and Jefferson assistant coach Jim Richards.

“Don’t you ever let anyone’s expectations of you define your reality,” Hitchcock told the athletes present. “You define it.”

“Honestly, if it weren’t for five or six guys up front, I’m not standing here,” a humble Wisnyai said.

Several of the inductees were not present because they are deceased, in ill health or other reasons. The late Richards was represented by his daughter.

“Being inducted is something my dad would have never expected,” she said.

The Hall of Fame announcements took place after George Bellios introduced the All-County teams. Following Larick to the stage was the Star Beacon’s Bob Ettinger, who introduced the Players of the Year and the Coach of the Year.

GV’s John Glavickas won Coach of the Year honors. Jefferson senior Tony Chiacchiero took home both the Player of the Year and Quarterback of the Year awards. Geneva sophomore Aaron Rossi was named Back/Receiver of the Year. Edgewood junior Matt Fitchet is Offensive Lineman of the Year, Conneaut senior Billy Post the Defensive Lineman of the Year, Edgewood junior Anthony Magda  Linebacker of the Year and Lakeside senior Shawn Gilbert the Defensive Back of the Year.

After Gazette Newspapers awarded the Outstanding College Football Player of the Year to Conneaut graduate Peter “Zane” Garza, who played wide receiver at Thiel College, the winners of the five scholarship awards were announced. Chiacchiero garnered the Robert M. Herpy Memorial Scholarship Award, PV’s Austin Nowakowski the William H. Phillips Memorial Scholarship Award, PV’s Grant Nowakowski the Warren G. Andrews Memorial Scholarship Award, Geneva’s Dakota Brininger the East Ashtabula Educational Assistance Corporation Scholarship Award and Edgewood’s Anthony Colby the Robert L. Wiese Memorial Scholarship Award.

“I never thought I would be here,” Colby said.  

Meyer, head football coach at the Ohio State University, was introduced by Paul Kopko, his coach at St. John, before Bellios made closing remarks.

Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.