By DOM IAROCCI
For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
Memories, hugs, smiles and congratulations were all part of an emotional event for players coaches and fans as they celebrated the 40th anniversary of the undefeated 1973 football season at the Chardon-at-Madison football game a week ago last night.
Superintendent Roger Gowdy and Board President Rex Reigart congratulated each coach and player as they were introduced to the crowd prior to the game. A huge ovation was given to the team after they were announced and the stats were given for that year.
A team that gave up 52 points for that year and scored 253 and was rated in the top 10 teams of the last 50 years in poll by the Lake County News Herald. After the band played the Madison alma mater, many memories began to flow.
Because I was an assistant coach on that staff at 24 years of age, I will never forget it. Someone brought a copy of the Star Beacon’s Friday Night Lights from Friday, Sept. 24, 2004, in which the late Karl Pearson, wrote some great articles as we celebrated the 30th anniversary.
A tent was set up outside the game for a pregame party for the team. The team and coaches were marched in front of the stands and each coach and player were introduced. Myself and Ed Hrbek were the only coaches who could attend. As Jack Hribar, who is 84, was ill, and Gene Melin and Ray Pethel are deceased. Bill Baldnar, our star running back that year was there.
Believe me, I played with Denny Allan, who went to Notre Dame, and Mark Debevc, who played for Geneva and went to Ohio State, and I’ve coached many great backs, but Bill Baldner was right up there with the best of them. He was special. His 87-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter when we were losing to Kenston in the second game of the season enabled us to win that game. A
As good as he was in football, he went on to Ohio University and started four years as a catcher and made All-MAC twice. He went on to coach college baseball in Mississippi and coached guys like Rafael Palmiero, Will Clark, Jeff Brantley and Bobby Thigpen, but all he could talk about was the memorable 1973 undefeated football season.
Steve Murray, our other running back and defensive back, went on to the Marine Corps for nine years and now coaches football in western New York. He told me how much influence I had on his life and how he patterned his coaching style after me. That meant so much to me.
Other players who were there, were Mike Lawrence, defensive backs, Steve Girton, Mike Schiberl, Ken Gauntner, Gary Novotny, Bill Bukky, Jerry Martin, Bly Buck, and a host of other guys. They were awesome.
To see the guys wear their lettermen jackets from 1973 and share stories of that undefeated season and to hear how much I helped influence their lives makes all the years I’ve coached worth it.
It was a special night I will never forget.
Many thanks to the superintendent, board president, all the players and coaches and all the fans that night who made everything so memorable.
In addition to being an assistant on this great 1973 Madison team, Iarroci has been the head coach at St. John and Edgewood, his 2012 Warriors reaching the playoffs for the first time in program history.