The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 24, 2013

Here’s mud in your eye!

Head coaches have vivid weather-related memories

Star Beacon

— With Week 9 of the high school football season upon us, Mother Nature and her fury will begin to have an effect on what transpires on the gridiron — and, yes, on those who show up to watch — and will most likely do so even more next week.

Back in the day, though, when the seasons did not kick off traditionally until after Labor Day, it was almost commonplace to have games in the final weeks of the season played on snow-covered fields, which before turf came into vogue, resulted in the playing surfaces turning into quagmires, with numbers on jerseys becoming impossible to read.

With that in mind, we asked the 10 head football coaches in our coverage area for the most memorable games — either as a player or as a coach — they’ve experienced.

Their responses proved both interesting and entertaining.

Frank Hall, Lakeside

My eighth-grade year, we were playing Mount Carmel at Massucci Field and it was so cold and rainy that we were literally breaking the ice as we walked onto the field. I think we played less than a quarter before they called the game.

I’m cold right now, just thinking about it.

Rocco Dobran, Conneaut

I have to go a different route if you don’t mind. Other than about three games that I can think of that got delayed because of lightning, nothing too exciting. But my senior year, round two of the playoffs, we played Lakeview. When we got to the game, the field was pretty mushy because of earlier rain. Then by time the game started there was about 3-4 inches of snow on the ground, and by the end of the game, close to six inches. Most fun game I ever played in. We won, 7-6, on a sloppy interception returned for a touchdown.

Dave Bors, Riverside

It was 2001, and it was my first year at Chardon as defensive coordinator. Jim DiPofi was the head coach and our offensive coordinator, Mark Percassi, was also on staff. Nick Schussler, one of our O-line coaches and D-line coach, was a senior on that team, as well.

Anyway, it was 10 days after the 9/11 tragedy and we were ironically scheduled to play at team from our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C. Dunbar. It was a one-time game that we picked up due to scheduling issues.

We didn’t know a whole lot about them other than Josh Cribbs was their senior quarterback the year before and this team had at least four Division I players (their safety went to Syracuse; a lineman named Larry Brown went on to play for Kent State; Vonte Davis went to Illinois and currently plays for the Colts as a defensive back, and his brother, Vernon Davis, who went to Maryland and is currently tight end with the 49ers). I remember watching them warm up and thinking to myself that we might be in a little over our heads. Because of 9/11, we weren’t even sure they were going to make the trip. They did, however, and it turned out to be a fantastic game.

I don’t remember every detail, but I do remember that due to a storm in the area, all of the power went out at the school and stadium. Both teams had to sit through a lengthy delay that became more about the power and less about the storm. I remember being with our team and coaching staff in Chardon Middle School (we used the middle school as the locker room for game days in 2001) in the dark for a good couple of hours.

The only light we had were the dimly lit emergency lights that automatically came on. You couldn’t do anything with X’s and O’s with your staff or the players, because you couldn’t see anything! I think most guys just closed their eyes and took a nap. Normally, teams would make the decision to come back and finish the next day, but remember, our opponent was from Washington, D.C. They weren’t leaving and coming back, nor were they prepared to get a hotel room to stay the night. Thus, both schools made the decision to wait it out.

When play finally resumed, I think it had to be close to 11 p.m. It was a great game that went back and forth with big plays on both sides.

We were up 21-14 late in the game when Dunbar scored to pull within a point at 21-20. The delay would now prove to be a crucial piece of the outcome as Dunbar elected to go for two points and the win, ensuring that the game would finally end before 1 a.m. and not go any longer. Remember, they still had to drive home that night (or should I say, morning).

They went for two, and our defense came up big and stopped them, giving us the victory.

It was a huge victory for us as we were only one of two teams that beat them that year, and it helped assure us a playoff spot because of the decent amount of computer points we received from them. It ended up easily being the most memorable weather-affected game I have ever been part of.

Neal Croston, Pymatuning Valley

State championship football game my sophomore year at Blackhawk was canceled because of too much snow on the field. The following week, played the game with snowbanks 12 feet high around the field.

Tony Hassett, Geneva

I can honestly say, that only one delay back in 2009 at Edgewood. We waited about 30 minutes and then finished the game.

Tim Willis, Madison

We played a game against University on a Saturday afternoon, and on Friday, we got six inches of snow. On Saturday, the weather was in the mid-thirties. When we got to the field, about half the snow had melted and by the time the game started, it was hailing sideways and the field was three inches deep of slush.

By half, we had two players with hypothermia, one who was taken to Hillcrest Hospital by ambulance.

At half, the hail turned into a steady downpour. The refs and administrators from both schools called the game in the third quarter with us winning, helping us get into the playoffs.

On the way home on the bus, we had a player go into hypothermia and thankfully, we were passing Hillcrest Hospital, where we were able to have the boy revived. The team had to be in the parking lot for about 90 minutes until his parents got to the hospital.

Josh Franke, Edgewood

I remember playing in a game against our rival high school right around the same time as Hurricane Katrina. Obviously, the hurricane didn’t hit here, but we got all the rain from it. It was a monsoon to say the least. It down poured the whole night, the field was a mess, nothing but mud everywhere. I remember just being drenched in muddy water and having a white long-sleeve Under Armour which was brown after the game, ruined of course. We lost, 7-6. I played receiver and in a game like that, you don’t throw much, but it was still a lot of fun to be apart of.

Matt Rosati, Perry

The most fun would have to be the mud bowls in the old days. This year, every game we play will be on turf, home and away. Some of the most memorable games would be because of mud. In 2002, Week 10, I coached in the worst conditions ever at Chagrin Falls, it rained all day and was about 30 degrees and the field was nothing but mud. It was for the CVC championship and we won in OT, 3-0.

Jimmy Henson, Jefferson

My junior year at Grand Valley, we were playing Mathews and a transformer blew and the lights went out. We had to go back on Saturday to finish the game.

As far as weather conditions, played in a game in college where the yard markers were floating away during the game, and had a couple of games up in Michigan where the field had to be plowed and there were about 6-foot snow piles on the sidelines.

When I was coaching at Ashland, we were flying up to the Upper Peninsula to play Northern Michigan, they had had two feet of snow and a warm front came through and started melting the snow and it created fog, we couldn’t fly into Marquette, so we sat and waited, the kids didn’t get to eat, landed about 50 miles away, put us on city buses, got to the stadium about 20 minutes before kickoff, they wouldn’t delay the start because it was on TV.

The kids did a great job and we won.

John Glavickas, Grand Valley

When I look back at my career and think of actual bad weather, I remember when I was Tom (Henson’s) offensive coordinator and we had to play a game against Richmond Heights.

It was coming down in buckets, it was just a dismal night.

I can remember thinking, “this game was like out of a movie.” The kids absolutely loved playing in it. I was wet and miserable.

I just remember how big the smiles were on the kids’ faces.

Now, when it comes to field conditions, I will never forget our game against Ledgemont at their field. Every parent in our district dubs that one, “Mud Bowl.”

I can remember standing there trying to figure out which kid was A.J. Henson to get in a play to him because after the first play, you couldn’t read any numbers anymore.

That night was absolutely crazy.