The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 11, 2013

Perry is our only hope...


Star Beacon

— Only one area high school football team will carry an unscathed record into its Week 3 contest, that being coach Matt Rosati’s Perry squad.

Meaning it has fallen on the shoulders of Rosati’s crew if the Star Beacon coverage area is to sport a team to finish the regular season with a 10-0 record.

Having said that, we dove into our record books, searching the teams from our coverage area that were able to navigate their way through a 10-game regular season and do so perfectly.

Turns out, a 10-0 season is a very, very race occurrence.

So much so, in fact, it’s been 16 long seasons since any area squad has turned the trick.

Ashtabula County Hall of Fame coach Jim Henson had three 10-0 seasons during his storied tenure leading the Grand Valley Mustangs.

The last of which — the 1997 campaign — represents the last time an area team faced 10 opponents and beat every single one of them.

That Mustang team followed the lead of the 1996 squad, which also went 10-0 under Henson’s tutelage.

Both of those Grand Valley teams reached the playoffs, something his first perfect Mustang team — the 1992 squad — was denied.

In area football history, our research indicates there have been only 17 teams record 10-0 seasons.

Henson, with three such squads, is one of only three men to lead more than one, the others being Geneva’s Bob Herpy, like Henson, a member of the Ashtabula County Hall of Fame, and Madison’s Jack Hribar, each of whom had two.

Here’s the rundown of the 17 teams in our coverage area to finish 10 up and zero down:

The 1939 Conneaut team of Hoppes, also a member of the county hall of fame, is especially interesting in that most high school programs did not play 10-game regular-season schedules as the norm until the late 1950s.

That Trojan squad — the first to play under the lights at Municipal Stadium, now known as Conneaut Stadium, and decked out in fancy satin uniforms, defeated Cleveland Central, 7-0, Fairview, Pa., 26-0, Harvey, 13-0, Geneva, 33-6, Union City, Pa., 40-6, Ashtabula, 13-7, Willoughby, 33-0, Greenville, Pa., 20-0, Fairport, 40-0, to clinch the Lake Shore League championship and Harbor, 31-0.

But wait, there’s more!

Hoppes tried desperately to play an 11th game, too, searching long and hard for an opponent to play on Thanksgiving Day, something Ashtabula and Harbor did that routinely.

He finally found a team to match up with — Akron West, which played to a scoreless tie at Ashtabula in Week 2 of the season on Sept. 29 of that year.

However, when Akron West officials demanded a $350 upfront guarantee — an extremely large purse in that day and age — Conneaut understandably balked.

Hoppes left Conneaut after that 1939 season with 86 wins and four LSL titles under his belt to take the coaching duties of the Alliance Aviators, members of the All-American Conference, which included Massillon and Canton McKinley,

He accepted that position with the proviso that he would be forced to give up the job if his Aviators did not defeat Massillon or McKinley in a reasonable amount of time.

Hoppes remained with the Aviators for four seasons, compiling a record of 25-14-2, including an 8-2-1 finish in his first season in 1940 and an 8-3 mark in 1941.

However, he did not forget where he got his start as he brought his high-powered Alliance squad back to Ashtabula County to play in Conneaut twice — in 1941 and 1943 — winning both games, 32-13 in the former and 25-12 in the latter.

That 1943 season was Hoppes’ last in coaching, choosing to go into the tire business in Salem.

The man who coached the area’s first 10-0 squad was posthumously inducted into the Ashtabula County Football Hall of Fame in 2005.