HAMILTON — The drive that sealed Badin High School’s lone state football title was as old school as the coach that would hoist the championship trophy for the only time in his career.
Here was the scene:
Nov. 23, 1990. Badin vs. Richfield Revere in the Division III state final at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon. The Rams clinging to a 9-6 lead, taking possession at their own 18-yard line with 9:05 remaining.
What did Badin do? Slowly, willfully, masterfully, the Rams shoved the ball down Revere’s throat.
“If I could sit home and fantasize a game, that’s the way I would’ve done it,” Badin coach Terry Malone said. “The perfect ending.”
It turned out to be an 82-yard drive to glory. Sixteen runs. Three passes. Five third-down conversions. And when quarterback Pete Arno dove in for a 1-yard touchdown with 0:39 on the clock, the title was on its way to Hamilton.
Badin 16, Revere 6. The Rams haven’t been back to the championship game since.
“With our offensive line of Todd Smith and John Fischer and Jason Wargo right close to the ball, and Rob Loos and Jason Allen at tackle, those guys were able to move the Revere people off the line,” said Jason Flowers, a senior fullback/linebacker who carried the ball eight times for 31 yards on the final drive. “Anybody could’ve carried the ball behind those guys.”
Malone, ever the tactician, said Revere didn’t adjust defensively, so the Rams knew exactly what to do.
“They just stayed in the same alignment, so we knew where the seams were going to be,” said Malone, now 77 and still living in Hamilton. “Our blockers all had angles.”
Flowers, who resides in West Chester Twp. and works for RC Kuertz Builders in Fairfield, led Badin with 63 yards on 16 carries that day. Junior halfback/free safety Matt Chaney had 60 yards and a touchdown on 10 runs, while senior halfback/cornerback Tom Pate added 48 yards on 12 rushes.
“It was very cold,” said Pate, who lives in Liberty Twp. and works for Pate Electric in Hamilton. “I just remember every game in the playoffs being cold and wet, and we just kept playing.”
Chaney, who lives in Hamilton and works at Hamilton Scrap Processors, said the Rams didn’t have to be fancy to be successful.
“That’s smashmouth football and, for me, that’s what Terry will always be remembered by,” Chaney said. “Everybody loved it. You could listen to the other team hollering our plays. They’d be screaming it. We’d still run the same play, and we’d bury it down their throat.
“I couldn’t ask for a better coach or bunch of players, believe me,” he added. “I played with all those guys since I started playing ball back in CYO. Sometimes I felt like I was more a part of that class than I was my own.”
Smith, currently the head strength and conditioning coach at Marquette University in Milwaukee, said winning was expected in his class.
“We were so successful coming through, we didn’t know anything else,” said Smith, a senior center and linebacker. “It was just a bunch of tough-minded, determined dudes. Every practice was fun. Every game was fun. We never went in thinking any negative thoughts. It was always, ‘We’ll figure it out.’ ”
Sophomore Jason Goldberg kicked the go-ahead field goal in the third period and added an extra point in the championship game. He also hit the right upright with his first conversion attempt and had a 40-yard field-goal try blocked at the end of the first half, with his right shin absorbing a helmet blow on the play.
“It hurt so bad, I thought I broke my leg,” said Goldberg, a Fairfield Twp. resident who’s a certified financial planner for Wells Fargo Advisors in Cincinnati. “I just tried to run around as much as I could at halftime. It was so darn cold. That wind was ridiculous.”
Players remember different moments from the championship weekend. Stopping in Wooster for a spaghetti dinner en route to Massillon. Reading doctored newspaper clippings that said Revere would win easily. Playing on artificial turf, a rarity in those days. The view from the bus as it pulled up to the stadium.
Flowers’ highlight was a more personal moment with his brother, Andrew.
“For me, it was the end of the state championship game when my older brother, who I looked up to forever and ever, gave me a big hug and said, ‘You did it,’ ” Flowers said. “I just couldn’t believe it. He was always the big hero at Badin.”
Malone felt the seed for that championship run was planted a year earlier when the Rams lost to Ironton 14-13 in the state semifinals.
“Coming so close, they were motivated by that,” Malone said. “I think they were driven by that all year.”
He ran into Revere coach Joe Pappano at a clinic several years later. “He just flat out admitted, ‘You guys handled us,’ ” Malone said.
The postseason began with a 22-16 victory over CAPE, and Malone said that was a truly memorable affair. Badin rallied from a 16-0 deficit.
“I think they were picked to win the state championship,” Malone said. “Once we beat them, I knew we had a shot. Going into that game, I was just wondering if we’d even get any further.”
When the title game ended, Malone didn’t have to look far to find his wife, Betty.
“I was told she jumped over the gate to get on the field,” Malone said. “She got out there before I could shake the other coach’s hand.”
Many of the seniors were doing some searching after the game. They were looking for Larry Cox, who coached them as freshmen.
That group was unbeaten as ninth-graders, and Cox promised he’d take them all to Montgomery Inn if they went on to win a state crown.
“We were running around saying, ‘Where’s Larry? Where’s Larry?’ ” Smith said. “I remember that and being at the bottom of that damn pile at the end of the game.”
Cox, now the head coach at Lakota West, was thinking about the possibility of dropping some serious cash.
“We called them the dirty dozen and a half because there were only 18 of them on the freshman team,” Cox said. “I had moved on to Hamilton High, but when they started through the playoffs that year, I was kind of giggling and thinking in the back of my mind, ‘I wonder if they remember.’
“Well, when the state championship went down, a couple of them — I think it was Brian Scalf and Matt Hinkel, maybe Tommy Pate — came and found me in the stands,” he continued. “They were pointing at me saying, ‘We’re going to Montgomery Inn.’ ”
Did Cox keep his promise?
“My word is my word,” he said. “I think the bill was $380. The kids kept saying it was the sweetest meal they’ve ever had.”
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