By Jamie Baker
It was 26 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was a cold, windy night at Fostoria Memorial Stadium and my teammates and I were coming out of the visitor’s locker room. It was a strange sight indeed to see St. Wendelin fans sitting on the visitor’s side at the stadium.
The cheerleaders, the band, my mom up in the stands ringing the cowbell, and finally, we got to run out onto the field for our first round Division V playoff game against McComb, who was the Region 18 computer poll champion and designated home team, back in 1982.
McComb, making its first playoff appearance, entered the game on a roll at 10-0 while we lost our first game of the season the week before 12-10 on an equally cold night at Lorain Catholic.
We were fortunate to get by the Panthers that night 13-6 thanks to some solid defense that included an interception return for a touchdown by Jamie Hammer.
The next week it was a balmy night for November standards at Lima for state semifinal game against the Bradford Raildroaders (their only playoff appearance ever). Clinging to a 7-6 lead, our defense stuffed Bradford on four straight running plays from the 1-yardline with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game to earn a spot in the state finals. Greg Studrawa, currently the offensive line coach at LSU, hit the ball carrier high and I hit him low on fourth down stopping him just short of the goalline.
A thousand or so St. Wendelin fans in the stands chanting DEE-FENSE, DEE-FENSE and later a mob scene outside of the lockerroom people were crowded right to the door. After the game they were hugging you, kissing you and shaking your hand.
One week later, snow was falling as we boarded a charter bus to the state final at Groveport Madison. When we got to the dump of a stadium in suburban Columbus the snow had turned to rain. There we 40 players, coaches and some other school personnel crammed inside a small lockerroom for our weekly Saturday Mass conducted by Father Schmelzer.
We methodically drove down the field and scored on our first possession. But that would be it as Newark Catholic would go on to win the 1982 Division V state crown with a 14-7 win that night.
I don’t know if I felt worse because we lost and our dreams of a state title were shattered or because I got my clock cleaned a few times by future Miami Dolphins’ offensive lineman Jeff Uhlenhake.
Thousands of kids play high school football in Ohio each season. But it’s a select few that get to extend their seasons in the playoffs so I feel extremely lucky to have gotten a chance to play in a few playoff games when I was in high school.
Whether a team loses its first round game or wins it all, players, coaches and parents all make memories that they’ll never forget.
I’d love to hear your playoff memories, whether they were as a player, a coach or a parent.