VALLEY ATHLETES SOARED TO MAKE OUR AREA PROUD
By ED PUSKAS
Youngstown isn’t big enough to be home to a major professional sports team, but for its size, there may no better sports town in America.
World championship boxers? Youngstown has them.
National championship college football teams? Youngstown has them.
State title-winning football teams? The Mahoning Valley has more than its share of them.
But there is so much more to Youngstown-area sports than boxing and football, which is why it wasn’t easy to pick just 15 moments to recognize from 150 years of sports in The Vindicator.
These moments were selected in consultation with sports and news staff members of The Vindicator after reviewing newspaper archives.
Time and space concerns prevented us from including many more notable moments, events and personalities. That said, here’s our list:
Oct. 17, 1941: The first penalty flag is thrown in a college football game between Youngstown College and Oklahoma City University at Youngstown’s Rayen Stadium. The flags were the brainchild of Penguins coach Dwight “Dike” Beede, whose wife, Irma, took his idea and improved upon it by sewing lead sinkers from her husband’s tackle box into the lining of the flags to weight them. Former Youngstown men’s basketball coach Jack McPhee was a member of the first officiating crew to use Beede’s penalty flags.
1942: Chaney High’s Frank Sinkwich wins the Heisman Trophy as a University of Georgia halfback and South High’s Bob Dove, a University of Notre Dame end, is the top lineman in the country as Youngstown sweeps the nation’s top two college football awards.
Both players became coaches after their playing days ended. Canfield eventually named its football field for Dove.
1973: Cardinal Mooney, under the direction of head coach Don Bucci, wins the first of its eight OHSAA state championships with a 14-3 win over Warren Western Reserve. Ted Bell, still considered by many the best high school running back Youngstown has produced, aggravated a regular-season knee injury in the game at the Akron Rubber Bowl.
Bell went to Michigan State on a football scholarship, but the injury never fully healed and his playing days ended. Mooney later won state titles under Bucci in 1980, ‘82 and ‘87 and then added four more under P.J. Fecko in 2004, ‘06, ‘09 and ‘11.
1978: Bonnie Beachy, one of the Mahoning Valley’s first high school girls basketball stars, leads Struthers to a state championship.
Beachy scored 1,478 points and was a three-time All-Steel Valley Conference player for the Wildcats. She later becomes the all-time leading scorer — female or male — in Kent State basketball history with 2,971 points.
Beachy, who died in 2018, was the Ohio Associated Press Player of the Year and the State Tournament MVP in 1978, when Struthers (25-1) beat Middletown 53-51 for the title.
Jan. 10, 1980: Niles native and former two-sport Ohio State star Bo Rein — newly hired as the head football coach at LSU — dies in a plane crash on the way back from a recruiting trip.
The plane’s pilot rerouted to avoid a storm and air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft, which reportedly climbed to 40,000 feet, veered over the Atlantic Ocean and eventually ran out of fuel and crashed.
The wreckage and bodies of Rein and the pilot were never found.
Rein starred on the legendary Niles football teams of the early 1960s. At Ohio State, he was a three-year starter at left halfback for the Buckeyes and also twice led the school’s baseball team to the College World Series as a shortstop and left fielder. The Buckeyes won their only baseball national championship in 1966.
Rein eventually went into coaching and was the head football coach at North Carolina State from 1976-79 before accepting the LSU job.
Jan. 24, 1982: The San Francisco 49ers win the first of five Super Bowls in a 14-year span under Youngstown native Eddie DeBartolo Jr.’s ownership. The 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 in Super Bowl XVI.
DeBartolo’s teams also won Super Bowls XIX, XXIII, XXIV and XXI during his years as the team’s owner.
DeBartolo was one of the most beloved team owners in NFL history after developing a reputation as a caring figure among 49ers players.
In 1998, DeBartolo was involved in the corruption case of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who had demanded payment from the 49ers owner in exchange for a riverboat casino license.
DeBartolo pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to report a felony and was fined $1 million. He also received two years of probation in exchange for testifying against Edwards.
The NFL also fined DeBartolo and banned him for a year, but he never returned to the 49ers. Instead, in 2000, he ceded control of the team to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York of Canfield.
Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
His father, Edward DeBartolo Sr., owned the Pittsburgh Penguins when they won their first Stanley Cup in 1991. Denise DeBartolo York was a team executive and she was one of the first five women to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. Her son, Jed York, is the 49ers’ CEO.
May 8, 1982: Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini realizes his dream of winning a boxing world championship when he stops WBA lightweight champion Arturo Frias in the first round of a title bout at The Aladdin in Las Vegas.
Mancini successfully defended his title on Nov. 13, 1982 bout against Duk Koo Kim, after which the South Korean boxer collapsed. Kim sustained a subdural hematoma and died four days later.
Mancini again defended his title on Sept. 15, 1983 against Peruvian fighter Orlando Romero with a ninth-round knockout at Madison Square Garden. He retained the title again on Jan. 14, 1984 with a third-round TKO of former world champion Bobby Chacon at Caeser’s Palace in Las Vegas.
Later that year, Mancini lost the title to Livingstone Bramble and needed 71 stitches.
July 2, 1985: Former Boardman High School and University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar agrees to a five-year contract with the Cleveland Browns after graduating from college early and petitioning the NFL to enter its supplemental draft. Dr. John Geletka, an Austintown dentist and Kosar family friend, handled the contract talks. Kosar led the Browns to three AFC title games in his first five seasons.
1990: Warren Harding goes 14-0 and wins a Division I state football championship with a 28-21 victory over Cincinnati Princeton. Harding and Warren Western Reserve had consolidated earlier that year. Residents on the east (Harding) and west (WWR) sides of town — separated by the meandering Mahoning River — had bitterly fought.
But Phil Annarella, who took over the consolidated program, which took the Harding name and the WWR nickname of Raiders, brought the team together and the result was an undefeated championship run.
Many in the Mahoning Valley still consider Annarella’s work that season the best football coaching job the area has seen. Annarella, Fitch’s coach the past 12 seasons, died in June.
Dec. 21, 1991: The greatest era of Youngstown State football begins in earnest as the Penguins beating Marshall 25-17 at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Ga., for the first of four Division I-AA national titles during the 1990s. Head coach Jim Tressel’s teams also won championships in ‘93, ‘94 and ‘97 and played in title games in ‘92 and ‘99.
1993: Two Mahoning Valley boys basketball programs win state titles. Girard, coached by Bob Krizancic, beat Columbus Whitehall-Yearling 64-57 in the Division II state final. Campbell, coached by Brian Danilov, beat Belpre 47-39 in the Division III state final.
The Indians finished 22-6 after a 1-3 start. They were led by Philip Huyler, who averaged 34 points after transferring in from the Bahamas. Girard survived a 70-69 double-overtime win over Canfield in a district semifinal and a 60-58 victory over Ursuline in a district final.
Kris Kelly, Keith Swan, Brad Root, Nick D’Eramo and Alrashan Clardy were key players for the Indians.
Campbell actually won two state titles in ‘93. First Danilov’s Red Devils capped the basketball season with their championship. Forward Gerald Hamilton was a key performer for the team. Then Wayne Zetts’ Campbell baseball team won a state championship just weeks later. The Red Devils beat Cincinnati Indian Hill 20-6, capping a 23-4 season.
Mike Zorio, Kevin Dill, Tom Beeson, Ryan Merrell and Jody Barillaire played on both teams.
1999: The OHSAA expands the football playoffs to five rounds and Poland becomes the first team to finish 15-0 and win a state championship. The Bulldogs, coached by Paul Hulea and led by Lowellville transfer running back Pete Perry, beat Columbus Watterson 20-13 at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
Poland is the Mahoning Valley’s last public-school football team to win a state title.
2000: Ursuline, coached by Jim Vivo, joins rival Cardinal Mooney as a Youngstown parochial state champion by beating Coldwater 49-37 at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.
The Irish later put together an unprecedented run by a Mahoning Valley football team by winning three consecutive state titles under coach Dan Reardon from 2008-10. Irish running back Akise Teague was named Ohio’s Mr. Football in 2010.
Jan. 3, 2003: Warren Harding graduate Maurice Clarett leads Ohio State to a 31-24 double-overtime victory over favored Miami in the National Championship at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. It was the true freshman’s final game with the Buckeyes. Clarett, a Youngstown native, began his prep career at Austintown Fitch before transferring to Harding and later becoming Ohio’s Mr. Football and the USA Today Player of the Year as a senior.
Sept. 29. 2007: Kelly Pavlik brings another world championship to Youngstown with a seventh-round knockout of Jermain Taylor in Atlantic City, N.J. The victory made Pavlik the middleweight world champion, a title he defended three times and held until April 17, 2010.
Pavlik beat Taylor again on Feb. 16, 2008, this time in a non-title fight rematch at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Paradise, Nev.
Both fighters weighed in as super middleweights for that bout.
Pavlik then defeated — in succession — Gary Lockett, Bernard Hopkins, Marco Antonio Rubio and Miguel Espino from June 2008-December 2009. All were title defenses, with the exception of the Hopkins fight. The Espino fight was at YSU’s Beeghly Center.
Pavlik’s fourth title defense came on April 17, 2010 against Sergio Martinez, who won a unanimous 12-round decision.
That fight came after a Pavlik pulled out of a scheduled bout against Paul Williams because of a staph infection and an allergic reaction to antibiotics in October 2009.