Thru The Lens
Brotherhood of Eagles
Thanksgiving had passed as the Blue Eagles traveled to meet their opponents coming from the south. The challengers were undoubtedly determined to prevent Magnolia from becoming the next AA State Champions. The weather was unusually cold, making it even more of a challenge for the two teams to play the biggest game of the season.
Faithful fans who traveled to support their team found the temperatures to be in the 20s as they prepared to sit in the cold and cheer on their team. Heavy coats and blankets turned away the cold, but the excitement of the big game would soon keep the fans warm.
The Blue Eagles took to the field to face an opponent that hoped to rob them of the opportunity to take home the championship trophy that cold day. In the first quarter, the southern team had the advantage on the scoreboard. Shortly into the second period, the opposing team kicked a long punt to be caught by a Magnolia player who began a 47-yard return run behind some incredible blocking by his teammates and carried it in for six points.
Then, late in the game, Magnolia again scored as one of its receivers caught a pass and ran 18 yards in to the end zone. A short time later, Magnolia’s kicker, from a sharp angle on the goal post, booted the ball through the upright for three additional points. When the final horn, sounded Magnolia had won the game 15 to 7.
By now, you may likely realize I am talking about the 1964 playoff game between Magnolia and the Mount Hope Mustangs played in Parkersburg. That game played by young men 46 years ago is still retold by the big Blue faithful.
Allen (Emo) Schupbach who caught the 18-yard pass and kicked the field goal went on to play for West Virginia University. Alan Smith was the player who, in the second quarter, caught the punt and made a remarkable run for a touchdown. The team was lead by Senior Jim Gilbert in the quarterback position.
The names of the other players on that team may be hard to remember by some, but not by their teammates.And they each undoubtedly contributed to the 1964 championship team. The defensive unit allowed only 65 points to be scored by their opponents that season and the team’s offensive unit scored over 200 points.
Why reminisce about the game that was played long ago when we have a new Blue Eagle Championship team to celebrate? I guess to remind us there are events we carry with us in life and we need to relive them from time to time. The 1964 game lives each time it is retold between friends. They talk of when young men played football that cold day in Parkersburg and those who braved the weather to view that victory by the Blue Eagle team.
The victory on Wheeling Island is just a few weeks old, yet the diehard fans are already reliving those exciting moments that will be retold in the years to come. The names of the defensive and offensive lineman may fade over time, much like those who gave Jim Gilbert, Emo Schupbach, and Allan Smith the ability to move the football across the goal line that cold November day.
And, perhaps, the names of the hardworking linemen who made it possible for Justin Fox, Jayson Keller, Stephen Rogalski, Timmy Shreve, Traeh Keller, Brendan Kacor, Kyle Elliott, Matt Riggs, and Cameron Benson to carry the
ball toward the goal line shall fade with the passage of time, but not in the memories of their teammates.
We should remember that the 2010 Blue Eagles won the state championship not by luck, but by hard work. These young men have put in over 100 practices sessions. Hundreds of hours have been spent refining their team’s playing skills. The players often woke up to the soreness from the hard hits the day before and spent evenings breaking down their opponent’s game films looking for weakness and exploiting them game day. No, there is nothing easy about a championship. It is about personal commitment to yourself and most importantly to your team. That commitment to excellence is the same today as it was in 1964.
Team-that philosophy is what is special about this group of young men. Each player understood that a single individual may shine, but if they play together those individuals could create a brilliant light known as success. That teamwork blinded their opponents on game day. That teamwork made it possible for Justin Fox to average 16.6 yards a pass, with a 65 percent completion rate. And the players who received those passes averaged around 10 yards a catch. The team’s five running backs averaged an impressive seven yards a carry. Any coach would love to have these team statistics.
Athletic programs that achieve greatness are lead by coaching staffs that mold individual players into a team. Without any doubt, one of the very best is Bob Ripley. His years understanding the other teams’ offenses has given him the ability to adjust Magnolia’s defensive to diminish their opponent’s ability to score. That skill gave Magnolia the ability to allow only 82 points this season to be scored by other teams. Football veterans Dave Chapman and Moke Riggs’ offensive strategy made putting 580 points on the scoreboard seem easy at times. Their offensive insight and team talent left no doubt on the field who controlled the ball. And Coach Mike Findling helped put all the pieces together to complete the team.
Mark Batton, head coach, has, in the last dozen years, worked hard to build his own football program that is repeatedly ranked one of the top in the state and valley. The job of head football coach is one of the hardest in high school sports. His understanding of the game and guidance to coaches and players has been the road map to his team’s success.
This championship, along with his outstanding football program, has secured his place among the best, not only in the valley but in state coaching circles. Coach Batton has proven he has the leadership skills to build a championship team.
I found one more stat as I researched this story in the library archives. Listed in the 1964 individual game statistics was, D. Grandstaff. It said the player carried the ball two times for five yards. That D. Grandstaff is today Coach Dave Grandstaff, who’s coaching has been very much a part of any success that Magnolia’s football has enjoyed over the years.
Dedication and commitment to the sport are very important values Dave brings to the program. His personal guidance to young players over the years has left an unmistakable mark of true sportsmanship in the game of football.
The members of this year’s championship team have now become part of a special Brotherhood of Champions. Each player and coach on this team will long remember that special bond formed on the road to a championship. They will remember how in the cold, thousands of fans came to cheer them on as they played the big game. But, most of all, they are forever a part of a brotherhood of athletes who have proudly represented Magnolia High School and the community for over 100 years. We should be proud to have witnessed these moments as we looked Thru the Lens.