Here's a sampling of some of the best memories, best games and thoughts on the league's demise from those who knew the league best.
Personal: Graduate of Fitch High (1971) and Kent State University (1975). Served as assistant football and wrestling coach at Fitch (1976-89); athletic director (1989-present).Favorite play: If I had to pick one memory, it would be the 1970 Homecoming game against Campbell. The game was tied 7-7 late in the third quarter. I played a middle guard and was lucky enough to intercept a pass at our own 15. I ran to the middle of the field and got clobbered by Walt Vrable. I still say I lateralled the ball to our defensive tackle, who went the rest of the way for the touchdown. Everyone else contends that I fumbled it in the air when I got tackled. A few years ago, we picked the top five games in Fitch's history and that game was in the top five.Best memories: Every Fitch-Boardman game. And we never beat Mooney very often, but those were some darn good games. Historically, I think it's hard to find a better collection of schools than those in the Steel Valley, particularly in football.
Personal: Graduate of Massillon Washington (1965); Heidelberg College (1969); head football coach at Fitch (1982-93).Favorite game: We beat Mooney 12-7 at YSU to win the Steel Valley in first year as head coach. They filled the stadium and it was my first time coaching there. I remember looking up to see those stands completely roaring. It was a great battle, it was my rookie season and it was Cardinal Mooney. That one sticks out quite a bit.Conference memories: I guess I coached in the latter half of the glory days. We had some great competition on the football field and during about an eight year period I don't think there was a better league in Ohio. You knew you were going against great coaches and great players and I think the coaches back then had a lot of mutual respect for each other.Thoughts on the demise: I have mixed emotions. I hate to see it fold. I understand where Fitch and Boardman are coming from, but being more of a traditionalist, I hate to see the league break up. Hopefully, it will work out. Only time will tell.
Personal: Graduate of YSU (1963); Head football coach at Steubenville (1975-78); Lakeview (79-84); Boardman (85-93); Butler, Pa. (93-94); Salem (94-96); Niles (96-present).Best games: We beat Warren Harding in 1991 when they were No. 1 in the nation and were Ohio state champs the year before. There were some big wins against Mooney. Mooney always had a great program and at that time, to do anything in the Steel Valley you had to beat Mooney. There was one stretch where we beat Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joe's when they were No. 1 in the state and then we beat Euclid with Robert Smith 30-something to nothing.Conference memories: I don't think there was any doubt that we were the best conference in the state. I think there was one stretch when Fitch, Boardman and Mooney used to play Massillon and McKinley and there was one stretch of eight or nine games where Massillon and McKinley didn't win a game. It was greatly coached. Don Bucci is unparalleled and Dick Angle, Dave Hartman, Phil Annarella were as good as you could get. Each school was loaded with Div. I players. You had all the ingredients and it's tough to duplicate.Thoughts on the demise: It's hard to take, but it kind of parallels the economy and the Youngstown high schools going down a bit. Losing teams like South and East created a lot of scheduling problems. Obviously, I'm sad, but this is an opportunity for Fitch and Boardman. You have to assume that the Federal League is now the best league in the state.
Bernie Kosar Jr.
Personal: Graduate of Boardman High (1982) and Miami, Fla (1985); NFL quarterback for Cleveland Browns (1985-93); Dallas Cowboys (93); Miami Dolphins (94-96).Best memories: All the games were tough, aggressive and spirited. It meant everything. I love the history and the roots of football in northeast Ohio and the Steel Valley is certainly a valued part of that. I'm proud to have had that opportunity to carry on a meaningful, important tradition.Thoughts on the demise: Obviously, the sentimental side of me is in shock and denial, but rest assured the Federal League will be an annual, significant and exciting challenge.
Personal: Graduate of Mooney (1979); Iowa (1983); Head football coach at Oklahoma University (1999-present).Conference memories: The Steel Valley has always had great football. There were excellent teams and they were all well-coached. It had a lot of very strong programs and the quality of coaching was outstanding. I think it maybe helped us in the direction we coached [at Oklahoma] because we hope to be physical and tough. Those are the two adjectives that define what the Steel Valley was all about.
Mark "Bo" Pelini
Personal: Graduated from Mooney (1986) and Ohio State (1990). NFL coach for the 49ers (1994-96), Patriots (1997-99) and Packers (2000-present).Best games: I played so many great games. It seemed like the league was strong every year. The interest was there. If people didn't buy their tickets by Thursday night, they were going to be out of luck. You'd be playing in front of a full house with tremendous competition and a lot of great players. My senior year we were down 14-0 to Fitch and I threw a screen pass to Devin Williams that he took for 60 yards. We ended up winning 17-14 on a game-winning field goal. It was a tremendous football game. There was also a Boardman game that season early in the year at YSU. Boardman went 9-1 that year and we gave them their only loss.Thoughts on demise: I was sad to see it happen. I thought it was a mistake and not just because I'm a Mooney guy. At this level, it's about the experience. It's about kids getting to play Boardman, Fitch and Ursuline and the Warren schools. You still play them out of conference, but it's not the same. It's not going to mean as much. These memories last a heckuva lot longer. The kids know about the local interest. They get to play in front of big crowds and they'll remember it for the rest of their lives. You never get to be a kid again.
Personal: Graduate of Mooney (1991); YSU (1995); first-year head football coach at Ursuline.Conference memories: I have so many great memories and it's such a great conference. I'm glad to be part of it again. Even the name is significant because it once stood for what this area was about. You had five teams in the conference that year in and year out were among the top teams in the state of Ohio. It's sad to see it coming to an end.
Personal: Senior running back at Ursuline.Thoughts on demise: It's sad to see it go. This is my fourth year in the conference and the competition has been outstanding. It's one of the best conferences in the state. There's nothing like Steel Valley football. I remember my dad telling me that it was going to end and all I could think was, Delbert [Ferguson, a junior for the Irish] and the rest of the underclassmen won't have anything to play for league-wise next year. They won't have any conference awards to work toward.
Personal: Graduate of Ursuline (1965); Irish head football coach from 1979-1996; Howland head football coach (1998-present).Conference memories: From about 1982-1993, I think the conference was probably at its strongest. It was a physical conference, led by veteran coaches who very much believed in physical football. In Don Bucci, Bill Bohren, Phil Annarella and Dave Hartman, you probably have four coaches who will be in the Ohio coaches Hall of Fame. For a 10-year era, it was certainly the best conference in the state and maybe the country. In that period, you could go 0-4 in the league and still be a real good football team.Best game: Said it a few times, but that 1983 final season win over Austintown that got us in the playoffs and earned a share of the Steel Valley title. We played in front of 16,000 people at YSU, which was the most to see a game there. We were winning 12-7 with five minutes to go and we had just punted the ball. Their fans understood that this was their last moment, so they stood up and supported and then the other 8 or 9 thousand on our side stood up and recognized us, so it was a great tribute to the players on the field that the fans were so much into the game.Thoughts on demise: I was in the conference for 18 years, so obviously I was sad. I think the conference stayed together because each team needed each other. But in the past few years, I think a couple schools got a little selfish. Every school in a conference is naturally going to be concerned about themselves, but a couple schools were really just totally out of line and I'm sure that led to the breakup. I think that the conference lost its pizzazz when the veteran coaches departed.
Personal: Head coach at Warren Western Reserve from 1981 to 1989. Head coach at Warren Harding (after consolidation) from 1990-96.Conference memories: It was a dog fight week in and week out. We knew without question, that we were the finest league in the state and we knew that every week you had better strap it up. You could have a good football team and go 5-5 or 6-4 and not hang your head. Usually your losses were really close, with a bad break here or there that cost you. I have the greatest amount of respect for the coaches -- Bill Bohren, Dick Angle, Dave Hartman and Don Bucci. They always had their kids prepared to play. I think there was a lot of mutual admiration between us because everyone knew we each did it right on the field and did it right in other ways. We respected each other as individuals, not just as coaches. That drew us closer.Thoughts on demise: It's sad to see it come to an end. I was hoping that somehow the powers-that-be could get together and stave off its demise. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. But it will take a long time to replace the rivalries that have been in existence. I don't think it will ever be the same.
Personal: Head football coach at Canton McKinley from (1982-97), Warren Harding (2000-present).Conference memories: What's good about the league is that it's very physical competition, which has always been a trademark of Steel Valley football teams. I think it's unique that Steel Valley conference teams can qualify for playoffs in at least three different divisions. And if Ursuline and Mooney make the playoffs, they have a good chance to go all the way.Memories as opposing coach: As a coach, I always liked to play teams who were going to make us better. Playing Steel Valley teams made the McKinley program better. For a time, we were sort of an unofficial member. We had some great battles with Dave Hartman teams at Fitch and Bill Bohren teams at Boardman. I have vivid memories of games home and away. Don's Mooney teams were a major thorn in my side at McKinley. I won my last game against Don Bucci and I know that still bothers him. But he won a lot more against us than I won against him.
-- Joe Scalzo