By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Chaney High football coach Ron Berdis has spent 33 years of his life competing in the City Series as a player, an assistant coach and, for the last 20 years, a head coach.
Tonight, the oldest league in area history will hold its final game. The Cowboys (1-7, 0-1) will play Wilson (1-8, 0-1) at 7 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium in the last-ever City Series game.
"Obviously, it's sad to see it come to an end," said Berdis. "I think there will be a lot of emotion on both sides of the field."
Wilson and Rayen will consolidate into East High next fall. Although all three City schools compete in the Steel Valley Conference in everything but football, no decision has been made about whether they will join the league in football next year or stay independent.
Regardless, it will be the final football game in Wilson history. Redmen coach Brian Marrow would like nothing better than to go out on top.
"The last game means so much to a lot of alumni," said Marrow, who went 1-9 in each of his first two years at Wilson. "To win that last game, especially against Chaney, would be very special."
The Cowboys haven't lost to the Redmen since 1989, which is also the last time Chaney went 1-9. (And the last time Berdis had a losing season.) Overall, Berdis is 17-3 against Wilson as Chaney's head coach. He'd like nothing better than to end his City Series career with a victory.
"Obviously, I'd like that to happen and so would Brian," said Berdis. "Brian's really fought an uphill batle with the schedule and his numbers and he's done a great job. He's a great guy and a great coach and I've got nothing but respect for what he's done."
Berdis hasn't made a decision about his coaching future -- "I'm keeping my options open and I'm going to step back and evaluate the situation once the season's over," he said -- but it's obvious that this season has taken a toll. The Cowboys have a few talented players, but with just 28 on the roster, there's no depth. Chaney, a Division III team, has six Div. I or II teams on its schedule, which has made it difficult to compete each week.
Wilson, meanwhile, hasn't had a winning season since 1993, when it went 4-3 after a teacher's strike wiped out three games. Its last league title came in 1946. (South won the first league championship, in 1927.) The Redmen snapped a 13-game losing streak last week with a 34-20 victory over Akron North.
"It was great for the kids," said Marrow. "I didn't want them to go winless. We have a really tough schedule and it feels really good to get a win. Now we're just going to try and get two in a row."
No official decision has been made about Marrow's future, but the most likely scenario involves Rayen coach Brian Shaner being promoted to head coach at East and Marrow being invited to join his staff as an assistant. (Marrow and Shaner both speak highly of the other.)
But those decisions will be made later. Rayen (7-2, 2-2) has already won the league title and still has a chance to make the playoffs -- the Tigers play at Uniontown Lake Friday night, a game involving two teams on the postseason bubble in Division II, Region 7 -- while Chaney and Wilson are focusing on tonight's final game.
Berdis hopes it's a good one.
"Hopefully we'll be able to put on a good show," he said. "But again, it'll be a sad situation when the whistle blows. I have so many great memories of this league. I'm sorry to see it come to an end."