Friday night’s football game will be the first between the two high schools since 2003.
By JOE SCALZO
Vindicator sports staff
On Oct. 31, 1986, a Boardman senior named D.J. Ogilvie suited up for the final high school football game of his career — a Steel Valley Conference game with Cardinal Mooney in front of an estimated 8,000 fans at Boardman’s Spartan Stadium.
The Cardinals entered the game having won 13 of the previous 14 games in the rivalry, including five straight.
“We didn’t know how long it had been,” said Ogilvie, now the head coach at Boardman, “but we knew it had been a long time.”
Ironically, the first Boardman game Ogilvie ever attended was the Spartans’ only win over the Cardinals during that stretch — a 6-3 victory in 1979 at South High Stadium.
Seven years later, he was a Division I defensive line prospect leading a defense that had not given up more than 7 points in a game through the first nine weeks.
“I remember there were a boatload of people there,” Ogilvie recalled of that 1986 game. “And I remember Marty Matiscik scoring a TD in the first half.”
Ogilvie was a two-way starter at tight end and defensive end in that game, doing battle on defense with Mooney standout tight end Vince Marrow for four quarters, as the Spartans won 7-0 to finish with an 8-2 record.
“I just remember seeing the entire student section running around like psychos on the field,” Ogilvie said. “And I remember throwing [Coach] Bill Bohren in the shower afterward. At that time, we thought of him as this older guy that you didn’t mess with, but it was Game 10, so we didn’t care.
“We threw him in there fully clothed with the water on and started messing up his hair.”
Ogilvie went on to play outside linebacker at Bowling Green, resuming his rivalry over the next few years with Marrow, who played at Toledo. Marrow is now the head football coach at Springfield High School in Holland, Ohio.
Ogilvie was hired at Boardman in 2004, so this is his first time coaching in the rivalry. This summer, Ogilvie pulled out the tape of that 1986 game.
“It was just the way I remember it,” he said.
The series began on Oct. 11, 1968, when the Spartans beat Mooney 16-8 in Don Bucci’s third season as the Cardinals’ coach.
(Technically, the teams first met in 1956 — Mooney’s first year of football — but it was the Cardinals twice playing Boardman’s reserves.)
The Spartans won the first three meetings; then, in 1971 — one year after Mooney joined the Steel Valley Conference — the Cardinals assumed control, winning 13 of 14 meetings.
The turning point came in 1984, when Bill Bohren was hired to coach the Spartans.
“When Bill came in, he indicated he wanted to get Boardman’s program at the same level of Mooney’s program,” said Bucci, a longtime coach who is still the school’s athletic director. “He worked hard and he did it. We had some great games with them.”
Bohren went 4-5 against the Cardinals, never losing by more than six points. From 1985 on, Boardman went 11-8 against Mooney. Although the Boardman-Fitch and Mooney-Ursuline rivalries get more attention now, for much of the 1980s and 1990s, Boardman-Mooney was bigger.
“As a player growing up in Boardman, that was always the red-letter game,” Ogilvie said. “You wanted to beat Mooney because they were all the kids you played with and grew up with in Little League.”
Cardinals coach P.J. Fecko, a Mooney graduate, grew up in Boardman, so he saw the rivalry’s intensity firsthand.
“We knew those players better than we did Ursuline or Fitch because we lived in the same community,” he said. “So at least for the kids who lived in Boardman, it was the biggest.
“Ursuline always seemed to be more of a parents’ rivalry.”
Renewing the rivalry
The rivalry (at least in football) ended after the 2003 season, when Boardman left the SVC for the Federal League.
The teams tried to renew the series on several occasions, but couldn’t seem to match up open dates.
One exception came a few years ago when Boardman had an open date in Week 2, but the Spartans passed since they were playing Cleveland St. Ignatius in Week 1 and had little interest in playing the two great football programs back to back.
“I didn’t blame them,” Bucci said.
The breakthrough came last fall, when Youngstown East decided to buy out its two-year contract with Boardman, leaving the Spartans with an open date.
“Because it [the buyout] happened so late, there were very few schools to choose from,” said Boardman athletic director Dave Smercansky. “For us to travel across state lines was fruitless when we had a team in our backyard to play.
“Fortunately, Mooney had an open date or we would have been traveling to the southwestern part of the state, which is not a good situation.”
Mooney already had a Week 1 opponent for 2009, but did some shuffling and managed to make it happen. The teams will play in Week 2 next year.
“We were thrilled,” said Bucci, whose team will play just three games against Valley opponents this year. “People at school are thrilled, our kids are thrilled, and I’m sure the Boardman kids are thrilled.
The schools’ fans have been discussing the Friday night game for almost a year — Ogilvie said he’s been stopped by old ladies in the grocery store telling him how important it is to win the game — and both coaching staffs used the opener to motivate their kids through the dog days of August two-a-days.
“I think it’s created quite a stir, that’s for sure,” said Fecko. “It’s created a lot of what’s fun and exciting and neat about high school football. All the talks in coffee shops and bars, old alumni connecting with other alumni, teasing each other back and forth. ...
“I’ve run across a lot of people who have said, ‘It’s about time.’ This is a game the public really wanted.”
The fact that it’s the opener makes it even more special, although the Cardinals enter the game as clear favorites. Mooney returns nearly all of its starters from last year’s playoff team and is expected to be one of Division III’s best teams.
Boardman, meanwhile, returns just one defensive starter — although that starter, Ohio State recruit J.T. Moore, is pretty darn good — and has a lot more question marks.
“To say they have an advantage, I don’t know that,” Smercansky said. “They do have a few more backs than we do, but they’re in the same situation we are — it’s a new year and a new team, and everyone is 0-0.”
One thing is certain — Spartan Stadium will be packed Friday. The Spartans are having their athletic hall of fame weekend, The Vindicator is sponsoring a pre-game tailgate party, and the game is expected to draw casual football fans, not just those with an allegiance to one of the teams.
The stadium won’t run out of tickets, but it will run out of seats.
So, come early or stand late.
“If it’s a decent night weather-wise, and I expect it will be, who wouldn’t want to come to that game?” Bucci said. “I just don’t know if they’ll have enough room for all those people.”
1968: Boardman, 16-8
1969: Boardman, 15-0
1970: Boardman, 27-8
1971: Mooney, 32-19
1972: Mooney, 24-8
1973: Mooney, 14-13
1974: Mooney, 52-8
1975: Mooney, 28-0
1976: Mooney, 28-19
1977: Mooney, 40-0
1978: Mooney, 7-3
1979: Boardman, 6-3
1980: Mooney, 35-14
1982: Mooney, 16-6
1983: Mooney, 31-0
1984: Mooney, 28-0
1985: Mooney, 27-7
1986: Boardman, 7-0
1987: Mooney, 7-6
1988: Mooney, 27-24 (OT)
1989: Boardman, 19-6
1990: Boardman, 17-16 (OT)
1991: Boardman, 6-0
1992: Mooney, 20-14
1993: Mooney, 7-0
1994: Boardman, 17-14
1995: Boardman, 20-14
1996: Mooney, 34-6
1997: Boardman, 21-13
1998: Boardman, 21-14
1999: Mooney 23-15
2000: Boardman, 21-15
2001: Boardman, 42-7
2002: Boardman, 10-9
2003: Mooney, 14-7
Source: Vindicator files