By Greg Gulas
In 1993, the Campbell Memorial Red Devils captured state titles in both basketball and baseball, adding their name to a select group of schools from any division that could boast of winning multiple crowns during a single academic year.
As a result of their efforts, they unknowingly cultivated school pride and brought together a community at a time when something positive was desperately needed for which they could cheer.
The championship teams were invited to Campbell’s City Fest on Saturday, returning to their hometown for a 20-year reunion gathering as the City of Campbell and its Alumni Association presented proclamations and various other mementos to both coaches and players at Roosevelt Park.
“You go to Columbus every year for the state basketball tournament and invariably there’s a team that everyone talks about and ends up rooting for. Campbell Memorial was that team in 1993,” former principal Rick Gozur said. “We had the worst record of the four finalists in Division III that year, but five slam dunks into the first half of our opening game opened everyone’s eyes and we became that team everyone talked about.
“In baseball, rain delayed the start of the tournament by a day and after we got by Steubenville Central Catholic in the semi-finals, we could do no wrong against Cincinnati Indian Hill in the championship game.”
Both sports participated in Division III at the time with Wayne Zetts guiding his diamond team to a 23-4 overall mark, routing the Braves 20-6 for their title while Brian Danilov directed the Red Devils’ hoops squad to a 21-6 ledger and the state hardwood crown, outlasting Belpre, 47-39 for their trophy.
“We had a dedicated group of players that were extremely unselfish. They wanted to play the best competition and as a result, were ready for anyone at tournament time,” Danilov said. “They were a true team; a group that checked their egos in at the door come practice and especially at game time. No one put personal goals ahead of our team goals.”
Gerald Hamilton was a forward on the basketball team that year, recalling how disappointment the previous year only fueled their desire to win a state title.
“We lost in the district finals and every senior told us after that game to go out and win it all for them,” Hamilton said. “We were 14-6 during the regular season so our record was not indicative of the type of team we had. We played a lot of tough teams, however, and that prepared us at tournament time.”
Zetts was in his 13th season as coach back then, recalling how determined his team was to match the accomplishment of their basketball counterparts.
“Your goal at the outset of every season is to first win your league, and then hope to play for a state championship. We accomplished both goals that year,” he said. “That team was a determined group from the first day of practice and they didn’t stop hustling until the final out of the season was recorded.”
Five players, Mike Zorio, Kevin Dill, Tom Beeson, Ryan Merrell and Jody Barillaire, played both sports and graduated as two-time state champions.
No other Red Devil can make that claim.
“When we got back from winning our baseball title it seemed as if the entire community was there to greet as we pulled in front of the Nicholas D’Amato Field House. It was a sight that I know I will never forget,” Merrell said.
“I am 37 years old now and nothing like that has happened to me since I graduated. There’s a special bond between teammates and while I see many of them over the course of a year, some I haven’t seen since we graduated so today’s celebration was very, very special for me,” Dill said.
Ken Kish, who served as a pitching coach for the baseball team and was a ninth-grade coach in basketball, noted that hard work was the common denominator for both squads.
“No team outworked them,” he said. “Individually, we might see a better player pass through both programs but collectively, I doubt if we will ever see a group as special as the ones from 1992-93.”