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A special event for a special team

Harding honors 1972 Warren Western Reserve state title squad

There aren’t many things that can tie together a group of athletes quite like a championship season.

There are memories that are created, moments that are shared, and times that can be looked back on as something those athletes will never forget.

After being honored before, and during halftime, of Warren G. Harding’s matchup with Ursuline Friday night for the 50th anniversary of their state championship run, the players of the 1972 undefeated Warren Western Reserve Raiders football team convened at Enzo’s in Warren to continue the celebration Saturday afternoon

Warren mayor William D. Franklin even stopped by to deliver a City of Warren recognition to the Raiders, honoring them for their success during that season.

Now, I wasn’t around back in 1972, or when this specific group of Raiders has gotten together before, but you would think that no time had passed since they had last seen each other. Plenty of jokes were fired at each other like old times, ensuing laughs were had, memories were remembered and even more stories were told.

Those are the type of bonds that are shared for a lifetime and you could tell — just from spending the afternoon with them — I could tell that this was a special group of teammates, classmates, friends, and if asked they would most likely consider themselves brothers, or even family.

As an outsider or someone who is new to this area, it was a special thing to witness as the afternoon went on. I just got to sit back and witness the special moments they were having.

Looking back on my high school athletic career — I was nothing special believe me — I remember the bonds that I created with my teammates, who are some of my best friends to this day. We won a few championships in New York and to this day we still share stories about those seasons because they were special times in our life.

Those stories and memories don’t compare to what the Raiders have from their special season.

This was a team that was full of stars and athletes that were willing to sacrifice whatever they had to in order to be successful.

Just six years after Western Reserve opened, the Raiders attacked their opponents with a chip on their shoulder and as they went through that season, with one win after another, the legacy of the Blood “D” and Blitz “O” grew bigger and the bond between the players got stronger.

You could still see those bonds throughout the banquet center on Saturday. As each teammate saw another, a smile was shared, hands were shaken, and hugs were given.

Western Reserve’s 1972 season culminated in a 23-15 semifinal win over Toledo Scott at Ohio Stadium in Columbus before the Raiders shallacked Cincinnati Princeton at the Akron Rubber Bowl, 37-6.

It was the perfect ending for a perfect 12-0 undefeated season by coach Joe Novak and the Raiders. As the Western Reserve Raiders like to say, as they did many times Saturday afternoon, it was the first state championship won on the field.

But while the Raiders that were gathered at Enzo’s were able to celebrate their spectacular 1972 season, they were also able to honor the coaches, the teammates, and the special people that were apart of their team that are no longer with us.

Saturday was more than just celebrating a special season for the Raiders, it was about getting coming together for a myriad of reasons. It was the football team in 1972 that brought them together in the first place, and 50 years later they were together again.

gmacafee@tribtoday.com

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