ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Robert Vargo had a grand night Friday night. In fact, it has been a grand 12 months for Martins Ferry's "Big Red."
The Purple Riders' tower of power eclipsed the coveted 1,000-point mark in helping the Riders to a 57-43 district final triumph over Garaway at Ohio University Eastern.
The win propels Ferry to its second successive regional berth at Athens. The Purple ousted the Pirates in last year's district finale.
T-L Photos/SETH STASKEY
MARTINS FERRY’S Robert Vargo proudly holds up the net up after the Riders won the Division III?district title Friday night against Garaway at OUE.
Vargo entered the game needing just five points to reach a grand. The historic point came with 1:22 left in the second quarter at the charity stripe, upping the Ferrians' lead to 18-14. He finished the game with 15 counters as Coach Jeff Sabatino pulled his star with 17.7 seconds left, resulting in a standing ovation for the mild-mannered mountain of a man.
"It's an unbelievable feeling reaching a 1,000 points. Not too many players get to experience that feeling," Vargo said. "But what makes it so sweet is that we won and we are heading to Athens again."
Friday night's achievements are just the icing on the cake for an incredible 12-month body of work by the 6 ft. 6, 250-pounder.
His run of success ignited during his junior hoops campaign as he played a key role in the upstart Purple earning a surprise trip to the Division III regionals.
Vargo followed that up with a sparkling baseball campaign for Coach Anthony Reasbeck. Big Red batted .367 with three home runs and 23 RBIs, and according Reasbeck, "was the best defensive first baseman in the league."
That set the stage for his senior season in football, and what a season it was.
Vargo led Coach Dave Bruney's gridders to a 9-1 regular season mark before pocketing a playoff win over Williamsport Westfall. He was rewarded with first-team all-Ohio honors.
His football success morphed seamlessly into hardwood dominance. He has averaged some 20 points and 13 for the 15-9 Riders.
Vargo's exceptional post play earned him AP Eastern District Player of the Year honors. He is in line to be named first-team all-Ohio in the coming weeks.
In the midst of basketball season, Vargo found time to ink a football scholarship with Division II power Ohio Dominican.
He wraps up all his athletic success and honors in a nice academic straight A bow.
"Robert is a special player, but just as importantly, he is a special young man," Sabatino. "He excels in the athletic setting as well as the academic setting. Robert is a great leader, teammate and role model."
Sabatino's sentiments were echoed by assistant coach and athletic director Kim Appolloni.
"Robert is everything you are looking for in a student-athlete. He is near perfect," Appolloni said. "He is a big brother to his teammates. Robert believed in them and helped them grow. He has provided the leadership these young kids needed to get to this point. Robert is a remarkable young man."
Despite his team's youthfulness, Vargo is not surprised they are heading back to Athens.
"Even though I was the only senior, I knew going into the season this team had a chance to be really good. Even after we stumbled out of the gates, I never lost faith," Vargo said. "But the team kept working and kept listening. The younger players got better and better and the wins started to come.
"I knew heading into the tournaments we were going to be successful. We have great camaraderie and we believe in each other," he added. "I couldn't be more proud of my teammates and coaches. But I don't think this is the end of the road by any means. We have more gas in the tank."
Kapral may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org