Many teams, players jump out to Bruney

MARTINS FERRY — Dave Bruney amassed 284 victories in his 39 years as a head football coach, with 275 of those coming at his beloved Martins Ferry High School. He was also 9-1 in his first season as a head coach, that coming at neighboring Bridgeport.

When asked what his top memories were, he came up with three-and-a-half pages of notebook paper that detailed numerous games from 27 different seasons, which was narrowed down to the top 11 by The Times Leader sports department.

In his first season at Martins Ferry in 1979, Bruney led the Purple-and-White to a perfect 10-0 season. However, that was well before the Ohio High School Athletic Association instituted its first playoff system.

“We had a pretty good team, but we didn’t make the playoffs. They only took the champion of each of the four regions,” Bruney recalled. “We beat Ironton 5-2 (TDs) in a scrimmage in Ironton. We went on the yellow buses all that way and beat them. We finished second (in the region) and they got in at first and beat Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, 7-6, for the state championship.

“That 1979 team was a pretty good football team.”

Guys like Jimmy Johnson, Bubba Coleman, Wayne Campbell, Dennis Swearingen, Jeff Kepreos, Scott Woodford, Sam Zavatsky … were really, really good players.

“The game that sticks out in my mind was when we beat Bellaire 9-6 in Bellaire to go undefeated. Bellaire played really well and it was in the mud,” he added. “We had a couple of touchdowns called back in the first quarter and had to come from behind in the last two minutes to win. Bellaire took a safety and they were up 6-2. On our last possession we went 70-some yards for a touchdown and scored with seconds to go in the game.”

∫ As a rookie head coach, Bruney won his first Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship with the Bulldogs 10 years after he was graduated from Martins Ferry.

“We were very lucky to have some really good players. We only had 25-26 players on the team, but we had a great senior group,” he acknowledged of that talent-ladened 1978 squad. “We ended up 9-1 and won an OVAC championship. That got my career off to a pretty good start.”

Players like Craig Miller, Dave Delman, Jim Primovic, Mike Montelone, Kelly Rine, Ricky Goodrich, Scott Lindsey, Rich Brothers to name just a few were really good players.

“There are two games I remember that year, specifically, that were big,” Bruney remembered. “Ty Fleming was the coach at St. John’s that year, and they had a good team that year. We opened with them and we beat them 35-6 at Bridgeport, so that was my first career win. The next week they (St. John’s) beat Bellaire on a Saturday afternoon, and Bellaire had a nice team that year. That really sticks out in my mind.

“The other one was we beat Martins Ferry and, I think Bridgeport had only beat Martins Ferry twice in something like 70 years. We beat them 18-6 at Bridgeport on a Saturday night. That was kind of bittersweet for me. We had a very good senior class. They had a real good junior class, so when I came up here the following year, those juniors were now seniors and they were pretty good.”

During what turned out to be his final season of roaming the Purple sidelines at the facility named after him, Bruney’s charges finished 7-3 and qualified for the Division V state playoffs after a sub-par 1-3 start. Included in that six-game win streak was a 42-39 shootout victory over Harrison Central; a come-from-behind 14-10 triumph at Indian Creek; and a 38-19 domination of Wheeling Central.

However, in the regular-season finale at arch-rival Bellaire the Purple Riders posted a 21-18 triumph in the mud for the school’s 700th all-time win. That ranks fourth in Buckeye State history behind state powers Massillon Washington, Canton McKinley and Steubenville.

“Beating Bellaire for the school’s 700th win will be one of those games I remember for ever,” Bruney admitted. Not only did we win the school’s 700th game, but we gave that game ball to our head cheerleader Sam Eimer who was battling cancer at the time. That was very emotional.

“We also beat Wheeling Central here who obviously had a good team and went on to win a state title.”

Some of the players he cited for their accomplishments were Dalton Hoover, Cory Bennett, Hunter Bodkin and Demetrius Dokes.

The 1998 team may have been the best Bruney had. It averaged 58 points a game which was top in the state that season.

“We lost to the Mahoning County All Stars, otherwise known as Youngstown Ursuline in Steubenville. They had 11 D-I players on a D-4 team. We get a D-I player every five years, maybe,” he stressed. “Heck of a game. It ended up something like 69-44.

“That team was blessed with a really, really good senior class that included the likes of Fred Ray, Adam Zann, Donnie Cash, Craig Bruney, George Shreve and JR Thomas. Zac (Bruney) was in a junior in that class with Tony Collette and Jay Wallace.”

In 2004 the Purple went 9-0 in the regular season as a game with Lisbon Anderson wasn’t played due to flooding. They finished 12-1.

“We lost to Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in the state semifinals in Massillon, “Bruney recalled of a 27-6 reversal. “We had some memorable games that season. We beat New Albany at Zanesville 35-0 for the regional championship and they were 12-0.”

Martins Ferry also topped Bellaire twice that season (21-7 regular season and 33-7 in playoffs).

Current Martins Ferry head coach Chas Yoder was one of the standouts, along with Clay Tucker and Ryan Church.

“Chas was the was defensive player of year in district and Ryan was the offensive player of the year. Clay was a great wrestler, as was Chas, but he was a really good defensive back and wide receiver. Matt Robinson was also a really good player on that team.”

The Purple Riders outscored the opposition 466-111 in 13 games. Only Pataskala Watkins Memorial and St. Clairsville scored in double figures (14 each).

The 2003 season was a memorable one for the fact it brought the program’s first postseason victory — a 56-6 thrashing of Proctorville Fairland in the opening round. A week later, the Purple dropped a 34-14 decision to Coshocton.

“We started 0-2 that year before winning nine straight games,” Bruney thought back. “I remember Nick Stankovich kicking a 28-yard field goal to beat (current Martins Ferry assistant coach) Gregg Bahen and Steubenville Catholic.

“My youngest son, Trevor, was a senior that season. I wasn’t real smart and thought I’d make him a wideout. He end up rushing for 1,680 yards and only had seven carries in the first three games. Trevor ended up being the offensive district player of year.”

The two regular-season setbacks came at the hands of Buckeye Local and Lisbon David Anderson, both of whom went 10-0.

In addition to the youngest Bruney and Stankovich, other standouts included Kyle Ray, Brandon Garcia, Robert Kittle and Anthony Reasbeck.

Martins Ferry went 8-2 in the 1997 season with losses to River and Bellaire.

However, it was a Week 5 game at the old Belmont County Fairgrounds (now Red Devil Stadium) against rival St. Clairsville that stood out in Bruney’s mind. It might have been the best performance by a Purple Rider running back in school history.

“Chad Brinker ran for 7 touchdowns against a really good St. Clairsville team,” Bruney noted.

In addition to Brinker, Bruney also singled out players like Joe Craig, Guy Jones, Nick Yourkovich, Shawn Powell and Ryan Leonard for their performances.

In 1994, the Purple-and-White finished 8-2 with losses to Steubenville Central (14-0) and Buckeye Local. They scored 344 points that season and had three shutouts.

“Arguably, the second five games of the year was one of the best, if not the best, team we’ve had here,” Bruney said. “We lost to Steubenville Central in a close game and then 14-13 at Buckeye Local. A lot of people thought Jeff Dobson scored a 2-point conversion that was allowed. Buckeye Local ended up state runnerup that year, losing to Chardon in the finals. That was a heckuva Buckeye Local team and we outplayed them and probably deserved to win that game.”

Another game he recalled was in Week 10.

“Bellaire came here 9-0 and looking for the first undefeated record in school history. We played a great first half. I think were up something like 35-6 and had to hold them off in the second half, 35-27.

“Brian McFarland played one of the best games I’ve ever seen a high school player play,” Bruney explained.

Other players that Bruney mentioned in addition to Dobson were quarterback Jack Becker, Chad Sheets, Mike Rose and Ty Thomas.

Martins Ferry won an OVAC championship in 2008 as it went 9-1 in the regular season and finished 11-2 overall, losing to New Lexington 21-14 in two OTs for the regional title. Two weeks prior to that, the Purple Riders beat Columbus Bishop Hartley (20-6) and then dispatched fellow OVAC member Union Local (49-14).

“That was a pretty good football team,” Bruney said. “We had players like Jeremy Murray, Matt Shreve, Steve Woodford and Brandon Leonard. We scored 389 points.”

The 1991 season had a pair of games that stuck out in Bruney’s recollection. Of course, Bellaire was once, with St. Clairsville being the other.

“We beat Bellaire 22-21 at Bellaire. (Current police chief) John McFarland was our PAT kicker. We scored and Bellaire was up 21-20 late in the game. We direct-snapped the ball to John and he bulled his way into the end zone for the win. “We also beat St. Clairsville at St. Clairsville in a game we were down in 23-6 at the start of the fourth quarter, but we came back and won 28-23. That game sticks out in my mind.”

McFarland, Mikale Roby and Brian Peterson were players that Bruney mentioned.


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