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Burrow made impact against Steubenville at Harding Stadium

WHEELING – Joe Burrow is the toast of college football.

The LSU quarterback has authored a season of epic proportions.

His individual stats are off the charts amazing, but in the process, he’s also led the Tigers to a 13-0 record and the No. 1 seed in this year’s college football playoffs.

It is a remarkable feel-good story for a player unable to start at Ohio State, resulting in Burrow’s decision to transfer to the Bayou Bengals two seasons ago. The move paid off in the form of the Heisman Trophy, an award he pocketed in record fashion.

While Burrow has made his mark on the college grid landscape this fall, he also made a lasting impact on the OVAC football scene some five years ago.

On Oct. 9, 2014, Athens High made the three-hour trek to Steubenville to face the Big Red in a mid-season “meetin’ of unbeatens.” Burrow was the star quarterback for the Bulldogs.

Athens put on an offensive show that night that few visiting teams do in Harding Stadium. The Burrow-led Bulldogs rolled to a 58-42 victory.

In that game, Burrow engineered Athens to eight touchdowns, including TD passes covering 70 and 45 yards, respectively. He triggered a quick-strike attack as the Bulldogs scored on two one-play drives and two more that took five snaps. Their longest march of the evening consisted of seven plays.

Athens finished the regular season 10-0, eventually losing to Toledo Central Catholic, 56-52, in the OHSAA D-III state championship game. Not surprising, Burrow was named the state’s Mr. Football.

Big Red head coach Reno Saccoccia, meanwhile, recalls the Athens contest vividly.

“It was a great game. They scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to beat us,” Saccoccia said during a phone interview Wednesday. “Burrow was really good. But we played against (Buffalo Bills HOF) Jim Kelly’s nephew and I thought he moved better. But Burrow had a great arm. He threw five TDs against us. The guy that broke our back, however, was their tailback. He ended up going to Ohio University.

“I sent him (Burrow) a good luck note before this season, wishing him good luck. I felt bad when he left Ohio State. I never heard back,” added the prep coaching legend. “I knew he was good but I didn’t know he was Heisman Trophy good. I loved his Heisman speech and the hesitations in it. He was sincere.”

Ironically, Ron Lucas was an assistant on the Athens staff that season. He was a 1990 Big Red graduate and played guard from 1987-89.

Big Red went 36-5 during Lucas’ playing days. The 1987 (12-2) and the 1988 (13-1) clubs both advanced to the Ohio Division II championship game, losing each time to Akron Buchtel. The 1989 squad (11-2) fell in the state semifinals to Cleveland St. Joseph.

I must thank stellar sports scribe Ed Looman for providing background info on the 2014 game in which he covered for the Herald Star.

During Burrow’s riveting Heisman Trophy acceptance speech, he touched on impoverished Southeastern Ohio. Since then, the Athens County Food Pantry has received some $400,000 in donations, sparked by his speech.

One downside for Burrow is that he will likely be drafted No. 1 overall by the lowly Cincinnati Bengals.

WO-BO BASEBALL

THE WO-BO Baseball Instructional School will be held Jan. 11 & 12, 2020 at the Mount de Chantal Gym.

Saturday, Jan. 11, will feature two ages sessions: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. is for ages 7-12. The 2-5 p.m. session is open to ages 13-18. That day’s instruction will focus on fielding, throwing and base running.

On Sunday, Jan. 12, the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. session is open to ages 7-12 while the 3-6 p.m. session is open to ages 13-18. That day will feature hitting, pitching and catching training.

The baseball school is under the direction of Bo McConnaughy and Steve Wojcik, two of the brightest diamond minds in the tri-state area.

Cost is $25 per day or $40 for both days and family rates are possible upon request by contacting the directors prior to camp. Pre-registration is recommended by Monday, Jan. 6. Participants are asked to bring a glove, bat and helmet.

McConnaughy may be reached by calling 304-280-2981 or at mcconnbo@westliberty.edu. Wojcik may be reached by calling 304-218-1797 or at sdwoj@comcast.net.

Online registration is available at https://form.jotform.com/93294474263161.

Checks should be made payable to Bo McConnaughy and mailed to Bo McConnaughy, 33 Hurst Ave., Wheeling, W.Va. 26003 or Steve Wojcik, 112 Grant Ave., Wheeling, W.Va., 26003.

McConnaughy and Wojcik both enjoyed tremendous playing careers, including stints in the minor leagues. McConnaughy was a Baltimore Orioles’ farmhand while Wojcik was in the New York Mets’ organization. Both went on to long and successful head coaching careers: McConnaughy at West Liberty and Wojcik at Bridgeport High.

BUBBA’S BITS

CONGRATULATIONS TO Wellsville High track standout Justin Wright for signing a scholarship to Iowa. The Tiger speedster won the state 100-meter and long jump titles last June as a junior. He also placed second in the 200-meters.

I AM surprised that Freddie Kitchens hasn’t been fired yet as Cleveland’s head coach after its lackluster showing against Arizona. The Browns are a dumpster fire.

CONGRATULATIONS TO Wheeling Park head coach Michael Jebbia, WesBanco Arena director Denny Magruder and all those who helped make the third annual Sam Andy Basketball Classic another rousing success.

THE CLEVELAND Indians will be fine without Corey Kluber. The Tribe’s pitching staff is still quality.

THE RESTORATION project Joanna (Bernabie) McNamee took on at Boston College last year is showing improvement. The former Madonna athletic great has her Eagles nesting at 7-5 and trending upward. McNamee is in her second year at BC after a successful stint at Albany.

FORMER WVU star Will Grier is scheduled to make his first start at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers today. The third-round draft pick will be directing a team that has lost its last five games.

JOSH SILLS is on the move. The former Meadowbrook High standout has entered the NCAA transfer portal after starting two seasons at guard for WVU. This past fall, he incurred a shoulder injury early in the campaign, requiring season-ending surgery. The 6-6, 317-pounder told me Tuesday that he has no specific school in his sights. He also said is also nearly 100 percent recovered from his injury.

DAN BURT is enjoying much success in his seventh year at the helm of the Duquesne University women’s basketball team. The 1993 West Liberty University grad has the Lady Dukes off to a 9-2 start. Duquense went 19-13 last winter.

I WANT to wish all our subscribers a most blessed and enjoyable Christmas.

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