Depending on the fan base, area high school football enthusiasts will point to different bygone eras as “the golden age” of football in Mahoning Valley.
Niles fans are quick to mention the 1960s when the Red Dragons won a pair of state titles amid a 48-game unbeaten streak.
Warren’s supporters are rightly quick to point back to the 1970s, when the rivalry between Harding and Reserve was at its height, and when both schools took turns climbing to the pinnacle of greatness.
Youngstown Cardinal Mooney fans enjoy a plethora of history. The Don Bucci era spanned 34 years and included 306 wins, including four state titles. That carried over directly into the PJ Fecko era, which also resulted in four state championships.
Youngstown Ursuline won three consecutive state titles beginning in 2008.
However, not all historic races are part of history. Some are playing on area soccer fields in 2022.
In Mahoning County, Springfield is coming off a historic three-year winning streak that includes 13 playoff wins. During that span, the Tigers won three regional titles and became the second public school in the area to advance to back-to-back state games for the title.
The Mike Pavlansky era at Canfield is now in its 22nd year. Under Pavlansky, the Cardinals own a 162-71 record, which includes 11 trips to the postseason. Since 2017, which includes a shortened COVID 2020 schedule, the Cardinals have averaged 10 wins per season.
The South Range currently has a 22-game regular season winning streak, dating back to October 4, 2019. Since the start of Northeast-8, the Raiders own a 17-2 league record, despite being the smallest school in the conference.
South Range’s success doesn’t just span the past three years. Dan Yeagley, now in his 28th season at the school, owns a 232-75 record with 18 playoff appearances. Yeagley’s teams have posted a staggering 10 undefeated regular seasons.
“We came here our first year and struggled (4-6), but then we had a great second year (11-1) and have preached consistency and dedication within the program ever since,” Yeagley said. “I have been truly blessed over the years with great attendees who have made an incredible commitment to our program.”
Yeagley said he has yet to sit back and reflect on his accomplishments, noting that he is so wrapped up in “the next game, the offseason, the next year” that he has little time to focus on the past.
“We’re in such a rut that we as coaches only care about the next opponent,” Yeagley said. “A game ends on a Friday night, and the next thing you know, you’re watching a movie, getting ready for next Friday. You can’t just sit back and enjoy the moment.”
Still, Yeagley makes sure his players take the time to appreciate his hard work and accomplishments.
“Before our first game this year, I told the players to go back and feel the moment,” Yeagley said. “Enjoy the crowd, the band, your teammates, the scoreboard and the music. Enjoy the moment and let it sink in.”
“We talk a lot about letting these kids live in the moment.”
What Yeagley, his assistants and players don’t discuss is South Range’s current winning streak.
“For us it’s really one game at a time,” Yeagley said. “Records are there to be broken, streaks are over. A loss will never be our defining moment.”
“Our players have always done a wonderful job of focusing on that particular week. That is part of the reason for our success.”
Columbiana County has its share of today’s “golden days”. Paul Cusick is in his 24th season at Crestview. Cusick’s record with the Rebels is 173-81, 92 stellar games over .500. He has led Crestview to 17 of his 18 playoff appearances.
Columbiana’s Bob Spaite has more years on the job than any coach at Mahoning Valley. He is in his 29th season with the Clippers. His résumé includes a 186-108 record with all 12 of the program’s playoff appearances.
Hubbard is in the midst of a record-breaking streak of success that began in 1999 when Jeff Bayuk led the Eagles to a 9-2 record. Bayuk would lead the Eagles to seven straight seasons without a loss and then hand over the reins to Brian Hoffman. In his 15-year tenure at Hubbard, Hoffman has never experienced a losing season.
That’s 23 straight seasons without a loss, a Trumbull County record that the Eagles (2-0) are looking to build on this year.
During that span, Hubbard owns a 196-61 record, which includes 11 seasons with two or fewer losses.
McDonald’s trainer Dan Williams (156-77 overall record) has already set a record in Trumbull County and is building another. From 2003 to 2020, Williams led McDonald to 18 consecutive seasons without a loss, the longest streak in Trumbull County for a single coach.
Williams, now in his 23rd year at his alma mater, also holds the county record for longest tenured coach at a school.
Williams was just 26 when he landed his first head coaching job at Jackson-Milton, and he was 30 when he took over at McDonald in 2000.
“The funny thing was that I was the youngest coach on my staff at the time,” Williams said. “I came home first as an assistant, but it was understood that (then head coach) Andy Golubic was grooming me to take over the program.”
“McDonald’s was really the only job I ever wanted. It’s my house, it’s where I went to school. I love the community, I love the people. Many trainers pursue other jobs. They seek instant gratification and go from school to school chasing talent. In my twenty-three years here, I have never applied for a single job elsewhere.”
Williams said his only goal when he was hired at McDonald was to continue a decades-long tradition of success at the school.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself and I still do because I know the history of this show,” Williams said. “Being here for so long is a testament to the great kids in this city and an incredibly good group of assistant coaches.”
Warren John F. Kennedy has enjoyed decades of excellence, but the last seven years have been especially rewarding. The span includes a state title, a pair of regional titles, two state finals appearances and 24 playoff games.
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