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  Four Decades Ago, The Boardman Spartans Went Unbeaten In A 6-Game Season Due To A Debilitating Teachers’ Strike  
  August 20, 2020 Edition  
      associate editor
      Due to the coronavirus, Boardman High School has scheduled a six-game ‘regular season’ this fall, with a potential playoff run set to begin Oct. 9.
      According to BHS Athletic Director Marco Marinucci, the Spartans grid team could ‘opt-out’ of the playoffs, and if they did, Boardman could then play two more games---Oct. 16 against Massillon Jackson, and Oct. 23 against the Chaney Cowboys, with both games on Boardman’s home turf.
      But, did you know it was 40 years ago the Spartans played a six-game season and finished with a 6-0 mark under the direction of Head Coach Gene Pushic?
      Boardman couldn’t play five games in that 1980 season because of a debilitating teachers’ strike that wiped out contests against Chaney, Howland, Fitch, Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney.
      While the teachers’ union threatened a strike during the first two weeks of the 1980 season, Spartan gridders posted a 13-6 win over Wilson and a 33-0 win over Canfield to open the season.
      Six weeks later, the Spartans went back on the field and claimed a 22-18 victory over the Campbell Memorial Red Devils. They followed that with a 3-2 win over the Warren Western Reserve Raiders (on a Mike Lewis field goal), and a 41-0 blast over the Niles McKinley Red Dragons.
      Pushic’s team finished the season with a home game on Nov. 6 against the Barberton Magics, and came off the field with a 27-12 victory before some 5200 wind-chilled and standing-room-only fans at Boardman Stadium.
      The Magics took the early lead in the game after Tom Gamble intercepted a Bernie Kosar pass (his first interception of the year) at the 9:25 mark of the first quarter and darted to the one yard line. Barberton quarterback Bryan Breitenstein then plunged over the goal line on the next play.
      John DePietro took the ensuing kickoff 36 yards and the Spartans then proceeded to march to the Magics’ 31 yard line before fullback Steve Gresock was stuffed on a fourth and one play to halt the drive.
      Boardman’s defense answered when Larry Napolitan, Dave DeHoff and Gresock sacked Breitenstein on a third down play to force a punt.
      Kosar was intercepted a second time, this one by Scott Murphy, and Barberton held a 6-0 lead after one quarter.
      Again the Spartan defense answered the call in the early moments of the second stanza, as Bob Partlow and DeHoff sacked the Magic quarterback for a seven yard loss on first down; and Gresock, Brad Williams and John Spiese stuffed a draw play for a loss to set-up a third and 18 for Barberton.
      On the play, Breitenstein, under heavy pressure, went back to pass and his aerial was intercepted by Nik Amstutz who churned 55 yards for Boardman’s first TD of the game. A Lewis PAT boot gave Boardman a lead and the Spartans never looked back.
      On the ensuing kickoff, Barberton’s Mel Johnson fumbled and the loose ball was gobbled-up by Boardman’s Andy Inboden at the 20 yard line.
      A Kosar to Joe Allegretto pass covered 19 yards and a Gresock plunge, coupled with another Lewis PAT boosted the Spartans into a 14-6 lead. Lewis added a field goal late in the second frame to send the Spartans into the halftime lockerroom with a 17-6 lead.
      Another Lewis field goal in the third frame, and a DePietro eight yard TD run in the fourth stanza, behind blocks from Stan Feret and Mike Lyons, capped Spartans scoring in the game.
      Kosar connected on seven of 15 passes in the game, good for 112 yards; while DePietro paced the Boardman ground game with 87 yards, and Gresock added 52 yards over the turf.
      Reserve notched its only points in the game with just seconds left on the clock when Lewis, who was also the Spartans punter, scrambled around the end zone on fourth down and out of bounds to give the Raiders two-points on a safety.
      Boardman ended the year ranked fifth in a field of 36 schools in Region 1-Division 1 rankings of the Ohio High School Athletic Association and were ruled ineligible for post-season play because of the teacher’s strike.
      The perfect season was Boardman’s first since the 1961 team, under the direction of Jerry Thorpe, posted a 9-0 record.
      Although the Spartans couldn’t play in the post-season, their win over Warren Western Reserve was a highlight of the season.
      The year before, Boardman entered its final game of the season with an 8-0-1 log and lost to the Raiders, ending their playoff hopes and knocking Pushic’s team out of a Steel Valley Conference title-tie.
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