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Monday, August 23, 2010

Red Rider Playoffs: 1992

Coming off a 3-7 season in 1991, Orrville's first losing season since 1974(!) and what would turn out to be the only losing season in the 90's, there was unusual pressure in Orrville to win and get back to the playoffs. Once they got to that point, they only had a five-game playoff losing streak starting them in the face. A streak that began in the latter years of the Mo Tipton era and had continued right into the early tenure of Coach Mac.

Although at this time in Orrville sports history, we were a little more of a basketball town.  A mere five months removed from the schools first state championship in basketball and images like this.....

and this....

 were still fresh in everyone's mind.

But back to football.

Gone were the days of the dominant Orrville teams of the 1980's and the over matched opponents of the now-defunct All-Ohio League. A grueling independent schedule, loaded with playoff contenders and Division 1 & 2 programs, was now the norm.

The '92 Riders responded with a 6-4 regular season and a 3rd straight win over Wooster. It would be enough to earn them a spot in the Division 3 state playoffs, the school's 10th appearance in the state playoffs.

Regular Season
The Riders saved the season with consecutive wins over Warrensville Heights (33-20) and Wooster (18-15) to earn the 4th and final spot in Region 10. Prior to that, the season followed a pattern of a win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss through the first eight weeks. It would be easy to say that the season was inconsistent, but that would be over simplistic, and would also not account for injuries to key players that would plague the team all season.

They played four teams that year (West Branch, Madison, West Holmes, Canton Central) that finished in the top 9 spots of their respective region, with Madison and West Holmes making the playoffs, and West Branch just missing the playoffs via tiebreaker.

The Riders lost all four games against said teams, but three of the four were close. A 1-point loss to West Branch, 4-point loss to West Holmes and an 11-point loss to CCC. Only the Madison loss was a blowout (48-14). So you could argue that a few big plays here and there and this was easily a 8-2 team...but woulda, coulda, shoulda.

The only reason the Riders could even talk about maybe making the playoffs was thanks to a pretty WEAK Region 10. The Riders would not have even sniffed the playoffs in any other region in Division 3.   

Take a look here again, and scroll to the Division 3 - Region 10 standings.

Put Orrville's final point total (92.3888) in any of the other Division 3 regions (9, 11 or 12). We would have finished 16th in Region 9, 11th in Region 11 and 10th in Region 12. Remember, this was when only 4 teams qualified for the playoffs. That's quite a disparity, to finish 4th in one region, and in another, not even crack the top 15.

Amazingly, the Riders' point total would not have been enough to crack the top 4 in all of Division 4 or 5 either.  The closest they would have come to the playoffs in any other region in the state would have been in Division 5 - Region 18, where they would have finished 5th (still out of the playoffs).

I'm certainly not trying to imply that this was not a team worthy of the playoffs, just an amazing statistically anomaly.

Back in Black
Back to important things....more specifically, this picture.

Doesn't need much explanation....quarterback Sly Slaughter trying to elude a Canton Central Catholic defender.....but take a take a look at the Orrville uniform.  Notice any difference in the jersey color when compared to the pants color?  I know it's tough since it's a scanned black and white picture, but I'm 100% certain that those are the famed black pants, and I'm even more certain that this was the first game that we wore them.  Why so confident?  Because a player on that team told me so.  Here are his words....
"We bugged Coach Mac about getting black pants pretty much all summer.  We wanted something a little different and most of us were fans of black uniform items. 
We knew black jerseys would probably be out so we asked for black pants.  He said no all summer and once the season started we kind of forgot about it. 
We actually went out and warmed up with the normal red pants, then came back into the locker room a little early (we should have known something was up) and the coaching staff had the pants all laid out in front of our lockers.  We went crazy. 
It was actually a pretty neat situation - the way the coaches kept it under wraps so well, then sprung it on us right before the game. "
Wow, wow and wow!!  First of all, great story telling.  Secondly...the fact that the coaches sprung it on the kids the way they did is awesome.  I like the attention to detail & secrecy.  Shows that I'm not alone in my uniform craziness.

I'm guessing the team felt like they could run through a brick wall after this, and I'm sure they played inspired against the unbeaten Crusaders, but they still came up short by a 21-10 score.

The pants would not be worn again until the West Holmes game several weeks later, and they lost again 18-15 (West Holmes was a playoff team in 1992, so no slouch).

At this point, the pants should have been burned (kidding).

The pants would finally get a win at Warrensville Heights which would also mark the first time they were paired with the white jerseys.

Personal Note: I'm not the biggest fan of the black pants (actually, I don't really mind them, but they could go away and I wouldn't lose any sleep), but this was a milestone in Orrville uniform history, and I enjoyed learning more about how they came to exist.

As mentioned above, the Riders won their final two games of the season and earned a spot in the playoffs.  Their opponent would be the first repeat playoff opponent for the Riders.  Unfortunately, it would not be a repeat performance.

Division III - Region 10 Semifinal
Orrville Red Riders vs Lima Bath Wildcats
The Riders played Bath in a regional final back in 1985, and beat them 27-8 at Arlin Field in Mansfield.  The setting was the same for the rematch, but the outcome was far different.  Bath dominated from beginning to end on a cold and muddy track (seriously, does any field need turf more than Arlin?  It was a mud bath in 1985 too..and many times in between and since).

Read here for all the details.

It would be the 6th straight loss for Orrville in the playoffs, dating back to 1986 (21-14 loss to St. Clairsville).  It was also the 3rd straight playoff game where the Riders failed to score more than seven points.

It seemed like a game where our speed was an advantage going in, but field conditions severely limited their effectiveness (98 total yards of total offense).

Lima would reach the state semifinals before falling to eventual state champ Mentor Lake Catholic by a 42-13 score.

This was an interesting season.  A talented team, but couldn't seem to put it all together.  Very fun to research the black pants thing as well.

It obviously wasn't known at the time, but the Orrville football program was on the verge of a very special period of years in the mid to late 90's. I guess this era was the storm they had to endure to get there.

Next up: 1994

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