Next up on the docket, the 1994 playoff run. This one was fun...and it just happened to be my senior year, so the memories run thick and deep. Get ready for tons of minutiae.
Coming off an inconsistent 5-5 season in 1993, and returning a large group of lettermen, both at line and skill positions, expectations were at their usual high level, but there were whispers that this team had the mix to contend for a state title.
Some things were new for the 1994 season. First and foremost, the Riders dropped back to Division 4 for the first time since the mid 80's, and were placed in Region 14. At the statewide level, this was the first year that the state added a 6th football division. This was most likely the reason the Riders dropped down to Division Four. The Riders went from being a small Division 3 school, to a bigger D-4 school.
Another new was Wooster High School's brand new field at their new high school. Follis Field was named after Charles Follis, captain of Wooster's first football team in 1899 and first African-American professional football player. I found this article about his life just fascinating.
The Orrville-Wooster rivalry would move from old Mauer Field to Follis Field, and the Riders would christen is with a 40-0 trouncing of the Generals. What I always remember about this score was that in the annual Orrville-Wooster basketball game later that December, Orrville again won by 40 (94-54 I believe). At the time, the 40 point trouncing was the most lopsided ever in the Wooster-Orrville series. The 1995 game saw Orrville win by 49 (55-6) and the 1999 game saw the Riders win by 42 (42-0).
Back to football, along with the 40 point win at Wooster, the Red Riders won 8 others, dropping only a 21-14 game to Canton Central Catholic. It was our 6th straight loss to CCC, and in those 6 losses, the Riders never scored more than 16 points in any one contest. Other than maybe Ashland, no team plays us as tough as CCC has over the years.
The Riders would end up 2nd in the Region 14 computer standings with 21.9 points (which would have put us in 6th place, and out of the playoffs had we remained in Division 3). Wauseon won the region with New London and Clear Fork rounding out the top 4. 1994 would be the last season that only 4 teams per region made the playoffs, beginning in 1995 and continuing until today, the top 8 teams per region would qualify.
The Riders first round opponent would be the 9-1 Clear Fork Colts, and the game would be right back in Wooster. This was the first (and still only) playoff game ever played by an Orrville team at Wooster.
Division IV - Region 14 Semifinal
Orrville Red Riders 19 - Clear Fork Colts 0The Rider D was just locked in this night. It was the third shutout in playoff history and only one of four shutout in 44 playoffs games in school history. Marcel Denson had a huge game, hauling in a 52-yard TD pass and also breaking a reverse for 71 yards. A defensive safety and a Dan Stultz field goal capped the scoring and the Riders had their 2nd win in as many weeks on Wooster's home turf.
The Generals struggled to a 1-9 record that season, so the Riders 2 wins in 2 weeks were more than Wooster had on THEIR OWN FIELD all year. A feather in the cap for any member of that 1994 team.
The win was also the first playoff win for Coach Mac. After going 1-and-done in his first four playoff appearances, he finally got his first playoff win and many more would follow over the next decade.
Here's the Courier article from that game. You can also read the preview article for the week 12 game versus Wauseon.
Division IV - Region 14 ChampionshipOrrville Red Riders 21 - Wauseon 14 (Overtime)
The Wauseon Indians entered the game as the reigning 1993 Division Three Champions but because of the move to Division 4, they would not be able to defend their title. I'm sure a run in D-4 didn't bother them one bit. Coming off a 24-6 win over New London, the Indians would now get their first taste of Red Rider Tradition. The game was played at Findlay's Donnell Stadium. Wauseon came into the came with a 25-game winning streak, the longest in Ohio at the time, I believe.
According to this article from the Toledo Blade, the Indians came into the game allowing just 4.5 points per game. In hindsight, this game was similar in nature to the Genoa playoff games of the past few years. The Riders were the great unknown, just happy to be there, and should willingly step aside and allow Wauseon to continue their winning streak on their way to another state title.
Here's how it played out. I love this headline.
I remember this game following the script of so many Orrville playoff games over the years. We got on top first, I think a long pass from Jared Zwick to Renauld Ray set up the first score, and then we sort of sat back on the lead, while both defenses held down the opposing offenses pretty well, and regulation ended with both teams tied at 14.
The Riders took the ball first in overtime and Jared Zwick found Tom Reusser out of the backfield on a snake pattern for the go-ahead, and eventually game winning TD pass. Remyl Coleman batted away a Wauseon pass on 4th down and the Orrville crowd and sideline came unglued. I was in the student section and never have experienced a wave of people just losing their minds like we did that night. Of my all-time memories of Orrville football, that night is in the top 5.
It was the Riders 2nd overtime playoff game. The lost their first one versus Revere in 1990, and have won two more overtime playoff games since (1998 vs. Huron and 1999 vs. Copley).
Here's a real neat photo collage from that game. See the ball boy on the right of the collage. That's future Orrville QB Justin Zwick watching his big brother play quarterback for the Riders. I guess he was more of a Tommy Reusser fan based on his face paint.
What a game...and you had to think something was in the air with this '94 team.
Next up for the Riders...a state semifinal appearance against the Cleveland Benedictine Bengals.
We'll save the last two games of the 1994 run for a part 2. Coming soon.....