Greenville St. Joseph Fighting Irish, the high school that I graduated from, way back in the stone age of 1983. just won their third straight state football championship. Led by two soon to be NCAA Division 1 foot ball players, winning one championship in tough and to have won it three times in a row is a remarkable accomplishment. I along with many other alumni are very proud of our school and this team of hardworking coaches and young men. It is a great time to be a Fighting Irish these days but, there was a group of young men, way back when that I would like to think, was the foundation on which this success was built on. This team was he first to compete in the first ever state playoff championship by winning the district and also winning a conference championship along the way. This was the 1981-82 Fighting Irish team that I was honored to be a part of:
Led by Head Coach Preston Harris, an amazingly talented group of senior student athletes and a few juniors sprinkled in for good measure, there were high expectations for this team. The year before, the Fighting Irish went 5-4, the first winning season this bunch has seen in many moons. So coming in to the 81-82 season, the Irish had the experience, the coaches and athletes in place to make this a special team and season. I was a back up offensive lineman, linebacker and kicker on this team. Two of my junior classmates, Johnny Walker (Wide Receiver) and Paul Andrzejewski (Nose Guard) were starters along with a 12 super seniors, led by Quarterback Jimmy Lang and Running Back/Linebacker Wade Love. A Strong fast offense and a mean stingy defense, this team had all the ingredients for a special season. We went 7-3, losing out in the first round of the playoffs to end the season.
I can’t remember every game but there are few that standout. The first game of the season against our rival, the Riverside Bulldogs was a blowout on our part and felt so good to beat them in to submission. A game in Gould, Arkansas where is was so cold that I got kicked in the hand on the very first play and it stung the rest of the game. We went into halftime 6-6 and after little pep talk from Coach Harris (I remember this talks fondly…NOT) we ended up winning 42-6. We beat the brakes off a good O’bannon high school to clinch the very first district title but I don’t remember much more than that about this game. There was one game that stood out to me that season though, J.Z. George.
J.Z. George was the beast of our conference. The years before they just whipped us up and down the field, led by their QB Willie Totten. Yes, the Willie Totten that threw all those TD’s to Jerry Rice in college. He graduated in 1981 so this was a new era for them but make no mistake about it, the conference championship went through J.Z. George. The Monday before that game, Coach Harris came to up and told me that I was going to be starting at Left Tackle. I looked at him, waiting for the punchline. I was an ok lineman but I wasn’t at starter by no means. I really did not like playing the position and much preferred to play defense but, here he was, announcing I would be starting instead of senior Mike Crowson. Mike (Crow as we called him) was bigger than me an was a much, much better O-Lineman than I was. I never knew what has happened for coach to make the change and I did not ask. I had a lot of respect for Crow, even though I don’t think he cared for me too much back in those days. J.Z. George had this huge defensive tackle, #72, and he was a beast from the word GO! This guy was all of 6’3″ 270 lbs and here I am at 5’11 170 lbs. Coach Glenn Roebuck teased me about how I was soon to have a #72 tattoo across my forehead. We had to go play at their place and we all figured it was going to be a defensive battle as it was #1 vs #2 defense in the conference. I have to state this before I go on, we had a really, REALLY good defense that year.
We won the toss and chose to get our offense on the field first. So, here I am, my first game starting in high school, lined up against this monster and the first pay was dive play to the right. I handled big boy pretty well that first play, or so I thought. The next play was an option the the left . I remember seeing Jimmy run UNDER me. This guy had literally picked me up and threw me like I was a rag doll. I quickly figured out that if the play was going away from him, big boy could care less but, if it was coming to his side, it was Katy Bar the Door!! After he tossed me higher on the very next play, I knew I was going to be a long day not only for me, but for our entire team if this was going to be the norm for the night. I have only told one person what I am about to share with you now. After that first series, I went up to Coach Harris and told him, “Coach, I am being straight up honest with you, I cannot block #72. He is throwing me around like I don’t even exist. If we want to win this game, you need to put Crow in. I know in my heart that he can block this guy.” Coach took my advice, put Crow in and the rest as they say is history. We defeated J.Z. George 7-6 on their turf to win our very first Delta Hills Conference Championship.!! There were other great games that season, but this one is the one that most memorable for me.
We may not have won the State title that year but we did win 2 championships and laid the foundation for years to come. I am proud to have contributed to that great team but more proud to call all of those guys my friends.
Again, I am very proud of this current bunch of Fighting Irish that are blazing their own trails and making their own memories. I am also proud to be a part of the history of Greenville St Joe and to have been a part of that great team in 81-82. We were champions too and damn good ones I might add!