The Post-Journal

JHS Returned From Beyond The Dead

Back in 1989, the Jamestown High School football team was .500 after four games and appeared very much in jeopardy of missing the Section 6 Playoffs. However, that gutsy team won its last four games to qualify for the playoffs and then won its first postseason game before losing in the Class a title game at Rich Stadium to Lockport.

Even with the title loss, it was a very satisfying season, which appeared to be over when the team was 2-2. This column told of that team’s performance two years ago and was titled, “Red Raiders Returned From The Dead.”

This year’s team fought from further back than the 1989 edition, so that is why today’s column is titled, “JHS Returned From Beyond The Dead.”

When this seasons Red Raiders fell to 2-2, they knew making the playoffs would be tough. But they were still optimistic because of what happened in 1989. The task was the same – don’t lose any more games.

Jamestown’s hopes appeared dashed when it lost a third game. The playoffs not only looked further away, but almost invisible. However, Jamestown won its last two games and not only qualified for the playoffs, but ended up a Division 1 tri-champions. Then the Red Raiders were declared the champions, which gave them home-field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, because of points’ differential.

”It’s certainly gratifying,” Jamestown coach Wally Huckno said Tuesday while he and some team members met with the media at Rich Stadium to promote this weekend’s playoff championship games. “You hope the team has the character to come back. When that happens, and it doesn’t happen every year, but when it does, you feel good for the kids and the parents and the Jamestown community who supports Jamestown (football) really well. But in some respects they’re spoiled. They expect to win, they expect to go to Rich Stadium. It’s not going to happen every year. We’ve been blessed.”

This is the ninth time the Red Raiders have been blessed. And if they win tonight they can make a 10th appearance at Rich Stadium for the first ever Section 5-6 Class A championship next Saturday. But back on Oct. 19 when Jamestown fell to 3-3 after a loss at St. Francis, a record ninth appearance at Rich Stadium appeared as obtainable as a 1992 Super Bowl trophy for the Indianapolis Colts.

“The St. Francis loss was certainly disheartening,” Huckno recalled. “We could have got down in the dumps, but immediately after the game, (Assistant) Coach (Tom) Phillips, who keeps track of Harbin Points, found me right away and said “You know coach if we win our last two games, we’re going to get into the playoffs.” I said “You’re kidding.” He said, “No I’m not.”

Jamestown won those last two games and qualified for the playoffs which pleased Huckno and his staff, particularly with a 5-3 record. But around six hours after that win, Huckno received a call from Division 1 committee member and learned his team was declared the division champion.

“We were numb,” he said. “That was one of the happiest feelings in the years that I’ve coached because it was unexpected. We had not figured that angle (to win the division title) at all. We were so elated about getting into the playoffs. When the phone call came around 10:15 we were ecstatic.”

The Red Raiders literally had gone from the outhouse to the penthouse. They feel they are better than their 5-3 record and are out to prove it. They have shown it already with a victory in the opening round of the playoffs. Opposing coaches aren’t looking at the Red Raiders” record, they are simply looking at having to play Jamestown, which is already back up with a strong winning tradition.

I know if I was an opposing coach I wouldn’t want to be playing the Red Raiders. After having a 3-3 record and then not only making the playoffs, but also being declared the division champions, these guys don’t fear adversity. They thrive on it.

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