by Jim Riggs
December 3, 1994
Red Raiders Overcame Huge Obstacle
The obstacle wasn’t the North Rockland Red Raiders. And it wasn’t North Rockland’s size. And it wasn’t North Rockland’s 36-game winning streak. And it wasn’t North Rockland’s 104-4-1 record over nine seasons.
The huge obstacle Jamestown overcame was the expectations of many of its fans.
I got a taste of it back in October on the Monday before the playoffs began. I was at a meeting where one of the members addressed the group and said that the Jamestown football team was going to the state championship.
I reminded the speaker that the playoffs hadn’t even begun, but he still pointed out that the team was going back to the state final.
Again I interrupted and said the Red Raiders had to win four playoff games to qualify for the state final, but that was brushed aside and again he talked about how the team was going to the state final.
That’s when I recalled other people around the area assuming the same thing. They just took it for granted since Jamestown was undefeated and No. 2 in the state, it was going to breeze to the state championship game.
It reminded me a lot of Buffalo fans over the past four years who took it for granted the Bills were going to return to the Super Bowl. It was so similar it was scary.
Coach Wally Huckno said he experienced it, too.
“We heard it all the way through,” he said.
And Huckno tried to stress that just making the playoff wasn’t going to be easy. Seventeen players were lost from the 1993 Cinderella team that started off 1-2 and still made it to the state title game.
“We have to replace five people on the offensive line,” Huckno recalled was his concern. “We have to replace a quarterback, a tailback, and a wide receiver.”
Facing that, an undefeated season was the furthest thing from Huckno’s mind when practice began in August.
“A record of 6-2 and we’d be grinning,” he said were his firsts thoughts then.
But many fans didn’t feel that way and as the team continued to pile up the wins, many by huge margins, some began making their reservations for Syracuse.
“We had people who didn’t go to the Fairport game.” Huckno said.
That is because they just assumed Jamestown would win that Western Regional game.
“Either they have an awful lot of faith in the program or a lack of reality.” Huckno said.
The only thing a lot of fans were talking about was the Carrier Dome, site of the state title game.
“People flat out expected us to go there and they also expected us to beat North Rockland,” he recalled.
And because of their high expectations, some fans could have had a huge letdown. They not only expected the Red Raiders to return to the state title game, but also to win it.
And Huckno feared what would happen if neither thing happened.
“So many people will be disappointed.” he recalled thinking.
Perhaps it was because last season’s team wasn’t expected to reach the state final. When the team was 1-2 many wondered if it would make the playoffs.
But then must-win after must-win was recorded and everyone was on a high. But a loss anywhere in the playoffs wouldn’t have been a disappointment because what had already been accomplished was amazing.
That is why no one was too upset with last season’s loss to North Rockland. Just qualifying for the state title game was great. Winning the game would have been icing on the cake.
This year the Red Raiders got the whole cake and plenty of icing by winning the state title. And from this year’s team, 22 players will be back.
That means a lot of fans will have high expectations again and perhaps will be making their travel plans for Syracuse again. The Red Raiders know there’s a lot of work to do before that.