With City League-champion Rogers qualifying for the Division II playoffs, the league's second and third-place teams - St. John's Jesuit (5-5, 5-1) and Central Catholic (7-3, 5-1) - will venture to Waite's Mollenkopf Stadium at 7 tonight for the CL's ninth annual Hall of Fame Game.
The postseason matchup, which has no league championship implications, gives the two schools a chance to continue a longstanding rivalry. St. John's and Central were not matched up in the CL's six-game league schedule, and efforts to adjust their respective non-league schedules in the opening four weeks were unsuccessful.
The Hall of Fame Game began after the former Shoe Bowl “championship” game was discontinued after the 1990 season. That game died out when the league's top teams continually had to pass on the Shoe Bowl in favor of state playoff games.
“It works out nice since we didn't get to play Central during the season,” said third-year St. John's coach Matt Dzierwa, whose Titans beat Bowsher 43-7 in last year's year's Hall of Fame Game. “It's not the playoffs, but it's another game the kids get to play and they want to go out with a winning record after everything that happened to us this year.”
St. John's, hindered by injuries and inexperience at the skilled positions on offense, opened the season with four straight losses before finishing strong and beating archrival St. Francis in last Friday's regular-season finale.
The Titans, denied a playoff berth since 1996, have reached the HOF contest four straight seasons. They lost 17-7 to Start in 1997, and 41-7 to St. Francis in '98. St. John's won the first HOF game 20-8 over Start in 1992.
“I guess it was meant to be that these two schools get a chance to play,” first-year Central coach Greg Dempsey said of the longstanding CL Catholic-school rivalry. “It gives Matt's kids a chance at winning season and our kids a chance to beat St. John's for the first time since 1989. It also gives us an opportunity to show people we are a quality football team.”
Dempsey was a senior defensive tackle on the '89 Irish squad, which topped St. John's 21-7.
Hall of Fame results:
1992-St. John's 20, Start 8
1993-St. Francis 20, Central 0
1994-Central 20, St. Francis 7
1995-Bowsher 12, Central 7
1996-St. Francis 22, Central 7
1997-Start 17, St. John's 7
1998-St. Francis 41, St. John's 7
1999-St. John's 43, Bowsher 7