Patrick Henry's Tom Busch celebrates after recovering a Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy fumble on Friday.
The year was 1970, and a newly formed high school in Henry County was playing its first football contest against another school.
It was only a junior varsity game. It was a home game played at another school's field. The weather was a miserable mix of rain and wind.
All that didn't matter, though, when Patrick Henry won that inaugural contest.
"I remember Mary Bauerle came down after the game and gave me a hug and a kiss," then-superintendent Dick Krauss said. "She said to me, 'It can't get any better than this.' "
Little did Bauerle, the wife of then-coach Bob Bauerle, know that 35 years later things would get much better.
On Friday the Patriots claimed the first state football title in school history with a 42-30 victory over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in the Division V final at Fawcett Stadium in Canton. Afterward the emotions on the field were equal parts joy for winning a title and celebration of communities accomplishing something together.
That might have been hard to imagine back in 1969 when Malinta, Deshler and Hamler high schools consolidated with Westhope Junior High to form Patrick Henry High School.
It wasn't easy to envision the new school developing a football program. The biggest problem? None of these schools had ever sponsored the sport.
Drew Kuesel looks like a Patriot missile as he launches himself into the end zone Friday.
Bob Bauerle, then a 23-year-old assistant coach at Clyde, was hired to build a program from scratch. There were hurdles, to be sure: In 1969 the team did nothing but practice, playing one solitary intrasquad scrimmage to end the season.
Because there was no practice field, practices were held on Deshler's baseball diamond. The football dressing room, which doubled as a bus garage, was three blocks away from the field - and had no showers or heat.
"[Building the program] was the most fun, most rewarding thing I had ever done," said Bauerle, who traveled from his home in Nebraska to watch Friday's championship contest. "The hardest thing for me was to practice for a whole year without playing a game. Looking back, I don't know how they came back the second year."
Still, the program thrived. In 1977 Patrick Henry earned a berth in the Class A state semifinals, losing to Ashtabula St. John in Elyria.
But Bauerle's biggest accomplishment was developing a passion for the sport and the school among a cadre of players in the 1970s who would return to lead the program to this year's title.
"Getting to see the kids of the parents who played for us, and the coaches who played for us, win the title is just great," Bauerle said. "I can't begin to describe it."
What made Friday's victory especially sweet for Bauerle was that he admitted it always was the goal of the program.
"We talked about [winning a title] from Day 1," he admitted. "We just didn't think it would take this long. I can't think of anything more rewarding than to see this tradition being carried on by people that I had something to do with."
Head coach Bill Inselmann played for Bauerle before graduating from PH in 1979. Inselmann hired Scott Leonard, a '77 grad, to be his defensive coordinator when he took the Patriots' job in 1991. Another '77 grad, Bob George, joined the staff a few years later. All but one member of the 10-man staff is a Patrick Henry graduate.
Inselmann said much of the credit for this year's title goes to the coaching and teaching of Bauerle and his longtime assistant, John Kieffer.
"They taught us how to love football, and we all love PH," Inselmann said. "It's that love of Patrick Henry that keeps us there, and it's why our staff gets along great. We wouldn't have this state title without those assistant coaches."
Those assistant coaches have passed a love of the school and the sport to their sons, many of whom played key roles in this year's title. For example, Bob George's son Zack quarterbacked the Pats to the crown; the players on the receiving end of George's passes often were Scott Leonard's son, Brad, or Dick Krauss' grandson, Marc.
"I've always been on the sidelines, starting when I was a waterboy back who-knows-when," Brad Leonard said. "To share this state title with [my dad] is awesome."
Zack George said having his dad as a coach "makes this championship even sweeter. If you've got to hang it up, this is the way to do it because you don't have any regrets."
The ties Marc Krauss has to the school go even deeper than his grandfather. Both his father, current PH basketball coach Dave Krauss, and uncle also played for the Patriots, as did his older brothers.
"This was for everybody - everybody who ever put on a red, white and blue uniform," Marc Krauss said. "It's for everybody at home, for everybody in the stands. It's a great feeling."
Watching Friday's game from the press box, Dick Krauss enjoyed seeing a prediction he made many years ago come true.
"Marc has grown up with a good class of teammates - there was a lot of talent among them," Dick Krauss said. "I said I thought those kids would play in a state championship, but I never thought it would be in football."
Dick Krauss also had to be pleased at how the football program born 35 years earlier had become the best in its division in the whole state.
"At that time, we did not envision how football would go," Krauss said. "Basically these were basketball communities. This [championship] is the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication on the part of the community, the parents, the coaches, and of course the students who put a lot of time and effort into the program."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.
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