Town, football team bring revitalization to state final

Jody Moore couldn’t be more proud of the Trimble High School football team. The Tomcats have already accomplished something no Trimble team has ever done before by earning a spot in Saturday night’s OHSAA Division VII state championship game.

But Mrs. Moore scoffed at the thought of making the two-plus hour trip north from her hometown of Glouster in Athens County to Massillon for the game.

“Everybody is kind of up in the air. They’re all excited. Everybody is supporting the team, and I’m just amazed how many people have gone to these games that are two-and-half hours and so away,” said Mrs. Moore, a spry octogenarian but who has her limits when it comes to standing out in Ohio’s freezing temperatures of late November and early December. “No, I haven’t (gone) because I’m too old.

“I lock up when they leave and unlock before they come back.”

Glouster, about 20 minutes north of Athens, is a town of 1,791 according to the 2010 census. You very well might 1,790 of them at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium Saturday when Trimble takes its undefeated, 14-0, record into the state finals against also undefeated, top-ranked and two-time defending state champion Maria Stein Marion Local at 7 p.m.

The Tomcats, who were tied with Shadyside for the No. 3 ranking in the final Associated Press state poll, bring with them one of the most impressive defenses of any of the 14 teams that has reached Stark County this weekend for the state championships. They’ve posted eight shutouts and only once has an opponent scored as many as three touchdowns against them in a game this season.

Berlin Center Western Reserve managed just 130 yards of total offense against Trimble last week in the semifinals, a 14-10 Trimble victory that, of course, was nailed down with three straight defensive stops, including an interception with one minute, 30 seconds remaining by defensive back/wide receiver Austin Downs.

They will get their toughest test of the season with Marion Local. The Flyers have won six state titles, all since 2000, and have 12 times been a state semifinalist. Trimble had three playoff wins to its program’s credit before this year’s run of four wins.

But Glouster has been through tougher times and come through just fine. It’s picked itself up and cleaned itself… literally.

A few years back James Cotter looked around his town and decided it needed a fresh coat of paint. He asked if could start with a fire hydrant here, a sign post there. It wasn’t necessarily his intention at the time but Mr. Cotter, who happens to be Jody Moore’s younger brother, started a movement.

The Glouster Volunteers, according to Mrs. Moore who heads up the organization, have now painted around 80 houses and more than 100 total projects in and around the town.

“Some of the things might now seem like a lot of work but they have put in a lot of hours to do these things,” said Mrs. Moore. “It’s increased interest in a lot of people in their own property’s and they’ve done things to their own homes. Our purpose when we got this started was that if we did do something at least on (Route) 78, which is the route that goes through town, and we cleaned it up, maybe people would start coming to our town a little more often.

“I believe it has had a positive effect and certainly this football team we have has created a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of positive things happening. So many people are involved who weren’t involved before.”

One of the projects the Glouster Volunteers undertook was the high school stadium. Glouster Memorial Stadium was built under the federal government’s Works Progress Administration program – part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal – prior to World War II. It got its fresh coat of paint and cleanup on the outside. Then others continued the work on the inside.

Phil Faires has been Trimble’s football coach for 20 years. He’s been the baseball coach for 21 years. He was born and raised in Glouster. He’s a Trimble graduate. His mother, Jayne, is very involved in the Glouster Volunteers.
 
“It’s really a historic landmark, I think, and to let it just fall away would’ve been a shame,” said Faires. “But because of this group and other groups it’s really come to life. It’s a nice little stadium.”

Seven Trimble players were named to the AP Division VII All-Ohio team that was announced this week, including first-team members Downs and quarterback Konner Standley on offense, defensive lineman Jon Stevens and linebacker Jacob Koons. Standley was a co-Offensive Player of the Year in the state, while Koons was named co-Defensive Player of the Year with Marion Local’s Jacob Kunkler. Sophomore running back Justice Jenkins has added a spark to the offense with 834 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 102 carries, including 309 total yards and five touchdowns in the postseason.

There won’t be many people who expect Trimble to give Marion Local much of a game tonight, which generally says more about Marion Local’s tradition and history than it does this Trimble team. There is at least one community in Southeastern Ohio that believes it will be celebrating a state championship late Saturday night.

“How could you write a better story than to get to put your program up against the best in the state in the final game of the year?” said Faires. “To get to play them – they are the best team in the state – and to put your program against that the last game of the year is just phenomenal. Our kids, I don’t think half of them realize that’s the story but it’s really neat. And what better place than Paul Brown Stadium to do it? That’s a perfect story.”