The Dirty Dozen. The Purple Gang. The Barberton Magics Football Team has produced smothering defenses over the one hundred and sixteen years high school football has been played in The Magic City. In two particular eras, the Barberton defense was terrifying. During the era of Karl Harter from the mid 1930’s through the mid 1940’s, The Barberton defense was always one of the better units in the area. The 1941 team surrendered only nineteen points and posted six shutouts!
During the Rudy Sharkey era of the 1970’s and early 1980’s, the Barberton defense was feared by all that lined up against them. The 1973 team surrendered thirty-eight points with six shutouts while the 1978 team only allowed forty four points with five shutouts. During this era, both Walsh Jesuit and Warren Western Reserve were handed their first ever shutouts; St.Vincent-St. Mary was shutout three times; arguably the best team in Wadsworth football history was the 1978 team. That year the Grizzlies finished 9-1, won their second consecutive Pioneer League Championship and had the Beacon Journal Player of the Year. Yet, the couldn’t manage a single point against the Magics.
With that said, picking the all time defensive team was even more difficult than picking the offensive team. Like offense, the defensive side of the game has changed greatly over the years.
The Defensive Line: The problem was deciding on a four man or five man defensive line. For this team, we will use a five man line.
At Defensive end, there is Bob Kapish, a two way end on the 1947 State Championship team and later at Notre Dame; Alan Simmons, a star on the 1973 team and later played at Penn State; Andy Berkowitz who later was named All-Conference while playing at Walsh College; Richard “Doc” Stefanek, an All-Conference player at Wooster; And Jim Stock, a National Champion and Team Captain at Notre Dame; Then there is current NFL player John Cominsky. All of those listed and many others are worthy of selection, but I will pick Simmons and Stock.
In the interior, again, there are many to choose from. But it really came down to three: Bob Toneff, John Finn and Mike Jones. While all three were great, the picks are Toneff and Finn. Toneff was an All-State performer in high school, started on a National Championship team at Notre Dame and was an All-American for the Irish. He played 12 seasons in the NFL for the 49ers and Redskins and was a six time All-Pro selection. Finn was an All-State player for the Magics in the 1950’s. He played for Louisville in College where he was named to several All-American teams and was drafted by the Chicago Bears. Finn is a member of the Louisville Hall of Fame. Finishing out the line is All-State selection Pat Watkins at Nose Tackle.
Linebacker: Linebacker is perhaps the most difficult position to pick. And with a five man line, only two linebackers will be selected. Among the choices are Frank Mesek, a bonecrushing hitter from the 1940’s and a member of the Kent State Hall of Fame; Gary Campbell, an All-State player from the 1950’s, Keith Luck and Jeff Smith, both were starters on the feared 1973 team. Luck played for Toledo before transferring to Akron and Smith played for Bowling Green; Karl Niehaus who played for Maryland; Dan Baker, a starter on the brutal 1978 team and later played for Youngstown State; Doug Dillon, a starter at Akron University; John Jones who had a strong career at Michigan State; Current Head Football Coach Tony Gotto was no slouch; Dave Holderbaum was a tough Linebacker in the mid 1990’s and played at Kent State; And Keye Thompson, currently playing for Ohio University. How to pick only two from that list? While you could pick any two for this team, my picks are Luck and Jones.
Defensive Back: Cornerbacks, Safeties and Defensive Half Backs. The roles of these positions have changed dramatically over the years. Today, the main responsibility of a Cornerback is pass coverage. In the 1930’s or 1940’s, this position was, more or less, an Outside Linebacker who was responsible for run support. Most of the star Runningbacks and Quarterbacks from the pre 1960’s era were also talented Defensive Backs. Among them, Joe Williams, Johnny Ries, Cassious Sisler, Dick Goudy, Paul Gondor, Charlie Mitchell, Tom Dimitroff and George Izo. Dimitroff, in particular, was successful at both Barberton and at Miami where he was a two time All-Conference player. Then there was Anthony Pallija, a member of Akron Universities Hall of Fame; Mike Bodnar who made All-State in 1971 and later played for Ohio Northern; Jim Board and Fred Robertson who both played for Akron; Ferocious hitter Marcus McKinnie who played for Purdue; Jeff Sharkey who played for Mount Union; Tom Boyle, an All-Conference player at Case Western Reserve and many others. My picks are Dimitroff, Pallija, Board and McKinnie.
Punter: Ron Mollric was a great punter at both Barberton and Kent State; My Great-Uncle, Paul Ratay, was also a powerful punter. But my pick is Jim Stocker. A great one from the mid 70’s, Stocker also played for the University of Akron. He averaged over 40 yards per punt during his high school career.
Punt Returner:You could pick any number of ball carriers Barberton has produced over the years. For this spot, I’m going to go with 1950 All-Stater Charlie Mitchell.