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Back to Back State Football Championships….Almost.

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1950 football program cover vs. massillon

The 1950 and 1951 Football seasons are now just a footnote in the history of Barberton Football. But during those seasons, Magics fans hung on every play as the purple and white gridders marched towards immortality.

Junie Ferrall started his career as the head football coach at Barberton in 1949 with a pedestrian record of four wins, three losses and two ties. But Ferrall would continue the tradition of excellence in Barberton football coaches that began with Jimmy Price in 1930 and continued with Karl Harter and Harry Strobel. Price won two conference championships and shutout Massillon three consecutive years, two of those shutouts came against Paul Brown. Harter’s teams were known for defense, his 1941 team surrendered only 19 points! Strobel, of course, took the Magics to the State Championship in 1947. Now it was Ferralls turn.

The 1950 team featured one of the best senior classes in school history and junior class was strong also. Names like Charlie Mitchell, Bob Harris, Dick Hunter, Jerry Smith, Gene Kapish, Ed Zalar, Bob Whetstone, Mario Russo and Richard “Doc” Stefanek, Jack Bell and Gene Neely, all members of the Barberton Sports Hall of Fame, would lead this powerhouse every Friday night. One by one each opponent fell as the Magics stormed to a record of 8-0 and a lofty state ranking. Akron East, Akron South, Akron Garfield, Alliance, Toledo Libbey, Canton Lincoln, Canton Central Catholic and St. Vincent proved no match for the Mighty Magics as Barberton outscored them by a total of 293-46! Alliance was ranked second in the state when they played Barberton and the Magics battered them 20-0.

But then, the season ending contest loomed on the horizon. Standing between the Barberton Magics and the State Football Championship was none other than the Massillon Tigers. While this game would be Barberton’s last of the season, Massillon still had Canton McKinley to play the following week. The Magics played tough and held a 6-0 lead at halftime. The second half was a different story. Massillons size advantage on the line of scrimmage eventually wore down the Magics and Massillon cruised to a 35-6 victory. Barberton finished with a record of 8-1 and ranked third in the final state poll. Massillon won the State Championship.

With Mitchell, Harris, Hunter, Smith and Bell graduated, the Magics had big holes to fill for the 1951 season. Kapish, Zalar, Whetstone, Russo, Stefanek and Neely returned for their senior seasons and were joined by juniors such as Tom Dimitroff and Tom Bing. Again the Magics shot off to an 8-0 start but the team was more geared towards defense. They played the same schedule as 1950 with the exception of swapping out Toledo Libbey for Elyria and had outscored their opposition 139-33.

Once again, Massillon awaited as the Magics made another trip to Tigertown to play for the State Championship. This time it was different as the Magics completely dominated the game. On five, yes five different possessions, Barberton had a first and goal situation. On four of those possessions, the Magics put the ball in the endzone only to see those touchdowns called back by penalty. Massilon managed to score once to win the game 6-0 and, for the second consecutive year, cost Barberton the State Championship. the Magics would finish ranked seventh in the state. Massillon, again, would be crowned State Champions.

The 1950 and 1951 Barberton Football teams were as talented as any team in any sport the school has produced. Charlie Mitchell was first team All-State and played at North Carolina A&T, Bob Harris was also a first team All-State pick. He was having a fine career at Ohio State until a broken leg ended his career. Dick Hunter would be an All-Mac selection at Quarterback for Miami(Oh) and would later be head coach at Wadsworth high school and an assistant under Bo Schembechler at Michigan. He is a member of the Miami Hall of Fame. Jerry Smith played freshman football at Arkansas then transferred to Wooster and is a member of their Hall of Fame. Jack Bell played for Ohio University. Gene Kapish played for Notre Dame and was drafted by the Cleveland Browns. Ed Zalar played for Michigan State. Bob Whetstone played for Ohio State and was a member of their Big Ten and National Championship team of 1954. Mario Russo played football and wrestled for Akron. He is a member of their Hall of Fame and was a long time collegiate football coach, most notably as the Defensive Coordinator for the University of Wisconsin. Doc Stefanek also played football and wrestled in college with Wooster where he is a Hall of Fame member. Gene Neely was recruited to play football at Miami(Oh). Tom Dimitroff played for Miami and was a two time All-Mac Quarterback selection and is a member of their Hall of Fame. He later had a long coaching career. Tom Bing played at Wooster.

Head Coach Junie Ferrall coached Barberton through the 1958 season. He is a member of the Barberton Sports Hall of Fame and the Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame, joining two other Barberton coaches, Tom Phillips and Rudy Sharkey.

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Rocci Ratay
Rocci Ratay
Fourth Generation Barbertonian. Opinionated and streetwise

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