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1988 Retrospective - Week One

Where were YOU twenty years ago today? That is a question I plan on asking you for the next 12 weeks as I’ll go back in time and take you week by week through the Johnstown Trojans 1988 season.

For some reason I remember where I was during part of this game. I was in my parents’ car in the parking lot of the Benscreek Pharmacy. Mom was picking something up in the store and I told her that I wanted stay in the car and listen to the game. So, even when I was in sixth grade and hadn’t suited up in a piece of football equipment yet, I knew there was something special about Johnstown High football.

So, September 2nd, 1988 was the beginning of what was quite a ride for the Trojans. What better way to get things started than with a game against your archrival in Altoona. This was a very special night on several levels. First and foremost, it was the exciting beginning of what would be an undefeated regular season.

What most, if not all, people did not realize at the time, it would be one of the final times Johnstown and Altoona played each other as the series came to an end after the 1990 contest.

Alex “Fat Cat” Roebuck entered the season as a three-year starter at quarterback, the first in school history. Chuck Wyatt (IUP) and Chris Peduzzi (Virginia Tech) were other key players on this team that entered the season with very high hopes.

The Trojans were attempting to be the first team since the 1968-70 squad to enjoy three consecutive winning seasons. They were 6-4 in 1986 and 5-4-1 in 1987.

Off to Mansion Park and the contest and for a game that lacked a lot of scoring (it was scoreless through three quarters) the game wasn’t without it’s exciting and tense moments. However, the lone score game in the fourth quarter as Alex Roebuck hit Mark Roebuck on a five-yard scoring touchdown strike. The kick was blocked and the score was 6-0, the eventual final score.

But the game was by no means over after that Trojan score. With time running out and Altoona driving, on a crucial third down play, the Mountain Lions called for a screen pass. It was seemingly the perfect call for the situation. However, Trojan defensive linemen Earl Box had other plans as he slipped through his block and stopped the play for a loss. This is one of those plays I’ll always personally remember because three years later, in my sophomore season at JHS, Coach Tom Fleming showed us this game tape as we were preparing for our season opener with Bishop McCort. The tape was paused on this play because had Box not made the play, the Mountain Lion RB would surely have converted a big gain and could have put Altoona in the position to tie the game and ultimately win it with a PAT kick.

The win over Altoona was the first for Johnstown since 1982 (the Trojans lost from 1983-1986 and tied in 1987) and Coach Jerry Davitch told the Tribune-Democrat following the victory it was the “biggest win since I’ve been here.”

Then-offensive line Coach Fleming recently reflected fondly of the game, “What I can recall about the Altoona game, at Mansion Park is that it was hot that evening, but we still came out in the pre-game in our new black warm-up jackets with the big ‘Pride and Tradition’ and Trojan head logo on the backs.”

Later that night, Coach Fleming remembers “suggesting to Coach Davitch to run an ‘Ice Left’ away from our tight end, because Altoona was overloading our strong side. We ran it going away from the scoreboard, and either Mark Roebuck or BJ Gibson reeled off a pretty big run in a crucial situation, late in the game behind Doug Goff's block. I think that by that suggestion, I gained some credibility with Coach Davitch, and I felt more confident in my role as the line coach.”

So, the Trojans started their march through the Keystone Conference with a close win in a non-league game with archrival Altoona. The best of this team was yet to come though, so stay tuned throughout the fall for week-by-week reflections on the last regular season undefeated, untied Trojan squad.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net

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