Robert Smith's yearbook photo
It was a marquee matchup between St. Ignatius, with Joe Pickens at quarterback, and Euclid, which claimed future Ohio State star and NFLer Robert Smith among its deep pool of talent.
Northeast Ohio naturally had Sept. 2, 1989 circled as one of the biggest day's of high school football in the region, but 24-year-old Bob Papa of SportsChannel America and a Boston-area sports writer named Happy Fine (seriously) with a fine eye for high school football brought the game bar beyond the shores of Lake Erie to a national spotlight. Those two men helped make the game between two of Ohio's top-ranked teams the first nationally televised high school football game and the first installment of “The Gatorade National Federation High School Game of the Week.”
Ignatius would win 55-26 en route to the state title and the USA Today national championship, which included another win, albeit by a much tighter 31-30 score, over Euclid in the state playoffs.
The Morning Journal
has a fabulous rundown of Papa and Happy Fine and the origins of the game, along with interviews with Pickens and Smith and others.
“I was a young broadcaster at the time, and SportsChannel America was making a serious run at ESPN,” said Papa. “They wanted someone young on the high school football package, and that helped me in that respect. It was a big initiative for the company, and I believe it was ahead of its time. They wanted to bring high school football and the largeness of the game to the country in a way that had never been seen before. I thought it was a great idea.”
Do go check it out.