25 Years Ago Today, St. Ignatius and Euclid Played In the First Nationally Televised High School Football Game


  • 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.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.