Ohio Valley’s Greatest Games: 1995 — State Championship Game Ends in Heartbreak for Bellaire
BELLAIRE — Both John Magistro and Jose Davis have been spending a lot of time recently looking at YouTube.
Specifically, the former Bellaire head coach and all-state quarterback have been cuing up the videos of the Big Reds’ memorable 1995 season, which culminated with the school’s first appearance in the OHSAA State Football Championship Game at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium against Versailles.
It’s actually taken both nearly the entire 24 years to watch that game against the Tigers, which was a still hard-to-swallow 50-44 double overtime setback.
“After watching the game on YouTube, it honestly makes me sicker now than it did that night,” Davis said. “When you look back on it now, you look at things differently from a missed opportunity standpoint.”
If ever there was a game with ebb and flow, it was the Big Reds and Tigers. Early on, it appeared the Big Reds were going to continue run away from Versailles and hide, but the Tigers had other ideas and owned a 36-28 lead in the waning moments of regulation.
“I really thought we were on the verge of opening that game up,” Davis recalled.
“But, a missed making a few plays that at the time may have seemed like little things, but they were proved to be extremely costly.”
Bellaire led 16-2 and was looking for more before the Tigers put together a rally to get within 22-14 at halftime. Versailles eventually tied the game at 22 in the middle of the third quarter.
The Big Reds had additional chances, however. Davis found Richie Mamie for a 15-yard touchdown pass and then pounced on a fumble, but couldn’t capitalize.
A lengthy punt return set up a tying touchdown from Versailles and the Tigers took their first lead of the game with 1:11 to play, which capped an 11-play, 67-yard drive. The two-point try was good and it was 36-28, Versailles.
While the more than 12,000 people on hand were stunned, Davis, who was sensational all night, went to work.
He orchestrated a game-tying drive that culminated with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Mamie and then a two-point conversion to future Virginia Tech Hokie and Cleveland Brown Ben Taylor.
The biggest play, on the march, was a 41-yard hookup with Bobby Timberlake.
“When we got the game to overtime, we were pretty much exhausted,” Magistro said.
Both teams scored on the ground in the first overtime. The Big Reds found themselves with their backs to the wall after failing to score to begin the second OT. It took Versailles six plays before Brad Schuette scored from a yard out, ending the Big Reds’ dream.
Before the trophy was presented, Magistro remembers looking at the end of the field in which the Tigers scored and seeing his players simply lying on the ground.
“They weren’t on the ground crying because we lost,” Magistro said. “They were on the ground exhausted. We absolutely had nothing left in our tank. I remember we had to literally pick up some of our players off the ground because of how tired they were.”
It wasn’t until the videos were uploaded to the Internet that Magistro had watched the overtimes unfold since standing on the sideline that chilly December night.
“I couldn’t make myself watch it,” Magistro said.
Taylor, who now resides in Virginia, was the same way.
“I’ve only watched half of that game since that day,” Taylor said. “To this day, it still hurts.”
As Davis watched the videos, he felt himself getting physically sick.
“The more and more I watched, the sicker I got,” Davis said. “Even though we’re almost 25 years removed and we’re all adults now, there is always a ‘what if?’
While when many reflect on that game and team, most talk about Davis, who was the runnerup for Mr. Football that season, Taylor, Mamie, Bobby Roth, Dusty Kinder, etc., Magistro pointed out it was a total team effort for that run.
“You can’t mention everyone who contributed during that game,” Magistro said. “So many guys made a play in that game.”
Davis said as he crosses paths with his teammates in different settings, the Versailles game is still a talking point, but not always the first thing that comes up.
“I was with Bobby Roth recently and it’s a tough conversation to bring up,” Davis said. “We let (the state championship) slip through our fingers. It was right there.”
That Big Reds team — quite simply — captured the hearts of the entire Ohio Valley and specifically Belmont County because outside of Steubenville, no area Ohio team had reached the level at which the Big Reds competed.
“The support we received from the entire OVAC really is something that stands out to me,” Magistro said. “We shattered the Division IV attendance record that day. I still remember how the Ohio Valley just rallied around us not only for that (title) game, but that entire season.”
Magistro, who now lives and coaches in the suburban Columbus area, still believes that that state title game might be one of the best of all time not only in the Ohio Valley, but in the entire state of Ohio.
“I honestly do not know if there’s been a better game,” Magistro said.