By Liam Lyons ‘22
This past week, I interviewed Coach Mark Klutcharch, teacher, sophomore football coach, and freshman basketball coach, about what it was like to play in a state championship game. Coach Klutch was a part of the 1981 state championship football team who defeated Reavis in the state championship. Here is what he had to say about his experience and what it was like.
When asked to write about my experience playing in the 1981 state championship game, I had a hard time getting started. Then I realized why – it’s not just about that game. I couldn’t just write about that game! That game was a culmination of the entire season. That game can’t be talked about without mentioning all that came before it, all that made playing in that game possible.
Playing in a game like that is all about being a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s about giving up everything about yourself and doing it all for your teammates, coaches, and school. You can’t play in a game like that unless you have a bunch of guys that care more about the team than they do about themselves. Give me a team with this connection anytime over a team with more talent without it.
It all started in the summer when a bunch of us would meet at lunch and run the campus, Eddie Gorman always with a smile on his face, and lift. There are not many things better in life than the time spent bonding with teammates. We went into the season feeling pretty good about ourselves. We lost our first 2 games to Marist and Fenwick. (Yes, we were the first team in Brother Rice history to lose to Marist!) What a wakeup call!
Our coaches, Tom Mitchell, Joe Johnston, Ed Bara, and Dennis Duffy, never gave up on us. They made us see and understand how good we could be. We beat our next two opponents. Now it was time for conference play.
Back in 1981, you had to win your conference to get into the state playoffs. There were only 6 classes, and only 16 teams made the playoffs in each class. Our first conference game was against Mt. Carmel, the #1 ranked team in the state. They won the state championship the year before and were even better this year. They were 4-0 and we were 2-2.
Everyone thought Mt Carmel was going to win. Our coaches must have sensed the doubt in some of us. On the bus ride to Gately, they passed out the poem “A State of Mind” to all of us to read. It has been an inspiration to me ever since. We beat Mt Carmel that day in double overtime. We all knew we could do it now!
When you give it your all for your teammates and coaches and you come out with the “W” like that, it brings you all together that much more.
We won our next 3 games bringing us to the last game of the season against St Rita at the Pit at 63rd and Western. What an amazing place to play a football game! We were 6-2 and undefeated in conference. I don’t remember St Rita’s record. I do remember that the winner of this game was going to the state playoffs. The loser was not. It was for all the marbles. We won 7-0! 4 games left! 3 weeks!
The following week, we beat Robeson on Wednesday and beat Julian the Saturday. We had a game-winning drive to win the game 21-14 against Julian. That drive proved what it takes to win big games like that, guys playing for each other, unselfishness, camaraderie, sacrifice. We believed! Now on to the semis.
Fenwick! We got the chance to try to avenge an early loss. And we did. We won 7-6. We scored right before half to take the lead 7-0. Fenwick scored in the 3rd quarter and went for 2 thinking this would be their only chance to beat us. We stopped them.
You’re probably thinking, “Finally, the championship game!” The bus ride was outstanding. The crowd was phenomenal. All the work we put in, all the love we had for each other, all the hopes and dreams we had leading into this game. We were not going to be denied. We won 14-0!
I will never forget the crowd rushing the field and holding that trophy in the middle of it all. It’s a memory that you never forget and you never forget the people you shared it with.
The state championship game is a great game, the best game you could ever play in, but I hope I’ve explained it well enough and that all understand it’s not just that game. It’s the season. When you play with players and coaches you care about, they care just as much about you, and the guy next to you is more important than anything. That’s what it’s all about. The championship game is just icing on the cake.
Coach Klutch ‘82
Coach Klutch also shared with us the poem Coach Tom Mitchell handed to each of his players to motivate them before the Carmel game.
A State of Mind
If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you won’t,
If you like to win, but don’t think you can
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out in the world you’ll find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all in a state of mind.
For many a game is lost
Ere even a play is run,
And many a coward fails
Ere even his work is begun.
Think big and your deeds will grow
Think small and you’ll fall behind
Think that you can and you will
It’s all a state of mind.
If you think you are out-classed, you are
You’ve got to think high to rise
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the fellow who thinks he can.