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HISTORY RENEWED: THE STEEL VALLEY CONFERENCE

By Scotty Mincher

 

In this edition of Scotty’s Stories, We take a look at the history of the Steel Valley Conference. According to an article posted by the Tribune Chronicle on August 6th, 2017. The Steel Valley Conference began play in 1949 and included Niles, Girard and Hubbard at its inception, though Niles left in 1957. Austintown Fitch, Struthers, and Campbell were the other original members and Boardman joined in 1951. Brookfield replaced Niles in 1959 and the ensuing lineup — Girard, Hubbard, Brookfield, Fitch, Boardman, Struthers, Campbell — lasted through 1968 and is considered by many fans as the “classic” SVC alignment.

Another SVC lineup fans remember is the one from 1982-85, which featured four Trumbull schools — Harding, Reserve, Howland and Niles — and four from Mahoning County — Fitch, Boardman, Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney.

That ended when the Trumbull schools pulled out to form — along with Hubbard — the All-American Athletic Conference. That league lasted from 1986-90 and ended when Western Reserve was closed due to the declining population in Warren. The “new” Harding went back to the SVC and the five-team alignment with the same Mahoning schools. That lasted through 2003 when Fitch and Boardman left for the Federal League.

The original SVC existed from 1949 to 2009. 2019 marked the start of the second incarnation of the Steel Valley Conference.

  • Here’s the complete list of schools and years. Youngstown Cardinal Mooney Cardinals (1970-2009, 2019-)
  • Youngstown Chaney Cowboys (2003–09 [independent in football], 2019-)
  • Youngstown East Golden Bears (2007–09 [independent in football], 2019-)
  • Youngstown Ursuline Fighting Irish (1970-2009, 2019-)
  • Austintown-Fitch Falcons (1949-2003)
  • Girard Indians (1949–71)
  • Hubbard Eagles (1949–80)
  • Niles McKinley Red Dragons (1949–57, 1982–85)
  • Campbell Memorial Red Devils (1949–80)
  • Struthers Wildcats (1949–79)
  • Youngstown Boardman Spartans (1951-2003)
  • Brookfield Warriors (1959–68)
  • Warren Howland Tigers (1975–85)
  • Warren Western Reserve Raiders (1980–85)
  • Warren Warren G. Harding Presidents (1982–85, 1991-2009)
  • Warren John F. Kennedy Eagles (2003–09, Independent in football)
  • Youngstown Rayen Tigers (2003–07, no football, school closed)
  • Youngstown Wilson Presidents (2003–07, no football, school closed)

I’m not an expert when it comes to the Steel Valley Conference, But when you look at its inception, there’s a rich and illustrious history that comes with it that you could argue was a launching pad for several intense high school rivalries like, Struthers and Cambell Ursuline and Mooney, etc. As far as the teams that have played and competed in the SVC, from what I’ve read, Albeit they finished last in the conference that season, The 1987 Austintown Fitch Falcons were a really solid team. They had some close losses. They lost (0-3 to Mentor, 0-3 to Boardman, 3-7 to Mooney, and 16-21 to Ursuline) on route to finishing 4-5 that year. They did have a nice win over Canton Mckinley though that year 14-7. One member of the sports blog I read, even wrote that the 1987 Austin Fitch Falcons are probably the greatest cellar dweller of all time. Their other loss during that 1987 season that I’ve yet to mention was a 38 to 29 contest to Massillon. It was an impressive display of scoring, as The offenses went berserk. The Falcons ended up amassing 294 net offensive yards. Fitch who at that time was coached by former Massillon player David Hartman beat Massillon 21-19 in 1985 and 13-10 in 1986 in their only two meetings up to that point. “They just outmanned us,” said Fitch’s Hartman. “Their offensive line is huge. But we played with a lot of heart. We had lousy field position in the first half and we got behind. We certainly moved the ball in the second half when we got field position. We just didn’t stop them.” The Tigers defense stuffed Fitch in the first half, allowing only 39 nets yards. But Fitch cranked up its wingT attack in the second half, enabling outstanding senior tailback Mike Sztary to finish with 114 yards in 15 carries. He also returned a kickoff 96 yards for a score. “We didn’t make any adjustments for the second half,” Sztary said. “We just played with a lot of heart.” The Falcons had some talented pieces, especially on offense. I was born in 88 so I can’t say whether or not the 87 Fitch Falcons are the greatest cellar-dweller ever. But all my research tells me that at the very least, they were a pesky team with a lot of heart. Other memorable Steel Valley Conference teams from the blog I read are the 1999 Boardman Spartans who beat ST Ignatius and Steubenville that year and Lost their starting QB during the season and ended up losing in 2nd round of the playoffs to Pickerington by 3. Their head coach Gary Smith, who took over the helm three years earlier lead the Spartans to outright or shared SVC championships three times. He was praised for his leadership and experience that helped build a strong foundation and thrust the Spartans forward into a new era in Spartan Football, according to hometeamsonline.com. The last Steel Valley Conference football power we look at is the 1966 Hubbard Eagles. That year, Hubbard won their only outright SVC championship, They went 8-1, losing only to Farrell, PA in the season opener. Here’s a look at the full schedule and results. 09/09 H Hubbard 6 Farrell, PA 28 L

09/16 A Hubbard 28 Girard 8 W #

09/23 H Hubbard 8 Austintown Fitch 0 W #

09/30 A Hubbard 20 Campbell Memorial 12 W #

10/07 H Hubbard 36 Warren JFK 20 W

10/14 H Hubbard 34 Howland 14 W

10/21 H Hubbard 22 Boardman 0 W #

10/28 A Hubbard 28 Struthers 14 W #

11/04 H Hubbard 46 Brookfield 12 W #

Total Points 228 108

# denotes an SVC game, (6-0)

The Eagles were coached by John Brideweser he was in his third and final season and finished with a record of 18-9. Hubbard went unbeaten in the Steel Valley Conference, finishing the year with a record of 5-0 in 1966. The Eagles also shared the SVC championship with Austintown Fitch in 1962. The Eagles had a record eight wins in a row, in 1966 most in their history and only their third eight-win season. When it comes to the modern-day sports world in connection with the Steel Valley Conference, It’s safe to say the Steel Valley Conference was kind to the Lady Cardinals this basketball season. The Cardinals wrapped up their league schedule with a 60-29 win at home over East and finished with a record of 6-0 in the SVC. Caitie Perry and Alaina Scavina paced the Cardinals in the January 29th, rout of East. Defense was the key to victory for the Cardinals, and Mooney coach Jason Baker said that plays into his team’s strength. “That’s kind of been our MO the whole season,” he said. “We’re a defense-first team and our guards can really do a good job of pressuring the basketball and making things difficult as far as people getting into their offense.

“I thought we did a really good job of that tonight.” The Cardinals carried a 26-16 halftime lead and never trailed during the game.

It was a rough first half for all of us,” said Perry who scored 17 points for the Cardinals. “The second half we all came out a little bit stronger.

We knew what we had to get done, big game, the SVC (title), we knew we had to get that, so it’s a good one.”

These quotes are courtesy of vindy.com. The Lady Cards were a bright spot for the Steel Valley Conference this season and are just another example of a scrappy team to come out of that league.

So, whether you’re a fan of the original SVC lineup that lasted through 1968. Or you think the lineup from 1982-85 was the best. or you’re a millennial that cherishes the current sports setup, You can truly come to appreciate the origin as well as the modern-day history of the SVC. As well as everything in between!

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