Something special!

CLEAR FORK VALLEY — They say there’s really nothing like the first time a school wins a district title.

For Clear Fork, that was March of 1978 when the boys’ basketball team won the Class AA district title at Ashland University and advanced to the regional tournament.

The team that includes Rocky Black, Dave Jung, Kevin Weikle, Steve Studenmund, Jay Guth, John Rinehardt, Bruce Harter, Jeff Norris, Jay Brokaw, Chuck Golden and Doug Ute, will be inducted Saturday night into the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame. The ceremony, which will also include the induction of 80’s football player Kevin Gower and Earl Fry, a football player in the mid 1950’s at Bellville High School, starts at 6 p.m. at the high school.

Unfortunately Terry Gordon, the head coach of the Colts, will not be in attendance. He passed away in 2006. Pat Durham, then the junior varsity coach at Clear Fork at the time, will introduce the team Saturday.

To a man, the players believe Gordon was a major reason for the team’s success.

“The first thing I think about is Terry Gordon,” Guth said.

“He was such a dynamic figure and in my opinion had a tremendous amount to do with the success that we had,”Guth said. “I really think he was a big reason for the success we had from the 75-76 group through 79-80, which would have been Doug’s senior year.

Guth is a highly regarded doctor in the greater Mansfield area and an assistant basketball coach at Lexington High School. He was an all-district selection as a junior in 1977-78.

“That was a really good period of basketball at Clear Fork,” he said. “During that time we were in the district four of the five years and won it once. You can talk about kids and players and all of that, but at the end of the day you just have to give coach Gordon a lot of credit for putting that program in place.

“Pat Durham was part of that as well. He was longtime JV coach and most of us played for him,” Guth said.

Doug Ute, the only sophomore on the team, was its leading scorer (15.6 ppg) and would become the Colts’ first All-Ohio selection. He is superintendent of Newark City Schools. He also says Gordon was a great motivator.

“The relationship that coach (Gordon) had with his players, and with being involved in education there is always someone that you can point back to that helped change your life,” Ute said. ‘You felt like you meant something to him and he was highly invested in Clear Fork, not just in athletics, but the Clear Fork School District in terms of believing in it not only as a basketball coach, but a classroom teacher. He cared about you and you knew that. He put us kids in front of him. He could take a group of people and put a purpose with them and set some goals.”

Ute and Guth were the team’s leading scorers that year and Golden, a local businessman and former booster club president, says everybody knew their role.

“We had a good mixture of guys,” Golden said. “We were a pretty tall team that year; we were 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 across the top four guys. We played well together. Doug (Ute) and Jay (Guth) pretty much carried the team and everyone filled in and did their roles throughout the game.”

Black, deputy superintendent of the Ohio Department of Commerce, and one of three seniors on the 1977-78 team, says they had some scorers, but he thinks the difference a lot of times was the team’s ability to defend as a team.

“I think we all had a singularity in purpose and I think we had a really ferocious defense, he told “I think we were focused on defense as much as we had good shooting. We had the best defense that we could possibly have, especially when we pressed.”

The team finished 14-4 in the regular season and then beat Colonel Crawford (75-51) and Mansfield Malabar (57-56) in sectional tournament games played at Ashland High School, advancing them to the district level.

Three of the team’s four regular season losses were by one point, to Margaretta (67-66,) Lexington (67-66) in overtime and Shelby (54-53) and Guth believes the tough regular season schedule was a plus come tournament time.

“Coach Gordon really upgraded our schedule,” Guth said. “We started playing Mansfield Senior and that’s back when they were big. We played Madison. We played Coshocton. He was looking for competition. I think when we played Willard and Wynford we knew they were good programs, but I don’t think we were in awe of them in any way. I think we went into those games expecting to win. I think we were well prepared for the challenges. I think everything was geared not necessarily to beat the weakest teams on our schedule, but beat the teams at the top of our schedule.”

The Colts claimed regular season wins over Malabar (67-61) in overtime, Madison (50-49) and Mansfield Senior (60-59) that season.

Ute, who led Buckeye Central to the regional tournament as a coach, says he didn’t feel the Colts were underdogs in that district tournament. He says they were confident.

“I didn’t feel like we were an underdog,” he said. “We played in our regular season schedule schools that were definitely equal to them. I think we really felt like we had a good team and that we could beat anybody. We played within our system and played hard. Our coaching staff was fantastic and they had us believing that we could play with anybody.”

The Colts beat Willard (65-52) in the district semifinal played March 1, 1978 at Kates Gym at Ashland University and followed that up two days later with a (63-55) win over Wynford.

Golden said the team had outstanding chemistry.

“Everybody got along and everybody worked hard,” he said. “Also, everybody knew who was in charge of that team, and that was Terry Gordon, who stood out on the basketball floor or the classroom. He got your attention right away as soon as you approached the basketball floor.”

Sometimes egos can get in the way, even with good teams, and Guth says he and Ute and still very good friends. Doug coached their sons on an AAU basketball team. He says that was the case when they were in high school, too, despite claims to the contrary.

“I think when Doug and I played together there was some sense in the community maybe there was some friction, which was never the case,” Guth said. “Doug and I have always felt highly of each other and supported each other throughout our careers.”

Black, one of the captains of the team, says they had only one goal.

“There was absolutely no drama. It was just very, very smooth. We had very similar personalities. They all wanted to win. That is why it worked as well as it did,” he said.

And win they did.

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Colts’ 1977-78 basketballteam was one of the best

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