September 5, 2013

'77 Berries had flair for the dramatic

By Chris Breach Guest Columnist

---- — “Glory days, they’ll pass you by.

Glory days, in the wink of young girls eye.

Glory days, glory days.”

— Bruce Springsteen

The only texts we knew were textbooks.

Jimmy Carter was in the White House. A gallon of gas was .59.9 cents at the Bonded Gas station.

A spread was something you put on your toast. It was all pro set or power-I, an earlier version of smash-mouth football.

Some of us yearned to see the rest of the world.

“I just wanted to get as far away from Logansport as I could,” said Jeff Jones, a standout wide receiver for the 1977 Logansport Berries.

Some of us never left.

“I’ve been to five states,” said Brian Wilson, a hard-hitting senior linebacker.

But before most of them left, the Berries put together a scintillating season that was one for the record books. Many of the 13 seniors got together this past weekend to reminisce about those glory days as part of the 35th reunion for the LHS Class of 1978. A handful, including Jones, Wilson and Randy Hughes, along with former head coach Don Baldini and assistant coach Lee Gaumer attended Friday’s Peru-Logan game. They were recognized for being co-champs of the North Central Conference.

“It was just a great bunch of kids,” Baldini said. “Tough kids.”

Some were trying to live up to reputations, and some were trying to earn one.

Kevin Lozier, Jones and Duke Tanguy were named to the all-state squad.

From a double-overtime 41-40 win at Kokomo Haworth in the season opener to a come-from-behind victory over Muncie Central in the final regular season game, the Berries had the flair for the dramatic.

“The cardiac kids they called us,” Baldini said.

“I don’t remember the losses,” said tailback Jeff Flowers, who along with Jones earned full rides to Ball State University.

Only 24 teams qualified for the IHSAA playoffs back in those days, eight in each of what was then just three classes. You pretty much had to go undefeated to qualify. Nonetheless, what the Berries accomplished was phenomenal.

A group of 50 players from four sides of town came together to win the NCC for the first time in 16 years, and the likelihood of doing that earlier in the decade was unfathomable.

“I remember a lot of close games and a lot of fun at practice,” Gaumer said.

Another dramatic win was a 22-21 victory at Lafayette Jeff a week before Tanguy blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown with less than 4 minutes remaining in a 10-6 win at Fort Wayne Wayne to give the Berries a 6-1 record.

After a disappointing 18-14 home loss to Mark Surface’s New Castle Trojans, the Berries got four field goals by team MVP Steve Harris in a 19-8 win at Anderson.

“That loss to New Castle was here in the rain,” Baldini recalled. “That was a bad week, but we came back and won the conference. It doesn’t seem like 35 years ago, but it is.”

The door was opened when Jeff upset Richmond the same night.

“Steve Harris saved us a lot with his foot,” said Flowers, who came all the way from California to attend Saturday’s reunion at the American Legion.

Logan controlled its own destiny and could earn the NCC title with wins over Richmond and Muncie. It wasn’t easy after the Berries fell behind 21-0 at Richmond.

“At halftime Jeff Jones said, ‘Coach, we’ve got them right where we want them,’” Gaumer said. “I said, ‘Are you kiddin’ me?” Baldy moved the tackle over about six inches, and we ended up beating them.”

On Logan’s first possession of the second half, Lozier broke a 60-yard TD run on a dive play, and the rally was on.

Junior quarterback Eric Sweet engineered a 90-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter for another 22-21 comeback victory.

In the season finale, Sweet tossed a TD pass to Flowers on the “Kokomo special” play with less than 2 minutes left for the winning score to wrap up the title with a 5-2 league mark and 8-2 overall.

Jones, who now lives in Michigan after spending more than 30 years in Texas and Arizona, said everyone wanted to win for Baldini.

“I owe a lot to coach Baldini,” Flowers added.

Sweet would go on and star at the University of San Diego. Defensive end Dave Jones, Lozier and Harris, also a state champion in the discus, all earned scholarships.

Baldini often wonders what if today’s playoff format had been in place in ‘77.

“They could’ve went somewhere because we had enough talent to do that,” he said.