Legendary Game Series
Oct. 30, 1993: Reitz at Jeffersonville, Class 5A Sectional Semifinal
by Mike Whicker (and a thanks to Steve Ford)
It was only fitting, in what the next day’s newspapers would call “one of the most thrilling finishes in Reitz football history:, that the mantra of legendary coach Herman Byers, and a player whose grandfather had played on Byers’ first Reitz team, would play key roles.
Even oldtimers would be calling this 43-36 double overtime win over a talent-rich, and favored, Jeffersonville squad one of the most exciting games they had ever seen.
With 10:28 to play in the second quarter, it looked like Reitz would be lucky to stay close to the Red Devils. The Panthers trailed 21-6 after giving up touchdowns of 44, 43 and 73 yards.
“We lost our composure there for awhile and could have folded our tents then,” Reitz coach Bob Gaddis said. “But we didn’t.”
Jeffersonville coach Bill Ware said, “We thought we had enough at halftime to win, you’ve got to hand it to Reitz.”
“At halftime, Coach Gaddis told us we weren’t changing anything,” stated tackle Chris Kasinger, “and he talked about the Reitz tradition. He told us Coach Byers favorite saying: ‘Winners never quit and quitters never win.’ It was the first time he had said it all year. We took it to heart.”
They also took it to Jeffersonville. The Panthers roared back in the second half to take a 29-21 lead with 7:42 left in regulation, but the tough Jeffersonville squad wasn’t about to give up without a fight. The Red Devils tied the score late in the fourth quarter, and Reitz had to make a tremendous defensive stand on a fourth-and-1 at its own 30-yard line to ensure overtime.
Jeff got the ball first in overtime and quickly scored to take a 36-29 lead. Reitz answered just a s quickly with a 10-yard run on a keeper by quarterback Brian Vogel. Ryan Jesop’s extra point tied the game and sent it on its way to a second overtime.
The second overtime saw the Panthers with the ball first. Co-Captain Josh Whicker: “When we got to the second overtime we talked again in the huddle about the Reitz tradition and all the things we had been told about Reitz football since we were little kids – Coach Byers and all the great players and teams. We felt we owed the tradition, and the people that had given us this tradition, something. We drew strength from that. We were all dead tired by the second OT, but we knew we had to win.”
Whicker promptly lead Reitz into the endzone. On first down, Whicker, a two-year All-State and USA Today All-American, pulled around left end and took out three Jeff defenders with one tremendous block. This allowed tailback Chris Reed to fight his way to paydirt and a 43-36 lead.
But there was still some defense to play.
Reitz forced incompletions on first and second downs. On third down, Whicker and linebacker Mike Hahn flattened a Jeff runner for a four-yard loss. On fourth and 14, a big crowd of Reitz faithful, who had make the 100-mile trip, got a scare when the Jeffersonville quarterback found a little running room around right end. But Whicker knocked him off balance at the 10 and linebacker Andy Hape finished him off at the 5 to preserve the win.
This game had its share of heroes. Reed and Vogel’s hard running on offense and great blocking by the line. Tough defensive play by Hape, Hahn, and tackle Scott Vincent. Pressure extra point kicks and a key field goal by Jesop. Even sophomore Adam Hubbard making some great under-pressure holds for kicks was a key. All contributed greatly. But tackle Josh Whicker, who blocked a crucial Jeff extra point, forced one fumble and recovered another, made several key blocks and tackles, and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, best summed it up: “On this day we felt the mystique of Reitz football was on our shoulders, and we were ready to accept that. Lots of us have family that played for Reitz. My grandfather was on Herman Byers’ first team. The Reitz tradition means something to us. It sounds funny, but when Coach Gaddis quoted Herman Byers at halftime, it felt like Coach Byers was there in the locker room talking to us. Some people said later that the ghost of Coach Byers is still winning games at Reitz. I don’t know, but we all feel Coach Byers would have been proud of Reitz on this night.”