A POWHATAN Point resident made history and was proclaimed as Ohio State's hero after the "fifth quarter" of the OSU-Illinois game in 1943.
The Times-Leader referred to the game as being one of the most unusual in the annals of the gridiron sport. According to a major headline about the game, Powhatan's John Stungis is a "Buckeye Hero."
He wasn't the only area resident gaining honors that day as Dorothy Neff of Neffs was OSU's homecoming queen.
One of two items listed for 1943 in Ohio State's media guide notes: "With a game apparently ending in a 26-all tie, Ohio State and Illinois left the field. But the teams were called back 20 minutes later when it was discovered the Illini were called for a penalty on the Buckeyes' final play. With little of the crowd remaining, John Stungis kicked a 27-yard field goal - the first of his career - for a 29-26 OSU win."
Stungis' notable feat, however, might have been a 33-yard field goal. That's how it was reported in an International News Service story about the game as well as in "The Official Ohio State Football Encyclopedia" by Jack Park.
Park reported, "Johnny Stungis, a 17-year-old freshman from Powhatan Point, calmly booted a 33-yard field goal to earn Ohio State a 29-26 'fifth quarter' victory. The historic three-pointer, which oozed over the middle of the crossbar with little room to spare, was the first and only field goal attempt of his career."
Stungis' sister, Dorothy Dierkes of Woodsfield, remembers when he made the historic kick. Only 8 years of age at that time, she probably didn't realize its significance, but she recalls, "There was a lot of talking and excitement."
In fact, Dierkes helped her brother when he practiced kicking in a field next to their home. "He practiced and practiced," she said. "He made me hold the football so he could kick."
Stungis, who is now deceased, was the oldest in the family of John and Dorothy Stungis, and Dierkes was the youngest.
Bill Van Horne, sports editor of The Times-Leader at that time, reported in his column that Stungis had only this to say about his field goal - "I knew I was going to make it. I just had to."
He was not alone in earning acclaim that day at OSU. Van Horne's column began: "EASTERN OHIO Day - Saturday was a great day for this riverfront district at the Ohio State stadium. Miss Dorothy Neff of Neffs was elected by the State student body as queen of the homecoming celebration and when the Illinois-Buckeye battle was over (for the second and last time) Johnny Stungis, the 17-year-old place-kicking specialist from Powhatan Point, was acclaimed by State football fans as king."
Stungis was a substitute quarterback at OSU and had only one year of football before entering college, and he spent that at tackle.
"He tooted a horn in the Powhatan band for three years, but went out for the team in his senior season. In a high school game, one of his kickoffs sailed 90 yards!" Van Horne wrote. Park reveals that Stungis played tenor saxophone in the Powhatan High band until his senior year when the football coach convinced him to play football rather than an instrument.
A photo, courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch, also was printed in The Times Leader to show the "mob scene" when Stungis was toted around the field in triumph with both the players and spectators cheering.
The INS game story began with the words: "Coach Paul Brown and his youthful Ohio State gridders today are convinced that miracles do happen."
When describing the game, the INS reported both teams were off the field and spectators were pouring from the stands, but one alert official refused to leave the field, claiming that the Illini were offside in the closing play so play should be resumed with OSU having time for one more play. "The game was on again and bedlam reigned as both teams returned to the field, some players without their shoes."
Stungis' field goal game earned OSU its first Western Conference win of the season. He received an OSU letter that year and also in 1946.
Commenting Stungis "is really the hero all right," Brown added, "Wow! that was really one for the books though wasn't it?"
Stungis not only kicked the ball into the air, he became in activities related to the air throughout his life.
He enlisted in the Air Force shortly after the 1943 game, according to Dierkes. Later after returning to Ohio State, he and the team went to the Rose Bowl.
After college graduation, Stungis worked for North American Aviation in Columbus and later was involved with the space program, mainly as an office manager, in several places such as Texas, California and Las Cruces, N.M., Dierkes said.
As for Dierkes, it isn't difficult to know what she'll be doing Saturday afternoon. "We always watch Ohio State," she said.