Right place, right time?
To hear Mark Huffman tell it, that scenario makes perfect sense.
To those who've known or had an opportunity to work with him, however, Huffman's upcoming induction into the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame is so much more than well deserved.
One of four members of OHSBCA's Class of 2013, Huffman guided tiny Skyvue High to consecutive state basketball tournament appearances during the mid 80s.
Though the Golden Hawk hoopsters came up short both years in Columbus, Huffman's Skyvue High baseball team dramatically achieved an Ohio Class A state title in 1985.
Quite a remarkable accomplishment for a school requiring - for unfamiliar visitors - a Garmin (not then in existence). Skyvue High earned its name for obvious reasons- the building was constructed in the wide open, rural spaces off a county road far removed from mainstream Americana.
"If you veer off the road (en route to the school), they won't find you until next deer season," I used to instruct those seeking instructions.
But what a hoops' program Huffman helped muster! Not necessarily one comprised of 6 ft. 5 star athletes. mind you. A majority of Huffman's players got up at 5 a.m. to conduct daily farm chores before heading to the bus stop.
"Great parents who raised their children the right way," Huffman recalled. "I was fortunate the kids I had were very coachable. It didn't hurt they were pretty decent players as well."
There was Mitch Hannahs, Skyvue's two-sport all-stater who more closely resembled a team manager but whose intelligence and talent for the game were at once apparent.
Mitch's younger brother, Mike, was also a contributor as were so many others who simply 'played within themselves' and executed their respective roles with uncanny proficiency.
"(Along with Mitch), we had players like Aaron Kilburn, Todd Hilverding, Brian Leasure, Vince Hogue, Virgil Hamilton, Bill Winland and Frank Hamilton," Huffman recalled of Skyvue cagers who combined to form a special unit.
The Hawks' 1983-84 season included a memorable postseason conquest of Hiland in the final game coached by Charlie Huggins (father of Bob). Skyvue went on to upend a heavily-favored Wellsville quint in the regional finals. The Hawks eventually fell to Wehrle High of Columbus at St. John Arena.
A year later, Skyvue again was confronted by Hiland (then under late legend Perry Reese) in what is regarded as one of the greatest prep hoop contests in eastern district history.
In a classic triple-overtime battle inside Ohio U's Convo at Athens, Skyvue survived 71-67. "And we lost Mitch (Hannahs) to fouls in the second OT," Huffman recalled. "But what a team we had. Such a special group of young men."
Destiny, however, was not part of the process the following weekend once again at Ohio State's St. John Arena where Skyvue fell to Jackson Center on a heartbreaking buzzer-beater. "Of course, the boys and our fans were devastated but it was an experience none of us will ever forget," Huffman related.
A few weeks later, though, Huffman's diamond dandies, Skyvue's '85 baseball team, was hoisting a state championship trophy after finishing off Fort Loramie in the title contest.
Along the way, the Hawks needed a late-inning 'miracle' catch in a regional championship game at Dover.
"Our leftfielder (Kevin Hartshorn) made an over-the-fence grab, preventing what would have been a go-ahead, three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning," Huffman reported. "Turned out to be the game's final out."
The Hannahs' brothers were also key baseball contributors with Mitch (who went on to play baseball at Indiana State University) earning all-Ohio laurels.
"There was Vince Kinney, Kris Pfalzgraf, Tim Winland, Todd Hilverding, Frank Antill and (injured) catcher Don Bartenschlag who had suffered a broken hand," Huffman stated.
"Great kids, great parents, great fans," he added. "I always told our players to go out, practice hard and just enjoy the game. It was a memorable time in our lives."
Joining Huffman in the HOF Class of 2013 are Wooster's Mike Gallagher, Racine Southern's Carl Wolf, and the late Bill Cady of Cincinnati LaSalle.
The induction ceremony is scheduled Saturday, April 20 and will be conducted at the Columbus Airport Marriott beginning at 5:30 p.m. For ticket info, contact Paul Wayne at (419) 264-2521 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
SKYVUE High, of course, later was part of the consolidation which is now Monroe Central High located in Woodsfield....
HUFFMAN works today part-time for the Ohio Valley Educational Service Center. Mark and wife, Susan, are the parents of six children: Tina, Scott, Erin, Nicole, David, and Daniel. The latter two attend Skyvue Elementary where Susan is a teacher. The couple also has seven grandchildren...
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