Last Monessen-Jeannette grid meeting made history
When Monessen visits Jeannette Friday in an Eastern Conference game, the Greyhounds will be playing for their playoff lives.
The last time the two schools met in a varsity football game, they made history and changed the way the WPIAL settles tie games.
The date was Nov. 17, 1972.
Monessen and Jeannette collided in a much-awaited WPIAL Class AA semifinal game at Three Rivers Stadium. The winner would take on the winner of the Gateway-Kiski contest. There was no Class AAAA or AAA at that time.
The final score of that game read: Monessen 14, Jeannette 14.
Jeannette went on to the WPIAL championship game, while the Greyhounds went home.
Back then, the only criteria for settling a playoff tie was granting the team with the most total offensive yards the victory.
In that game, Jeannette had 254 total yards while the Greyhounds had 177.
However, Monessen played most of the game without star running back Milfred “Bubby” Holmes, who was injured early in the second quarter when he was speared.
Holmes suffered a back injury and was taken to a Pittsburgh hospital. He managed just 20 yards on eight carries, but had a 63-yard scoring run called back because of a penalty before he was hurt.
Monessen's coach at the time, Joe Gladys, left no doubt that having his star, who later signed with the University of Minnesota, out of the game made a huge difference.
“There's no doubt it would have been a different story with Bubby in there,” Gladys said after the game. “He plays the key role in our offense and everyone knows it.”
Monessen also lost a touchdown when a pass from quarterback Ted Harhai to tight end Tom Rechichar in the end zone was ruled out of bounds.
“We even had pictures of the play that showed Tom caught the ball in bounds that we showed to the WPIAL and they would not change it,” said Gladys. “I still have those pictures today.”
Monessen held a 14-6 lead before the Jayhawks tied the game on a short touchdown run and subsequent two-point conversion with 1:06 to play in the game.
Harhai said he knew as soon as time ran out that night that the Greyhounds were “losers.”
“I don't know how the conversation came about, but during the week I asked Mr. Gladys what happens in case of a tie and he told me they go by total yards,” Harhai recalled. “Who would expect that to happen? But if we didn't lose Bubby ...”
The end result that left Monessen out in the cold had a quick, rippling effect.
The late Bill Curry, who at the time was a colorful sports anchor for KDKA-TV, did a commentary on the decision, saying Monessen was cheated out of the playoffs and that nobody should lose on a tie.
By the next year, the PIAA established a playoff tie-breaker that no longer left ties in the hands of more total yardage.
Friday's Monessen-Jeannette game is a big one in terms of the playoff picture. But it certainly won't have the far-reaching effects that the two teams' last meeting had on that cold November night.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.