Thanks to Sonny Fulks of 1570 WPTW for contributing this article on a Covington Legend.
July 15, 2008
When Sports Illustrated ran its annual “Where Are They Now?” feature in last week’s issue it served as the perfect precedent to remember at least one local sports personality from the past that many present-day football fans will strain to remember.
But to others, the mere mention of Larrie Tisdale will spark memories of a county high school football team that “back in the day”…in 1973…is remembered for literally kicking butts and taking names, and for winning, in poll fashion, the Class A championship in Ohio High School football.
The 1973 Covington Buccaneers were coached by Tisdale, who guided the tiny community’s football program through one of the most successful periods in its history…from 1968 to 1982, and five Southwest Rivers Conference titles…before retiring from coaching after the ’82 season.
But that ’73 season was the defining year for Covington football…a perfect 10-0 season, and from a physical standpoint, the Buccs mauled every opponent on their schedule. Eight of their ten wins were by shutout and they only allowed 24 points all season.
Figuratively, they won a “mythical” state championship that season by being voted the honor by the Associated Press, although Middletown Fenwick actually won the title on the field by way of what was then a two-game championship playoff.
“We got the votes from the media, but they (Fenwick) were chosen from computer points to represent the region,” remembers Tisdale, and still not without a frown 35 years after the fact.
Today, he lives with wife Margie in Punta Gorda, Florida, where he enjoys a daily round of golf and more than cherishes the accomplishments of the kids who played for him long ago at Covington High School.
He stays in constant touch with many friends and former associates in the Miami County area, and joined a number of them this week in Myrtle Beach for golf and some good-natured reminiscing about the old days of coaching and football in Covington.
“That was a great bunch of kids, and yes, they were every bit as good as what people remember,” he smiled Monday, talking about the likes of Tim and Terry Vogler, Doug Swartz, Dave Doseck, Whitey Forsythe, Roger Finfrock and others on that ’73 team.
“In reality, that’s a long time ago now, but it seems like only yesterday to me. You know, Randy Miller…one of our tackles…has already passed away,” he added quietly, with a note of sadness in his voice.
“Randy was a story all by himself. He came up from Pleasant Hill because he wanted to play football…and he’d never played a game of football in his life. He was so big…I think he weighed about 260…we had to order a special helmet to fit his head. The first time he put it on…he put it on backwards.”
By those who actually watched them play, Tisdale’s ’73 football team was the most physically dominant team in the memory of small-school football in area, a reputation established in no small part by the play of the Vogler twins, Tim and Terry.
The Voglers were both huge by the standards of that day, standing well over six feet and weighing in excess of 200 pounds. They’re better remembered for being recruited in tandem by Woody Hayes to play at Ohio State after graduating from Covington. And for 10 years after Ohio State, Tim Vogler played center and guard for the Buffalo Bills in the National Football League…still the only Covington graduate to have played in the NFL.
At 6’3” inches and 218 pounds, at Covington Vogler was a one-man wrecking crew playing at running back on offense, and defensive end and linebacker on defense.
“He loved to hit people, that’s for sure,” smiles Tisdale. “In fact, that whole team liked to hit. We did have good size across the board…the biggest team I ever had…but for the most part, we just had a bunch of kids who loved to play football.”
Opposing coaches remember.
“They didn’t just beat you, they beat you up,” said former Miami East coach Jim Martin, who spoke years afterward about Tisdale’s football team.
“We had some kids at East who could hold their own with anyone, but that Covington team was in a league of their own.”
Their legend, compared to that of present-day success with Covington football, was enhanced by their schedule. The ’73 Buccs were members of the Three Rivers Conference and played anyone and everyone by modern standards…Tipp City, Urbana, Versailles, Graham and Lehman on that year’s schedule.
“We weren’t very fancy,” adds Tisdale. “We ran some T formation, and a little bit out of the “I”and we ran right at people. The kids knew what they had going for them and enjoyed the challenge of competing as much as any team I ever coached.”
Tisdale smiles frequently while talking about his players from that team:
Dave Dull: “He was our quarterback,” says Tisdale. “Probably not the best quarterback I ever had, but I think he might have been the smartest.”
Doug Swartz: “Another physical football player who didn’t say much. He just liked to hit and play football. He went on, of course, to be an excellent assistant coach with a lot of good Covington teams.”
Steve Pennington: “Steve was one of our running backs…Steve, Stumpy Phillis, Roger Finfrock and Tim Vogler. Those were four pretty good running backs.”
Whitey Forsythe: “Whitey was one of our wide receivers. We didn’t throw the ball a lot, but Whitey was a real hard-nosed football player.”
Dave Doseck: “A big guy…about 235 pounds, and a pretty good athlete. Dave was our kicker and a pretty good one, too.”
Al Grise: “Al was our center…about 6’1” and 195 pounds, and actually, he and Steve Burelison were our two smallest linemen that year.”
Fondly remembered by everyone he ever coached, and coached with, Tisdale is not one to blow his own horn despite his distinguishing record for 14 years at Covington.
“He was such a nice guy to be around at school, you’d never believe he was a football coach,” says Ben Robinson, who never played football at Covington, but as a student remembers Tisdale as a teacher and coach. “But Friday nights were a different story. Then you knew he was a football coach."
Today, competitive as ever, he’d as soon talk about golf as he would football.
“Pretty much taught myself how to play, but I don’t take it all that seriously,” he smiles. “I play to have fun…just step up, hit it the best you can, and enjoy being outside on the golf course.”
If you’d forgotten Larrie Tisdale, and want to find him to catch up on the ’73 Buccs…now you know where to look.