Boys Varsity Football · Purcell Marian Great Sports Moments: 1949 Football Wins State Championship

From 1947 through 1971, the last high school football season before the Ohio High School Athletic Association implemented an official playoff system, the top-ranked teams in the Associated Press poll generally were recognized as the state champions.

Over those 25 years, no Southwest Ohio team won a “state championship.” Massillon Washington claimed 12, emphasizing a generally recognized poll voter bias toward Northeast Ohio teams.

The unofficial nature of the state championship meant other teams could claim to be Ohio’s top team, and few had better credentials than Jim McCarthy’s 1949 Purcell Cavaliers.

Led by first-team all-state halfback Jim Bolger and a stifling defense that didn’t allow more than 12 points in any game and produced three shutouts, Purcell rolled through a 10-game schedule, winning the Greater Cincinnati League – now Greater Catholic League – championship and outscoring opponents by a combined 446-57.

“No. 1, simplicity,” recalls Bob Krueger, who was La Salle High School’s first football coach in 1961, 13 seasons after playing fullback in the Cavaliers’ full-house backfield T-formation offense, on why the Cavaliers were so dominant. “No. 2, we had an outstanding offensive line and a great defensive team.”

Krueger also credits McCarthy implementing a platoon system – separate offensive and defensive teams – as playing a major role in Purcell’s season. McCarthy was the first local high school coach to use the system, Krueger said.

Based on Enquirer game stories from the season, Krueger scored 11 touchdowns, but he served mostly as a blocking back for Bolger, who finished with 17, and halfback Jack Martin, who added 13 touchdowns. They resulted from a playbook that contained eight plays, Krueger said.

Power sweep, dive, trap,” he said, smiling at the memories. “Everything was so simple – so simple. McCarthy was introverted – no-nonsense – but about as boring as that wall. We’d have a meeting, and we knew we’d hear ‘Hike-right 26.’”

One of McCarthy’s favorite plays featured Krueger leading the ball-carrying Bolger through a hole and picking off a linebacker with Bolger’s cut depending on which way Krueger blocked the linebacker.

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