HAWTHORN — It all seemed to tie together, this year’s second Redbank Valley Sports Hall of Fame.
Seven more entries, six of them individuals with one team, joined the Hall after last Saturday’s banquet at Trinity Hall.
Redbank Valley Booster Club Vice President and Hall of Fame Chairman Matt Darr, along with a handful of presenters made it another evening of heartfelt tributes and thank yous.
Former Lady Bulldogs basketball coach Ernie Black, Angie (Shirey) Darr, Sarge Hinderliter, David Shaffer, Mike Maslar, Michelle (Johnston) Drzal and the 1992-93 Lady Bulldogs basketball team as the annual team entry to the Hall.
That group joins last year’s first class of 2018 that included longtime coaches Ben Kundick Sr. and Dave Moore, state wrestling champions Johnathan Brothers and Mike Huffman, and Tristan Rankin Best and Alyssa Shirey.
The late coach Ernie Black inherited a Lady Bulldogs basketball program that had won 11 games in six years prior to his tenure and coached the Lady Bulldogs to league titles in 1992-93 and 93-94 along with District 9 titles those same years.
From an 11-118 record in the six years prior to Black’s tenure to a 92-39 career mark, including his team’s 26-win year in 1992-93 that saw it win two state playoff games, the accomplishments were obvious.
“We are humbled to accept this honor on behalf of my father,” said his daughter Jennifer Close. “It’s wonderful to see so many of his longtime friends and there are so many people he loved and admired in this room. I know he’d be overwhelmed by this honor.”
That 1992-93 team also won the program’s first-ever Clarion County League title and D9 title.
“Ernie said it best in one of the articles I came across about our 92-93 team,” said Michelle Johnston during her acceptance speech. She was one eighth members of the team at the banquet, including one other Hall inductees in Shirey — Erin (Ruth) Shaffer, Kim (Wilson) Songer, Megan (Rupp) Harmon, Rebecca Edmonds, Becky (Bish) Doverspike and Michelle (Aikens) Lingenfelter.
Other members of the team were Amy Algoe, Heather Shreckengost, Jen Crawford, Heather Copenhaver and Jessica Smathers.
“All are from the same mold,” Johnston quoted Black from the article. “They all work very hard and it paid off. You can’t keep them out of the game. We pushed each other and became the closest of friends. What better way to become successful than to surround yourself with like-minded, full-focused, hard-working, talented people. Looking back, I don’t think we realized how special it was what we had going on and it’s so easy to see it now. I truly believe so much of what I learned in sports, shaped the success I’ve had off the court as well.”
His daughter echoed more of that theme.
“He believed that as a leader, it was important to be humble, to give credit, not take it and never throw your success in the face of others,” Close said. “He taught that if you were to become great in anything, whether it be in sports, music or parenting, it was going to take hard work and a lot of it. There are no shortcuts, no magic words. Being great at something takes hard, consistent work.”
— Angie Shirey, along with her career basketball, was a standout track and field athlete in the early 1990s, winning six district titles in her four seasons and helping the 4x800 relay with Drzal finish second at states in 1993. She still holds the record in the 800 run and is part of the team record in the 4x800 relay.
“Running is where I found myself,” Shirey said. “It helped me heal at a time when I felt miserable. In sixth grade, I weighed about 80 pounds, size 9 1/2 shoes and buck teeth, big glasses and a perm mullet. That combined with social awkwardness that didn’t exactly put me at the top of the social ladder.”
Shirey credited Maslar as well for helping shape her athletic career.
“He never told me how to run a race,” Shirey said. “We would talk strategy and he would coach me, but there was always an underlying message that I should always listen to myself, listen to what my body is telling me during the race and listen to that voice in my head. That was a lesson I carried with me every day and reflects how I work, parent and work with other people.”
“He helped develop a confidence in my own ability to finish things and if I just hung on, I would get where I needed to go.”
She also praised her years playing under Coach Black.
“He was full of boundless energy and enthusiasm and a true love of the game and when I look back he sucked all of us girls up with that energy,” Shirey said. “If you were in a huddle with him, you couldn’t help to feel that.
“Sports and commitment and accomplishment that comes with it helped me create a version of me that made sense int he world. I’m thankful for all of the positive influences in my life. Ernie, Mr. Maslar, Ben Kundick and many mentors along the way, my parents for running me around, siblings and rest of family for constant support … and husband for sharing and kids even though they didn’t clean up kitchen.”
— Michelle (Johnston) Drzal was a standout in basketball and track and field. She won four D9 titles in track along with the runner-up 4x800 relay finish with Darr in 1993. In basketball, she scored 1,148 career points and owns the school record for assists and steals.
“Ernie Black gave her “Magic” Johnston,” said presenter Erin Shaffer. “To Ernie, her talent was clear. Her personal dedication and desire were in complete focus. He could see the magic and knew what she had. She lived by the words ‘play hard or go home.’
“I’m very humbled and honored to be an inductee tonight and I wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t for so many people who are a part of this community,” Drzal said. “Don’t get me wrong I’m very proud and humbled by the records and being part of the teams who won at the district and state levels several times over, but to me it’s the role models, the teammates, the friendships and memories and the lessons I learned along the way that I treasure the most.”
She also extended thank yous to her former coaches in Maslar and Black.
“Now that I’m older, I can truly appreciate their commitment and passion for the sport and to all of us,” Drzal. “Coach Maslar, your relentless repetition and pushing us harder than we thought we could ever go is truly the trait of a great coach, even if at the time we thought you were just torturing us. You pushed us to meet our goals and it mean so much and means even more today.”
“(Ernie) surely is missed, truly exemplified commitment, passion and he had to have a lot of patience to put up with all of us teenage girls nearly 24/7. I can’t explain how, but he inspired our entire team to work hard, be passionate about the game and have a blast while doing it.”
— Mike Maslar earns the nod as a coach and special contributor. Teaching science at Redbank Valley for over 30 years, he also was a track and field coach for over 15 years and started the cross country team and coached that program for over 10 years.
Currently a contributor to the Leader-Vindicator, Maslar is a fixture at school events, not just sports and not only home games, and provides photos for the athletes he shoots at no cost.
“He’s a one of a kind,” said Darr in his presentation.
And Maslar was humble in all of his work over the years with the Redbank Valley community.
“As a teacher and coach, all I could really do is tell people what I felt could make them better. I couldn’t make them work. They made themselves better by putting in the work, effort, time and mental focus,” Maslar said. “I look around and I’m proud of what Redbank Valley High School has produced. You are very good people.”
His photography began before he came to Redbank Valley, and it continued even longer than he had planned.
“I told myself that once my students graduate, I’ll move on and travel and fish and do other things,” he said. “But I continued to meet students coming up through, so I figured I’d stick around and watch them graduate. The problem was, there was always new kids coming through and I’ll have to keep watching the new freshmen and sophomores too. So I guess I’ll be around, but I’ll have to ask someone will have to push my wheelchair some day.”
He finished with some touching words on his induction.
“I appreciate it,” Maslar said. “I think this sort of validates my life, so maybe I’ve accomplished a little bit, I hope. I’m very, very proud of this community and the people who are in this room tonight.”
— Sarge Hinderliter won the D9 title in the shot put in 1968 and still holds the school record in that event 51 years later. He held the discus school record for 39 years until the mark was broken in 2007. He was a three-year starter in football and a member of the wrestling, gymnastics and volleyball teams.
“I greatly appreciate this honor,” Hinderliter said. “Along the way, I met a lot of great guys from other teams. Some became friends and still are. Every now and then I’ll run into one of them and hash out the old memories.
“If it wasn’t for sports, I wouldn’t have finished high school and my coaches were a big part of that. I hope some day I’ll get the chance to shake the hand of the guy who breaks my record. Fifty-one years is a long time, but I know it won’t last forever.”
— David Shaffer was a standout in basketball and football, leading the Bulldogs to a D9 basketball title in 1980. He was a three-year starter and Clarion County League MVP in 1980. He was a two-time all-conference quarterback for the football team.
Shaffer’s 1,226 points was a team record when he graduated after the 1980 season and lasted until Jason Huffman passed him in 1995. He now ranks fourth on the team’s all-time list.
He was unable to attend the banquet.
— Dick Bates was a member of the 1966 baseball that was inducted the previous year. He played under the Don Burkett-coached team that went unbeaten.
Their field that year? Right where the football field was and is, with home plate near the area where the scoreboard sits now. A pole sat somewhere in center field. Bates played outfield.
“If a ball got close to that pole, it was easy to misjudge,” Bates laughed.
But he had kind words of respect for his former and late coach.
“Don was just a good guy, great teacher and was the same thing in baseball. He was stern, but pretty much let you do what you wanted to do,” Bates said. “He brought a lot to the game.”