In the heart of the Rust Belt, a football team shines on
Posted: Tuesday November 28, 2006 3:42PM; Updated: Tuesday November 28, 2006 3:42PM
In more than two decades as coach, John Magistro guided small-town Bellaire High to five undefeated regular seasons.
Bellaire, Ohio, is a rusty shovel of a town. The steel mill has been closed for decades, and the dilapidated railroad bridge over the Ohio River leads nowhere. The Imperial glass factory that was once the pride of the community has been torn down, and most of the coal mines have closed. The few that remain are non-union and automated, so 150 miners do the work that required 1,200 men 40 years ago. Jobs are scarce; unemployment's high; and abandoned houses remain eyesores on the hillsides.
The high school, which once had over 1000 students, now has fewer than 500. Yet Bellaire's high school football team has continued to win. This season, which ended last Friday with a 49-7 playoff loss to powerhouse Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in the Division IV state semifinals, was the fifth time in retiring head coach John Magistro's 23 years that the Big Reds were 10-0 in the regular season, and the ninth time under Magistro's tenure that Bellaire won the 47-team Ohio Valley Athletic Conference.
With jet-black hair and a trim physique that makes him appear younger than his 58 years, the outgoing Magistro compiled a 181-76 record while at Bellaire, and twice ('95 and '96) led his team to the state finals. This year was supposedly a rebuilding year, but the Big Reds defied preseason predictions and not only qualified for the playoffs, but took their record to 13-0 by winning their first three playoff games over St. Clairsville, Westfall, and New Lexington by a combined score of 131--54. An uncharacteristic seven turnovers sealed their fate against Cardinal Mooney and ended hopes of sending Magistro into retirement with his first state title.
"That's been a huge motivator for us this year," says Trey Masciarelli, the undersized (5-9, 170 pounds) cornerback and wide receiver who shattered the school's career touchdown record this year, which had previously been held by Joey Galloway, now a wideout with the Tampa Bay Bucs. "We wanted to send Coach out with a bang."