STEUBENVILLE - In the words of a former teammate, David Riley "nailed it" with his documentary, "Crusaders Bold: The Making of Catholic Central's 1993 State Championship."
Riley, a major in the U.S. Air Force and president of Champion Ventures Inc., was in town recently to screen the documentary for the media, his Crusaders teammates and former coaches.
Through interviews with players and coaches, Riley's documentary chronicles Central's 1993 season against the backdrop of the 63 years of school tradition and local history that preceded it. Interviews with players and coaches provide inspiring, heartwarming and sometimes comical insights into key moments, on and off the field, that shaped the 1993 team.
The "nailed it" comment came from Mike Kuczykowski, one of several teammates interviewed by Riley. Kuczykowski's field goal in overtime against Liberty Center allowed the 1993 Crusaders to earn the Ohio Division V championship with a 17-14 victory.
Kuczykowski was also responsible for the infamous "ear pad" development in Central's 20-14 victory against Howard East Knox in the opening round of the playoffs. A discussion of that incident is among the comical moments in the documentary.
Riley said his film takes its names from Catholic Central's alma mater, "March on Crusaders bold, victory will then unfold." The film features the voice of ESPN's John Buccigross, a CCHS graduate. Riley, a 1994 Central grad, wrote and directed the film and Natalie Campana-Lucas, a 1998 Big Red graduate, edited and produced the film. Campana-Lucas is the multi-media instructor at the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School.
"I've been telling the story of the 1993 Crusaders throughout my 15 years in the military," said Riley, who earned his Air Force commission after graduating from Ohio University in 1998. "I've always been amazed by the reaction I get from people who may or may not have played football, but who certainly don't know where Steubenville is located.
"The idea for the film really came to me during a 14-hour flight to Amman, Jordan, in the fall of 2010. Somewhere over the Atlantic, I found myself reminiscing about the 1993 season and the impact the experience still has on me. I put my initial ideas for a documentary together on that flight and continued to develop ideas and plans over the next year."
In the fall of 2011, Riley read a Herald-Star article about the 40th anniversary tribute given to Catholic Central's 1971 team and "realized the 20th anniversary would be the perfect forum for the documentary to premier."
Riley pointed out the first person he mentioned his idea to was "my longtime friend and mentor, now Steubenville Councilman at Large Kenny Davis.
"He thought it was a great idea and encouraged me to share the idea with my teammates and launch the project," Riley said. "After that, I started contacting my teammates and coaches and getting their buy-in and support."
The 1993 Central team, coached by Gregg Bahen, began the season with a loss to Campbell Memorial. It then recorded shutout victories against Beaver Local, Martins Ferry and Linsly before dropping a 20-15 verdict to Big Red. Bahen's club finished the campaign with victories against Bellaire, Indian Creek, Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, Coshocton and Toronto.
The playoffs began with the victory against East Knox, and Central then eliminated Lorain Clearview and Newark Catholic. The victory against Liberty Center gave Central its first and only state championship won on the field. The 1971 Crusaders were crowned poll champions as was the Central team from 1946.
Riley and his fellow 1994 graduates left Central as the winningest group of seniors in school history. They were part of the 10-3 club in 1991 that reached the state semifinals and the 7-3 squad in 1992. The 12-2 mark their senior year gave them an overall record of 29-8. They also earned three Ohio Valley Athletic Conference crowns along with two regional titles.
Interviews for the documentary took place in February and August of 2012 as well as February of this year. Among those featured in the film are Rich Wilinski, current CCHS principal; Bahen and his father, Gregg Bahen Sr., who played on the 1946 team; as well as former members of the coaching staff. WTOV-TV provided footage of several games along with interviews with members of the 1971 CCHS state championship squad.
Riley said any proceeds made will be used to create a Class of 1994 leadership scholarship at Central.