A class heavy on stars from the early 2000s mixed with a two-way standout from the mid-1940s and state championship coach from ’80s form the Stark County High School Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
Five players who starred in high school less than 20 years ago — McKinley’s Morgan Williams and Ryan Brinson (who are 1-2 on the school's career rushing list), Massillon’s Brian Gamble and Devin Jordan, and Hoover’s Curt Lukens — makes this easily the youngest of the 16 classes inducted into county football Hall of Fame. Only one other class, 2013, even had two members who played their high school football into the 2000s.
They are joined by Bruce Beatty, an All-Ohio performer in 1945 at Lincoln, and longtime coach Jack Rose, who won a state title at St. Thomas Aquinas in 1984 and continues making an impact on county football to this day. Rose also starred as a player in Stark County in the 1960s.
Beatty was the senior candidate — for players who graduated or coaches whose careers ended 60 years prior to induction. He was the 1945 Stark County Most Valuable Player as an end-tackle for Lincoln. He helped the Lions go 7-0-3. All three ties were memorable: 7-7 against McKinley, 0-0 against Massillon and 0-0 against No. 1 Toledo Waite in a Dec. 1 state championship game at Fawcett Stadium.
Beatty went on to enjoy a lengthy coaching career, first as the offensive line coach in college for Ara Parseghian at Miami and Northwestern universities, and later in the NFL with the Patriots, Oilers, Lions and Bills.
Rose has enjoyed a long coaching career that stretched into this past season as an assistant at GlenOak. His work as a head coach at Aquinas, Massillon and GlenOak, as well as being a standout receiver in 1964 at Central Catholic, earned him his spot in the Class of 2017.
Rose guided Aquinas, Massillon and GlenOak each to the playoffs, compiling a record of 132-83-1, including a 9-7 mark in the postseason. In addition to his Division IV state championship at Aquinas, his Knights were the state runner-up the next year. At Massillon, his Tigers twice won 10 games in his six-year run and won the 100th McKinley-Massillon game in 1994. He then was the head coach at GlenOak for eight seasons, and won the first playoff game in school history in 2004.
By 2004, Brinson was shattering records as a running back at McKinley and helping the Bulldogs reach the state finals that season. He ran for a county-record 2,405 yards in 2004, averaging 8.3 yards per carry to be named Ohio’s co-offensive player of the year in Division I.
Brinson graduated as McKinley’s career rushing (4,772 yards) and scoring (336 points) leader, and owned six of the school’s top 15 single-game rushing performances.
Soon, Williams was rewriting Brinson’s records at McKinley by being a model of consistency. He rushed for at least 100 yards in 26 of his 27 starts.
Williams ran for a county-record 2,417 as a junior in 2005 to help the Bulldogs to a 10-0 regular season before setting the county mark at 2,447 in 2006 when he helped the team reach the state semifinals. He was named the state’s offensive player of the year in Division I each year.
Williams graduated as the county’s career rushing leader with 5,177 yards. Of his 68 career touchdowns, 30 of them came on plays 30 yards or longer.
At the same time Williams broke records at McKinley, Gamble did the same at Massillon as a running back, receiver and defensive back.
His phenomenal junior year in 2005 ended with a school-record 2,239 all-purpose yards to help propel the Tigers to the state championship game. He also made 87 tackles (eight for loss) and intercepted three passes.
The next year, despite missing some time with an injury, Gamble still tied a Massillon record with four TDs in a game. He was first team All-Ohio as a defensive back in 2006, one year after earning the honor as a running back.
Jordan set records a few years earlier at Massillon as a wide receiver, helping the Tigers win two straight regional titles.
His junior year in 2001 he caught a county-record 98 passes for 1,492 yards and 18 TDs. Twice he caught a Massillon record 11 passes in a game.
He repeated as a first team All-Ohio receiver in 2002 when he averaged 19.8 yards and scored 12 TDs on his 45 catches for 893 yards. He remains Massillon’s career receiving leader in catches (152), yards (2,511) and TDs (31).
Jordan went on to Ohio State in the same recruiting class as Lukens, a do-it-all player for Hoover.
Lukens did much of his damage defensively as a linebacker, while also starring at receiver and running back during his career.
He was first team All-Ohio in 2001 and 2002, helping the Vikings reach the state playoffs each year. Lukens was the state’s co-defensive player of the year in Division I as a senior.
His junior year, he made 125 tackles and caught 40 passes for 970 yards. The next year, he delivered 130 tackles (80 solos and 17 for loss) with 12 sacks and two interceptions. He also rushed for 590 yards as a senior and made 20 catches for 250 yards.
The seven men will be enshrined into the Stark County High School Football Hall of Fame on July 14 at Skyland Pines. For more information on the Hall of Fame banquet, which starts with a cocktail hour at 5:30 followed by the dinner and program, call 330-580-8454.
The Stark County High School Hall of Fame class was selected by a combination of a nine-person committee along with reader votes. Just missing the cut this year as finalists, making them automatically among the final 15 next year, were Charlie Grandjean, Don Nehlen and Rob Stradley.