Memories of ‘unstoppable’ 1989 season

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 27, 1999

The end of this decade will be memorable for most everyone considering the start of a new century awaits.

But for a handful of young men, nothing can compare with how the 1980s ended.

Nineteen members of the 1989 Trinity Episcopal football team claimed the first and only state football championship at the small school on Hwy. 61 South 10 years ago.

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&uot;I think we took it for granted a bit,&uot; said nose guard/tailback Eric Jackson. &uot;I appreciate it a lot more now.&uot;

Trinity finished the season 12-1, defeating Carroll 28-0 for the Class A state title.

&uot;We spent a lot of time watching film and studying teams, things we weren’t doing my junior year,&uot; said tackle/running back Will Devening.

Jackson said whenever he thinks back to the state championship, his coach, Jack Benson, always comes to mind.

&uot;We learned so much more than just football from him,&uot; Jackson said. &uot;He treated each person different, but fair. He knew how to motivate each person. We were disciplined and we worked as a team.&uot;

Jackson said he felt the team could go all the way after a 28-0 season-opening win over Wilkinson County Christian Academy.

&uot;I&160;just felt we were unstoppable,&uot; Jackson said. &uot;We were unbeatable – until that Prentiss game.&uot;

Trinity shut out its first five opponents.

&uot;Coach Benson was quoted as saying before the season that our weakest part would be defense,&uot; Devening said. &uot;We were determined that defense would not be our weak part.&uot;

After shutting out opponents for 23 straight quarters, Trinity fell to Prentiss Christian, 15-14.

&uot;I think we had the big head after the first five games and we had to refocus after Prentiss,&uot; said end/defensive back Bill Stahlman. &uot;We had to pay attention to what we were doing.&uot;

The Saints blanked Huntington 34-0.

&uot;I think beating Huntington was big because we redeemed ourselves from the year before when we lost to them,&uot; said Devening, who now works at East Automotive.

The Saints then won six straight, including the state championship contest.

Trinity defeated Brandon 14-11 in the first round of the playoffs, a team they had beaten 35-0 earlier in the season.

&uot;I think that gave us the shot in the arm we needed at that time,&uot; said Trinity quarterback Lee Falkenheiner. &uot;We were very focused in our next two games.&uot;

Jackson remembers the second win over Brandon for a special reason.

&uot;I knocked the ball out of the center’s hands before he got it back to the quarterback and we recovered it,&uot; Jackson said. (Assistant) Coach (Jerry) Pyron taught me to do that.&uot;

The Saints advanced to South State by defeating Heidelberg 19-13.

&uot;They had the size on us,&uot; Falkenheiner said. &uot;Our defense won that game, especially the guys up front.&uot;

Trinity defeated Tri-County 34-6 for the South State title.

The Saints led Carroll 21-0 at halftime before Stahlman returned the second half kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown.

&uot;To finally win state after all the hard work and busting out tails was the great,&uot; Stahlman said. &uot;I think we played our best game in the state championship.&uot;

Falkenheiner was named all-state and Benson was chosen to coach the South team in the all-star game.

&uot;Coach Benson made us play for four quarters,&uot; Stahlman said. &uot;We had one speed, and that was non-stop.&uot;

Falkenheiner rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards and also carried a 44-yard punt average. He had 82 tackles as a defensive rover.

&uot;There weren’t many teams that had big passing games,&uot; Falkenheiner said. &uot;I think we had the edge there with Casey (Ham) and Bill. Our offense put up points, but I think our defense won games.&uot;

Falkenheiner said few injuries also helped the Saints reach the top.

&uot;Walter (Dawkins) hurt his arm and Michael Campbell injured his knee, but our conditioning was great,&uot; Falkenheiner said.

Jackson, who just began working for Cysco, said he still gets butterflies walking onto the Trinity football field.

Julius Knotts was a sophomore who saw a lot of time as a back-up quarterback and receiver.

&uot;We were so far ahead in most games that I usually played in the first quarter,&uot; he said.

Knotts, who works with Stahlman at Stahlman, said the closeness of the team was another reason for the club’s success.

&uot;It was like a dream the whole time,&uot; Knotts said.

Knotts said he wasn’t going to play football that year, but Benson talked him into it.

&uot;I had a feeling this team could win the state championship, and I didn’t want to miss out on that,&uot; Knotts said.