By MICHAEL WANBAUGH
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — For those of us who attended Goshen High School at the time, there was never any doubt. There was only destiny.
That’s how it felt in the school’s hallways, in the lunch line and in every class room during the fall of 1988. And that’s especially how it felt under the lights on Friday nights at Foreman Field, or anywhere else the high-powered Goshen Redskins suited up for a football game.
We were going to win. We were going to be perfect. We were going to be state champions.
And that’s how it came to pass, one victory stacking up against another until Goshen was at the top of the heap where we all knew we belonged.
“We were such a tight team, more like a family,” All-American quarterback Rick Mirer told The Goshen News several years ago following his induction into the Indiana football Hall of Fame. “Not all football teams are like that.”
The 1988 Goshen Redskins were indeed special as they steamrolled through the regular season and playoffs in record-setting style, outscoring opponents 524-130. The season culminated with a dramatic 24-10 4A state championship game win over Franklin Central inside the now demolished Indianapolis Hoosier Dome (just four years old at the time). This past Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of that victory.
Mirer unleashed an historic performance against Franklin Central, throwing for a 4A state title game record 395 yards that still stands today. And the last GHS pass of his career stands as the most memorable — an iconic connection with Nick Rudolph that went for 90 yards and sealed the deal in the closing moments.
Mirer went on to be a three-year starter for Notre Dame and played in the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl. He was the second overall draft pick by the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks in 1993, spent 12 seasons in the league and was a backup quarterback for the 2002 Oakland Raiders who lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl.
Still, it’s hard to imagine he ever had any more fun playing football than that 1988 senior season here in Goshen.
“In the 20 years I played football,” Mirer said, “that is the only championship I won.”
Mirer now lives in the San Diego area and owns the Mirror winery and is founder of Irish Player Charities.
Total team effort
While Mirer’s talents were the centerpiece of Goshen’s greatness, it was a rock-solid core of seniors and a talented and determined supporting cast that made the dream a reality.
Senior Mike Moon was a sure-handed wide receiver and hard-nosed linebacker. He set school receiving records in both catches for a season (77) and a single game (12 against New Haven). On defense he was in on 127 tackles, tied for second on the team with junior Linc Miller.
“Becoming state champions didn’t happen in one season,” Moon said. “It was something we prepared for and talked about for years. Achieving the goal was a defining moment, one that taught you something about who you are and what you can accomplish on the field and elsewhere in life.”
For Moon that meant graduating from IU law school and becoming a partner with Barnes & Thornburg, LLP in Indianapolis. He lives in Carmel and has four children.
Today Moon looks like he could still suit up. He has qualified for the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon and the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
“However,” Moon added, “not even hearing those famous finish-line words, ‘You are an Ironman’ tops the feeling I had after this team accomplishment 25 years ago.”
Moon also got to enjoy that accomplishment with his brother, Scott, who was a sophomore backup quarterback and linebacker. He too lives in Carmel and is a corporate pilot.
“(That team is) a great reminder of what it takes to tackle life’s battles, large or small,” Scott Moon said, “not to mention the quintessential value of team and teamwork.”
Seven players on that team earned some level of All-State recognition. They included Mirer, Rudolph, Mike Moon, standout senior linebacker Rich Perrin, senior linebacker Paul Holdeman, junior running back Jim Hoke and senior offensive tackles Matt Bower and Trevor Kercher.
Rudolph, who had no problem making diving catches back in the day, went on to graduate from Ball State University and is a senior account executive for Information Technology Consulting & Staffing Services in Phoenix.
“We were a well-coached, very disciplined, band of brothers with a common goal and the entire community came together and supported us in achieving that goal,” he said. “There’s a great deal of pride in being associated with a team of winners and I cherish those memories.”
Bit of a scare
As dominant as Goshen was in 1988, there was a moment the dream was in jeopardy. In the regional game at Foreman Field, New Haven held the Redskin offense in check and even led 2-0 at halftime. With just 2:39 left in the game, and Goshen leading 10-8, New Haven lined up for a 25-yard field goal attempt that would have given it the lead. The kick narrowly missed wide and Goshen held on for the win.
Bower, one of the unsung anchors of Goshen’s complex and often times undersized offensive line, remembers that moment well; not because of the surge of relief it allowed, but because of the sense of determination it summoned.
“I remember standing on the sideline, thinking that it didn’t matter,” Bower said. “Even if New Haven made that kick, we would find a way to win the game. We had put in too much hard work, and had committed too fully, for anyone to deprive us of our destiny. It may sound naive, and it probably was, but I spent that season sincerely convinced that no one could beat us unless we quit.”
Bower was Goshen’s valedictorian in 1989 and went on to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy and George Mason University School of law and is now a practicing attorney. He and his wife, Mariana, live in Woodbridge, Va. and have five children between the ages of 17 and 2.
Bower admits that he doesn’t spend much time reminiscing about that championship. He knows there are more important things in life than football. But after 25 years, he’s still proud of the lofty goal that team set and achieved together.
“That experience colored my entire senior year,” Bower said. “Everything was just a little better, a little brighter, a little sweeter because of it. That, in turn, colors all my memories of high school and probably, to some extent, of Goshen itself.”
Tight end Corey Guilfoos developed into an important weapon in 1988. He ended up catching 49 passes for 711 yards and four touchdowns. He now lives in Rialto, Calif. and is a teacher and head football coach at Knight High School.
In 1981, Guilfoos’ brother, Tim, was on the team that lost to Franklin Central, 34-20, in the 2A state final game on a frigid and windy night at Warren Central High School. That 1981 team, Guilfoos said, was the measuring stick for the 1988 team. Avenging that 1981 loss was special for Corey. It also helped point him toward future goals.
“Being a part of that season, made me want to become a teacher and a coach,” Guilfoos said. “If I can have that affect on just one individual like those coaches had on me and my life — to become the man that they helped raise me to be, I will have accomplished my lifetime goal.”
Michael Schmucker, also a sophomore on the team, still lives in Goshen and is co-owner of Schmucker Heating and A/C and M & H Rentals. He didn’t play much in varsity games, but led the JV’s “Dirty Thirty Mythical State Champion” team in tackles.
He remembers the overwhelming emotion he felt when he walked through tunnel and onto the field of the Hoosier Dome and the superstar feeling of riding on the firetrucks through downtown Goshen the next day as a champion.
For him, two-and-half decades doesn’t seem that far off.
“Twenty-five years later some of the memories are still there like it was yesterday,” Schmucker said. “...It is just a great feeling knowing that we were all a part of such a great accomplishment for ourselves and the community.”
There’s no doubt.
Michael Wanbaugh is a 1990 graduated of Goshen High School and has been managing editor of The Goshen News since 2008.