When thinking back to players on the football team at Bridgeport High School, many may remember Gary Lhotsky as being one of the taller players to suit up for Coach Wayne Jamison during the mid to late 1980s. Some may remember him as a gifted end, a talented player in the secondary or his ability to boom punts whenever the Indians needed good field position.
Heck, some may even remember that crisp as a burnt Hot Pocket hair style.
There is one thing, though, they all remember; even if they don’t remember Gary Lhotsky’s name. And that is that Gary Lhotsky scored the points on arguably not only the biggest play in Bridgeport High School football history, but arguably the biggest play in state championship game football history.
“That was one of the greatest plays ever, and he is one of the guys most people remember for it,” a 40 for 40 analyst said.
While it’s highly likely Lhotsky doesn’t mind having his name associated with that play, to limit his value to the program to just that would be selling his performance during that 1988 season short. Lhotsky wasn’t just a contributor on that Class AA state title team, he was a
Along with his offensive end duties, which actually included catching passes, Lhotsky more than held his own in the defensive secondary. As for special teams, Lhotsky was a dominant punter. He was good enough as a punter, in fact, to be named to the Class AA All-State team. He also was honored in the postseason as All-Monon Valley, All-North Central, and All-Harrison County.
“He was a big, tall lanky kid and I remember thinking that was odd for someone so tall to play in the secondary. I guess I shouldn’t have felt that way because Coach Jamison felt good with him back there,” said the analyst. “Offensively, like every other year, Bridgeport didn’t throw a lot, but when they did throw they went to him and he could catch the ball.
“On special teams he was just a really solid punter and that helped him make all-state,” the analyst continued. “He deserved that, but he was such a well-rounded player that the sports writers figured he had to be on the team and that’s where he ended up. That’s not selling him short as a punter, but he was solid everywhere he played.”
Lhotsky was, though, a very good punter. He punted collegiately at Edinboro University. Today, he finds himself working at East Tennessee State University.
It’s hard to imagine that any conversation involving that BHS football team in general and Lhotsky in particular, doesn’t include the 1988 Class AA title
game and that game's final play. And it’s probably a safe bet that Lhotsky doesn’t mind. The play was huge. No, make that HUGE.
The moment was huge for multiple reasons. Forget for the moment that the game was for the Class AA state championship at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown. Forget for the moment that the Indians and Winfield were in the fourth overtime. And forget for the moment that Coach Wayne Jamison’s move to pass may have been the result that he just felt that the Indians were too worn out to go further.
What everyone should remember is that in the biggest moment, in the biggest game on the biggest stage, Jamison not only passed the ball, but he passed the ball on a trick play. And he didn’t pass the ball with his starting quarterback, but rather used the holder on the extra point – Pete Curry – to do the honors.
Even more impressive is that Jamison didn’t call a timeout to get everyone organized. Instead, the play came in with Kevin Fleming and no one outside of the players on the field and the coaches knew what was coming.
“It completely caught me off guard,” said junior Chad Fowler who was watching the game from the sidelines. “I didn’t know that the play was called, which is the beauty of that moment. Only the extra point team knew it because they just sent the play in and ran it. I was waiting for Cam Devericks to kick the extra point and get ready for the fifth overtime.”
Then, Fowler said, it unfolded in slow motion. Curry, he said, took the snap and threw it high.
“All I can remember is that Gary went up high and caught it. Then he’s got his arms up in a big v after he caught the pass. After that, the
place just went absolutely crazy,” Fowler said.
In the Bridgeport High School yearbook, Ki-Cu-Wa 1989, Lhotsky talks about the play.
"I've never had a better feeling in my life, such a feeling of satisfaction. But it's important for everyone to realize that we won this game as a team," Lhotsky said.
More than a quarter century later, Fowler talks as if it were yesterday. He said the players were asked if they wanted a post-game meal or if they wanted to go home by Jamison as he entered the team bus in Morgantown. They opted to go home and had an informal celebration in the parking lot of the old Hardee’s (now King’s Pizza) in Bridgeport.
“I remember WDTV came down to the parking lot and interviewed Gary. He was like a celebrity. I still can’t forget what he said. He looked at the camera and said ‘I told Pete to throw it high and I’ll do the rest.’ That is as clear today as it was back in 1988. I can still see him doing that interview with a crooked hat on. I imagine that’s a pretty good thing Gary remembers.”
It’s also one of the reasons – certainly not the only one- that Lhotsky comes in at #32 on The Presciption Shop's 40 for 40 list.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Lhotsky hauling in a pass in the second overtime against Winfield. This wouldn't his last catch in the game, and it certainly wasn't the biggest. Middle photo, Anthony Maholic (36) provides protection for Lhotsky to get off an all-state level punt. Bottom photo, Lhotsky also had duties off the playing field. Here, Lhotsky, right, handles his duties as team co-captain along with Chris Oliverio as they recognize Miss Football Kelly Bollinger. Photos courtesy of the Bridgeport High School journalism department and teacher Mrs. Alice Rowe. Connect-Bridgeport would like to thank Mrs. Rowe for her cooperation in assisting with the 40 for 40 series and providing archives necessary to move the project forward. Information regarding number of letters earned, where listed, based on photos from former programs involving returning letter winners.
Click here to read the blog explaining the selection process: