It’s considered football gospel that when your coach asks you to do something on the field, you should go ahead and do it. While it’s not considered as much of a golden rule for the same standard to hold true when a player asks the coach to do something, there’s occasionally a benefit to doing just that.
Exhibit number one may very well be #6 on The Prescription Shop’s 40 for 40 list. And that exhibit is 1977 standout Don Babuschak.
Early in his career, Babuschak found himself manning the critical guard position for Coach Wayne Jamison. Whether or not Babuschak tired of the play in the trenches, was looking for a change or felt he could make a bigger impact running with the football as opposed to blocking for those that did, the BHS athlete approached Jamison with a proposition. The proposition was a simple one: “Let me run the
While some may believe the thought-of-as stoic Jamison may have been indifferent to a player’s suggestion, such in Bridgeport’s history proves otherwise; at least for proposals that weren’t ludicrous. Babuschak asked. Jamison listened. Jamison relented. Babuschak gave it a shot. Babuschak dominated.
The rest is Class AAA All State - and Bridgeport football - history.
“He asked for that chance to run in practice and for those that don’t know how it worked out, well, it worked out pretty well. For those that do know how it works out, they’ll tell you he ended up being a Class AAA All State first team running back from his fullback position,” an analyst with the 40 for 40 process said. “He was a little bit of a shorter running back, but he was above average with his speed at his size.
“What was impressive was that he was the feature running back and he was the fullback,” the analyst continued. “Under Jamison, or
even after Jamison, that was extremely rare at Bridgeport.”
What may have been ever rarer was for a running back not only to empathize with those who did the blocking for him, but to actually understand what the guys in the trenches were going through. Babuschak’s play at guard early during his time with BHS gave him a huge appreciation for his lineman and Jamison thinks that may have been one of the reasons that the fullback was so impressive for Bridgeport.
“When he filled in at running back he did the job well. After he played guard for us he knew what it was like to be up front so I think that really helped him,” said Jamison.
Like the analyst, Jamison recalls Babuschak as being a bit undersized at the fullback position, which likely means he was also undersized when playing along the line. In the end, it didn’t matter.
“He was a bit on the short side and didn’t have the weight or the natural strength to be the type of back to just run over people. Despite those things, he always got the job done,” Jamison said. “I think that speaks to his ability.”
Apparently it did. During the 1977 season, Babuschak became the first Bridgeport player to earn All-State First Team honors since Steve Stout earned Class AAA First Team honors during the 1973 season. If the 1977 season had the expanded
playoff field that’s in place today, the Indians would have made the postseason during Babuschak’s spectacular senior season. Instead, the Indians found themselves on the outside of the playoff bubble looking in.
Bridgeport finished the season at 9-1; basically pounding teams into submission with a dominant offense led by Babuschak’s relentless running. The only loss was a 14-12 setback to Fairmont Senior in week eight, but that two-point deficit was enough to keep the Indians from making a trip to the Class AAA playoffs.
For the year, the Indians averaged 35.2 points per game with a season-high of 50 points in a win versus Philip Barbour. The club was also no slouch on the defensive side of the ball. Only three teams scored in double figures that season, with 14 points – on two occasions – being the most the team yielded. For the season, Bridgeport allowed just 6.8 points per game. Teams averaged 102 yards a contest rushing and 44 yards passing against the Tribe during his senior season.
Babuschak not only led the team in rushing (807 yards on 125 carries – 6.5 yards per carry), he also was the club’s leading tackler. He finished with 19 unassisted tackles and 79 assisted stops. Teammate Eric Davis was right behind with 19 unassisted tackles and 74 assists. It should also be noted that Babuschak led the team with 17 touchdowns in the final year of his high school career.
“Off the field, Don was a very quiet guy. He was just a very nice kid,” the analyst said. “When the game started, when the helmet got put on and the pads were in place, he just didn’t play around. He was a very, very good player on one of the best teams that never made it to the postseason.”
Jamison also recalled him as a laid back youngster.
“He was really easy going; he wasn’t a rah-rah type of guy and I remember he was one of the more quiet kids I think we ever had. It was
nice to see a guy run so much and never yell at the linemen if they weren’t blocking for him; of course that may have been because he knew what it was like,” Jamison said with a laugh. “He was just a good kid. He had a big heart for a kid his size.”
Babuschak earned more than just Class AAA First Team honors his senior year. He earned first team honors on the All-Harrison County, All-Big 10 and All-Monon Valley honors at fullback, while being named to the first team of the All-Big 10 squad as a linebacker. To round out his postseason recognition, Babuschak was the captain of the All-Harrison County and the All-Monon Valley first team offensive units.
Editor's Note: Don Babuschak heads up the field as Todd Fulks (10) looks on and Ralph Pecarro (83) looks for someone to block. Second photo shows Babuschak getting his sole interception of the year in a 40-0 stomping of Roosevelt-Wilson. Third photo shows Babuschak rambling for 10 yards in Bridgeport's only loss of the season to Fairmont Senior. Bottom photo shows Babuschak, right, join fellow captain Jack Childers in recognizing Bridgeport's Miss Football - Laura Stevens - at halftime of the Buckhannon-Upshur game.
The staff of connect-bridgeport.com would like to thank Jeff Hathaway for providing the footage for today's 40 for 40.
Click here to read the blog explaining the selection process.
Links for 40 through 7 selections HERE.