TERRE HAUTE —
A few hundred miles away, and nearly 40 years gone by, a special game ball still occupies a fond place in Rudy Bohinc’s memories.
It sits in his home in Springboro, Ohio. He’s a physician now, specializing in internal medicine. In autumn 1974, Bohinc and his fellow Clinton Wildcats ruled high school football in the Wabash Valley. They played 10 games and won them all. Only one opponent, Greencastle, even came close.
On the night the Wildcats beat rival West Vigo, the Clinton players and coaches climbed into a bus for the short ride from the football field to the school and lockerroom. Coach Brent Anderson stood up and looked toward Bohinc, his senior quarterback.
“I remember coach Anderson throwing me the game ball after the end of that game,” Bohinc recalled by telephone Monday from his practice in Ohio. “That ball’s been a keepsake for me for a long, long time.”
The ’74 season “was a fun year,” he added.
Reflections of that season stirred with the passing of Anderson, who died Sunday afternoon in a single-vehicle accident that also seriously injured his wife, Judy, the former Terre Haute mayor. The mishap occurred near Reelsville on U.S. 40, where the couple’s Lincoln Town Car, driven by Brent, left the roadway and struck a tree, according to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department. He had suffered a heart attack, an autopsy confirmed on Monday. Anderson was 72.
After his own playing days at Schulte High School and Indiana State University, Anderson became a teacher and coach. He served as head coach at Fort Wayne Central Catholic until it closed in 1972 and then moved into a similar role at Clinton. The Wildcats were coming off a 1971 season with no victories, nine losses and one tie, according to Carl Jones’ The Morning After column in the Aug. 19, 1972, edition of the Terre Haute Star.
“He stepped into a hard situation and won players over a lot by instilling a hard-work ethic and a will to succeed,” Bohinc said.
On the brink of that first season, Anderson sounded upbeat, Jones wrote. Clinton’s roster included a core of sophomores that had notched undefeated seasons as eighth-graders and freshmen. The Wildcats’ future looked bright.
“This is a good football town with a good tradition in football,” Anderson told Jones. “I hope we can give ’em something worth seeing this year.”
Clinton went 2-8 that year.
Then 7-3 the next.
And then 10-0.
“We just kept getting better and better and better,” said Terry Short, like Bohinc, a senior on the 1974 squad.
In succession, Clinton defeated Brazil, Schulte, Owen Valley, West Vigo, North Vermillion, Sullivan, Terre Haute South, Greencastle, North Central and Lebanon. That run was impressive. Brazil didn’t lose another game in ’74. Terre Haute South had gone 10-0 in the previous season.
The victory over South stuck in Short’s mind. The small school downed a big school, with a 25-0 shutout, no less. “That was the highlight of the season for Brent, Rudy, me and the whole team,” said Short, then a running back and linebacker.
Their greatest threat came in the Western Indiana Conference clincher, a 35-34 thriller over Greencastle in Week 8. The Wildcats bounced back by rolling over North Central and Lebanon. Visions of a state championship run simmered. But in that era, only select teams qualified for Indiana’s postseason tournament through a point system in designated games.
Moments after ousting Lebanon in the regular-season finale, a jubilant Anderson said he was “thrilled” and told the Terre Haute Star, “If we can get in [the playoffs], I think we can win.” They never got the chance. The District 7 Class 2A berth instead went to defending state champ Greenfield Central. Thus, Clinton’s season ended with a victory and, ironically, a perfect record.
Anderson continued as coach through 1984, as Clinton consolidated into South Vermillion, and he later taught and coached at Sarah Scott Middle School in Terre Haute. The Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2010. A couple of years ago, former players joined others to celebrate Anderson’s 70th birthday at a Terre Haute church. Short attended the gathering.
Anderson impressed Short, the player, by demanding and earning respect. That view never changed for Short, now 56.
“He’s always been ‘the coach,’” Short said, “and he’ll always be ‘the coach’ to me.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.