Over the past few decades, Mentor has cemented itself as one of the premier high school football programs in the state of Ohio.
There has been 600 times, the Cardinals have left the field of play victorious.
It is a resume loaded with conference titles, marquee nonconference wins and signature playoff victories.
Not everyone can tell you the date all of those big games fell on the calendar. There is one date that most Mentor fans and alumni can recall quickly even though it occurred a half century ago.
"I always remember Sept. 6," former Mentor coach Dick Crum said.
For fans of Mentor -- past or present -- Sept. 6, 1968 is a day that should be burned in their football memories forever. You better believe the grizzled old football junkies or today's rabid historians in Massillon won't soon forget that particular Friday night.
Nor will any of the 13,290 who packed Tiger Stadium forget the numbers on the scoreboard as the Cardinals left the hollowed grounds in Stark County to board buses to come back home.
Mentor 19, Massillon 0.
It was not a scorekeeping mistake. It was not a fluke. As Crum professes, "This was no accident."
Mentor went to the cradle of high school football, the house Paul Brown built, the winner of 22 state championships (prior to the playoffs) and nine national titles and soundly beat the Tigers.
"I remember one of the newspapers had a headline that read something like "Mentor Who?" Crum said.
"With that game, it was a psychological thing. Teams from Northeast Ohio weren't supposed to be able to play at that level. And if we just would have squeaked by them or kicked a lucky field goal at the end, maybe it would have been different. But this was no fluke. And I think overall it was a huge game, not just for Mentor, but for all of Northeast Ohio. I think other people in the state maybe didn't take us seriously, but that game got their attention."
Crum calls the win at Massillon: "With no playoffs back then, I guess you could say it was our first big victory" -- the 19-0 triumph still gets the attention of quarterback Rick Galbos.
In the monumental triumph over the Tigers, Galbos had a 2-yard TD run and a 7-yard touchdown pass to Paul Burkhardt.
Most of what Galbos recalls most vividly about the game was the difference in perception between the mighty Tigers and the visiting Cardinals.
"I think I heard around town some people were saying we would get beat by 35 points that night. I guess as players, we really didn't know what we were getting into," Galbos said. "I'm sure the coaches knew what was on the line, but for us, we were in uncharted territory playing a team like Massillon down there. And to make a move into the big time, we had to win that game. I don't think we were in the big time yet in 1968."
Apparently, Massillon still took the matchup with Mentor as a big-time game as both Galbos and Crum remembered a "spy" from the Tigers' camp checking out the Cardinals' practice.
"He wasn't a very good spy because I knew who he was," Crum said.
Galbos said Crum had an interesting strategy to waste the uninvited Massillon visitor's time and screw up his scouting report.
"We were practicing on this unlined, dirt field and coach stopped practice and told us to run a dive play up the middle 20 times in a row because he caught a Massillon guy spying on us," Galbos said. "The coaches really had us in a zone for that game with everything they did. We were so excited to play that game. It was great motivation. They were all really great."
On Sept. 6, 1968, the Mentor Cardinals were as great as they could be for four quarters in the home of the definition of greatness in Ohio high school football lore.
Mentor used the win as a springboard to a 10-0 season and a state runner-up finish in the state voting behind Upper Arlington. Massillon -- which was 9-1 the year before in 1967, with the lone loss coming against Upper Arlington, 7-6 -- finished 1968 at 7-3.
The win over Massillon on Sept. 6, 1968, just may have -- in some ways -- helped pave the road for the success of the current Cardinals - reigning Division I state runner-up. Or if it didn't pave the road, perhaps the 19-0 win at least helped other teams locate Mentor on the map.
Current Mentor coach Steve Trivisonno, a 1981 grad and former Cardinals defensive back, is well aware of the history of the program and the men who laid the groundwork for the incredible success of the team today.
"That game is one of those that we all know, I grew up as a young boy around 6 years old and we knew about the win over Massillon, it is just like the game Mitchell Trubisky played against St. Ignatius in the playoffs - you remember," Trivisonno said.
"It is a signature game for the program. It put Mentor on the state map. And of course to win the game down there at Massillon was huge."
Mentor has now reached a milestone of 600 wins in program history, but Sept. 6, 1968 will always go down as one of - if not the greatest - victories the Cardinals have ever achieved.
"That was a great team with great players and really at the time maybe people didn't know about Mentor football," Trivisonno said. "Coach Crum and his guys really did something special that day. Something we all remember."
September 5, 2018