Coach Charlie Huggins reached the pinnacle of boys basketball in Ohio at multiple schools, but the first state title he captured came at the end of the 1966-67 season at Strasburg High School. Surviving Huggins’ legendary grueling practices and benefitting from his uncanny ability to ideally scout opponents and make adjustments during games, the Tigers were a perfect 27-0 and remain one of the state’s all-time great small-school teams.
Averaging 80 points per contest at a time well before the three-point arc was in place, the Tigers were led on the court by record-setting forward John Studer as well as fellow seniors Ed Yackey and Charles Jones, and junior Ed Rusk. All four were named to the All-Tuscarawas County first team in 1967. Also emerging were 6-4 Gene Bayer and sophomore Butch Haswell, who like Studer, went on to play collegiately.
After an 18-0 regular season – during which it scored at least 80 points nine times – Strasburg rolled to three easy victories in sectional play and two more in the district tournament. At the regional, the Tigers posted wins of 44-28 and 81-59, showing their versatility and ability to prevail against different styles.
Huggins wanted his players to sleep in their own beds prior to the state tournament, so the team didn’t depart for Columbus until the morning of the semis – and arrived minutes before tipoff after crawling through a snowstorm for four hours. The tactic appeared to backfire as the Tigers trailed Richmond Dale Southeastern Ross by 14 at halftime and found themselves in the precarious spot of being down by six points with four minutes to go.
They trimmed that deficit to just one and, moments later, Coach Huggins called timeout with just nine seconds remaining. His instruction was to feed the ball to the 6-3 Studer, but the defense swarmed the all-state performer and the ball instead found Rusk, who canned a game-winning jumper from the opposite side of the floor at the buzzer. Strasburg, which hadn’t won a game by fewer than 14 points coming into the contest, gutted out a 55-54 triumph, setting up the also-dramatic finale.
That came the next day – March 18, 1967 – when Strasburg survived another hard fight and downed Arcanum, 54-47, then cut down the nets at St. John Arena. The team returned to a “welcome home” ceremony that drew a cheering crowd of approximately 6,000 and included an escort through town by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Studer was named the Class A Player of the Year and was tabbed the district’s Outstanding Senior Athlete of the Year by the VFW. His 701 points scored that season equated to 26.0 points per game. He, Haswell and the entire ’66-67 team were inducted in the inaugural class of the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015
Strasburg’s 27 wins came by an average margin of victory of 36 points.