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PBS becoming Cincy classic

9-7-04, 4 p.m.

Vinny Palmer's Mom recorded the game off I Control and plans to offer it up at the weekly meeting of the Anderson High School Football Moms Club after her quarterback son has dissected it.

Dominick Goodman's Mom made three tapes of it, and plans to send it to the relatives.

Mrs. Palmer knows she won't get many takers after Goodman quarterbacked Colerain High School to one of those 48-10 hot-as-summer victories over Anderson that seals No. 1 rankings until Halloween.

But since it came on Fireworks Sunday in the heart of Cincinnati, it was much more than that. It turns out Dominick Goodman and Vinny Palmer and the guys they led out of the tunnel helped record the beginning of a legacy.

When they hit rewind a decade from now, they very well could be looking at a day frozen as the moment the next generation looked at Paul Brown Stadium as a community gathering place instead of a political bauble.

"You know how we run out, meet and then break and run to the sidelines?" Palmer asked of the Redskins' pre-game routine. "I'll never forget how excited I was running out of the tunnel and then running to the sidelines, knowing we were playing the best team I've ever played against and everybody in that big stadium was watching. I just didn't think it was that big."

They say about 30,000 came through the gates to watch Goodman, Palmer, the four other quarterbacks, and their teams Sunday in the i-wireless Fox19 Prep Classic. It brought together Goodman's now-you-see-it-now-you-don't West Side Option against Palmer's no-huddle-take-no-prisoners East Side Spread.

Before Anderson took the field against Colerain, the steel-belted frontrunner for Ohio's Division I state championship, Moeller and Elder stepped over the Mason Dixon to successfully put their regal traditions on the line against Kentucky schools from St. Xavier in Louisville and Highlands in Fort Thomas.

Who knows how many more than that didn't want to brave the RiverFest maze and stayed home to watch it Live on TV? Enough that it should become an annual deal.

"That's what I'll remember," Goodman said. "How it was on TV and we were able to go home and watch it because our game (the last game) was on tape delay. I watched it with my Mom and it was fun. I had never seen myself on TV."

How could the kids not get a kick of that? Here was Palmer getting pummeled nearly every snap by what the experts call the greatest Cincinnati prep defense since Dewey didn't defeat Truman, and there were ESPN's Merril Hoge and Fox's Cris Collinsworth giving the steady stream of analysis to the Voice of the University of Cincinnati, Dan Hoard.

"It's pretty neat because I'm listening to Merril Hoge and Cris Collinsworth calling me, 'Vinny Palmer,'" Palmer said. "I mean, I listen to those guys all the time. You always hear them and then you hear them say your name. They were calling me, 'Tough,' and I've heard them call Brett Favre, 'Tough."

Tough? Tough, too, is Goodman surrounded by the eighth fastest man in Ohio (running back Terrence Sherrer) and a Michigan fullback recruit named Mister Simpson, and keeping it himself for 180 yards.

Goodman admitted he even saw himself do something on TV he didn't think he could do.

"It was a juke. It kind of surprised me when I saw it," he said of his 45-yard touchdown run.

That was kind of nice because Goodman had a much better view of his run than the one he gets when he comes down here to watch his favorite Bengal score from that far away. Goodman says he is one of those chanting "Rudi, Rudi," for a running back named Johnson.

"Usually," he said, "I'm sitting up in the nosebleeds."

This is how the Bengals want it. An annual homage to the schoolboys. They have a soft spot for prep football. The stadium's namesake began his career in northern Ohio establishing Massillon as such a prominent national high school power that it is the home of the first Paul Brown Stadium. The first memories of Bengals President Mike Brown are wishing he was old enough to go to those games with his father.

"What happened Sunday is what we thought this stadium could become even before it was built," said Bob Bedinghaus, who manages the stadium for the Bengals. "A place that is open to the community and where events like this can help schools and charities."

The weekend before, the Bengals had already hosted 44 pee wee teams at the stadium, or about 1,000 children.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis shook his head. A prep quarterback himself who grew up 30 minutes from Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, he never had the shot Palmer and Goodman got Sunday. Throwing a touchdown pass in a NFL stadium at 17 years of age.

"It was fun to watch the kids enjoy it," Lewis said. "You could see it, what it meant to them. Everyone would love that chance."

The foundations of Lewis, Collinsworth, and Bengals Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz used 90 percent of the proceeds from the day to fund a women's center in Over-the-Rhine. None of them Pennsylvania's Lewis, Florida's Collinsworth, and California's Munoz ever had the chance these guys did Sunday.

It's a chance from which the head coaches from Anderson and Colerain never blinked. Sure, Anderson's Vince Suriano was looking at playing one of the nation's top 10 teams without the guts of a roster that went 29-1 over the previous three regular seasons.

And Colerain's Kerry Coombs, the defensive guru, was looking at opening the Pandora's Box of Suriano's offensive Xs and Os just a week after the steel cage match against defending state champion Elder.

But it was never a question.

Suriano took a poll of his coaches when the opportunity surfaced last winter, and asked them two questions. How many of them had ever coached in a NFL stadium? How many had coached a game on TV?

Only two raised their hands. Defensive coordinator Jeff Giesting had coached in the RCA Dome as a high school coach in Indiana. Special teams coach Bill Pitts had been on the tube when he worked in Eastern Kentucky's Division 1-AA championship game.

"How many of these kids are ever going to get a chance to play in a NFL stadium?" Suriano asked. "It does give your program great exposure, and I think it's going to become an event that teams want to attend. Obviously, it was tremendous motivation for us during the offseason."

Coombs, Cincinnati born and bred, also jumped at the chance. His Cardinals have been in PBS during the playoffs, but Coombs attended RiverFest as a kid and knew this would be special. He was in grade school when his father took him to that sweltering first NFL game at Riverfront Stadium, the Bengals' 31-21 victory over Oakland on Sept. 20, 1970.

"To me, it brings everything together," Coombs said. "You've got the river, the fireworks, and there aren't many places where high school football is as important as it is in Cincinnati."

Before Sunday's game started and the juices flowed, Coombs wanted his kids to realize what was going on.

"After we worked out on the AstroTurf," said Coombs of the practice field across the street, "I told them to take a minute to look at where we were going to play, and to remember it."

Goodman remembers thinking, "It's big."

Suriano wanted his kids to remember what it was like, too. He told them to think about that first time they saw snow and wanted to call somebody so they could go out and play.

East Side vs. West Side in the middle of town. But probably more alike than you think.

Are there two better prepared coaches in Cincinnati? While Coombs has his kids meet at 7 a.m. before school to watch film, Suriano and assistant Mike Cook could have taken President's Day off but chose to visit Miami of Ohio and take notes on what their coaches did with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Coombs grew up to coach his alma mater into an Ohio force. Suriano, who grew up in the die-hard football triangle of Ohio, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh in Martin's Ferry, Ohio, came south. Maybe not exactly to turn water into wine, but pretty close when you consider how far Beechmont Avenue was from even football respectability when Suriano arrived in the late '80s.

Coombs is defense. Suriano is offense. But they talk often because good coaches always talk to good coaches to become better coaches. They talk during the offseason, comparing weight room notes, and they talk during the season to kick around the Xs and Os. They even talked last week to see how they were preparing to go into PBS.

"I've got a lot of respect for Kerry," Suriano said. "He's a great coach and he's got a great team."

Suriano told Tom Groeschen of The Cincinnati Enquirer on the field after the game that Colerain is the best team he's seen in 31 years as a coach. He isn't backing down from that one. Coombs prefers to talk about what he told his kids after the game.

"Since it was on tape delay, I told them to go and watch it," Coombs said. "We gave them Monday off, and I told them to get settled, find who they wanted to watch it with, and to make sure they saw it. How often can you do that?"

Palmer made sure he took some keepsakes from a day that was bitter and sweet all the same, when the two sides met on the river. He grabbed a program, and remembered what it was like to call the shot-gun signals with the gargantuan video board hanging in front of him. He thought they would play music in between snaps, but they only did it twice.

"I'll tell you what I'll remember," Palmer said, "is how we didn't quit and we kept playing hard all the way until the end no matter the score and how good they are. I think we found out about ourselves and we're going to use it the rest of the season."

Goodman knows he has to keep leading a team that everyone knows about. "One at a time," he says. But he said he'd come back when they're still playing this 20 years from now. He remembers how this team prepared in the offseason and how this stadium was pretty much always in their thoughts.

"That's one of the things we talked about, that kept us going," Goodman said. "Being able to go into Paul Brown and play a great team."

If they ask again, Coombs knows the answer.

"Yeah, I hope they play it every year and I hope they ask us to play in it every year," he said. "I can't tell you how well the Bengals treated us. Not once did we feel like we were being treated as 'just a high school team.' Everyone treated us like we were professionals."

Any time you treat kids like that, they should do it at least once a year and put it on tape.

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