KARNS CITY, Pa. – Last week I got the chance to catch up with a Smethport legend, Mike Cioffi.
Cioffi was one of the stars of the great Smethport teams of the early 1990s that won that won three straight District titles (Class 1A in 1991 and 1992 and Class 2A in 1990) and played for the PIAA Class 1A title in 1992, one of only two D9 teams to ever play for a PIAA football title (Keystone played for the championship in 1989.
Cioffi is now a businessman in the Greensburg, Pa., area where he lives with his wife and two kids. He says his memories of playing for the Hubbers are still strong to this day.
“The memories were the town all came together,” Cioffi said. “That was something 25 years ago we come back today and the team today (the interview was conducted on the day of Smethport’s D9 title-game loss to Coudersport), you see the town coming back together. That says a lot. You still have the same friends from 25 years ago that I have today.”
Watch Mike Cioffi’s full interview.
Cioffi had a strong career at Smethport including a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons (1991 and 1992) and is probably remembered best for his 27-yard touchdown run with 8:40 left in the fourth quarter to help the Hubbers to a PIAA semifinal win over Rochester, 6-0, in 1992.
Long-time District 9 radio announcer Barry Morgan remembered the play well saying Cioffi made a spin move at the goal line to get into the end zone that night.
“Looking back on it, we probably took it (getting to the state champion) for granted,” Cioffi said. “It was a great experience. We probably should have lived in the moment a little bit more. That doesn’t happen a lot after you graduate. It was a great experience.”
Cioffi said he and his Hubber teammates got an extra week to savior in getting to the title game because the originally scheduled championship game in Altoona, Pa, Dec. 11, 1992, was postponed a week because of a massive snowstorm.
“We had the experience for a week longer because we had a delay,” Cioffi recalled. “We had a pretty bad snow storm, so we had two weeks to prepare for the Scotland team.”
That extra preparation seemed like it might pay off when Smethport roared to an early 7-0 lead with a 62-yard opening drive that included 57 yards on three carries from quarterback Jeff Defillippi and ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Matt Baun.
But Scotland had too much talent and scored twice in the second quarter – going into the game Smethport hadn’t allowed more than one touchdown in any game while recording eight shutouts – on an 8-yard Stan Sandle to Roger Beckwith pass and a 1-yard Duane Haney touchdown run that coupled with a pair of 2-point conversion made it a 16-7 lead for Scotland at the half.
A 7-yard Sandle to John Thornton pass in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach but didn’t diminish the accomplishments of the boys from the rural town on Route 6.
“It was nice,” Cioffi, who finished his senior season with 1,221 yards rushing and 17 TDs, said. “I got lucky. I had (playing in the state playoffs) three years in a row. I remember the first year, we played the Coudersport Falcons (in D9 title, a 19-0 win) and then we went on and played Farrell and lost a pretty bad one (63-14) down in DuBois. We came back the second year and lost to the Rochester team. We were down 29-0 at halftime and the game ended up 29-20. We came back the following year to obviously beat Rochester and go onto states. I think we grew a lot in those three years.”
Cioffi had the chance to play for one of the top coaches in District 9 history in Carl Defillippi, whose career spanned from before the District 9 playoff-era started yet still saw him win six District champions (all in a nine-year span from 1990 through 1998).
“It was an awesome experience,” Cioffi said. “Coach Defillippi was very detail oriented. We knew basically what was coming before it was coming. He was a very good coach.”
While Cioffi now lives in Greensburg, he still cherishes coming back to Smethport, where his parents still live, whenever he can.
“I am a simple man,” Cioffi, who actually joined Morgan on The Hound’s broadcast of the Coudersport/Smethport title game last week, said. “I like to come back to my hometown and enjoy. I was back (two weeks) ago doing some hunting in the town. My parents still live in the town, and it is always great to come back and see folks you haven’t seen in a while.”
1992 PIAA CLASS 1A TITLE GAME BOX SCORE
Played Dec. 18, 1992, in Altoona, Pa. (2 weeks after semifinal win over Rochester because of a snowstorm)
Scotland 24, Smethport 7
Score by Quarters
Smethport 7 0 0 0 – 7
Scotland 0 16 0 8 – 24
SM – Matt Baun 1 run (Jeff Defillippi kick)
SC – Roger Beckwith 8 pass from Stan Sandle (John Thornton pass from Sandle)
SC – Duane Haney 1 run (Hafid McIntrye pass from Sandle)
SC Thornton 7 pass from Sandle (Haney run)
Smethport – Stat –
5 – First Downs – 12
24-111 – Rushes-Yards – 42-215
0 – Passing Yards – 45
0-5-1 – Passing: Comp-Att-Int – 3-8-1
29- 111 – Total Plays Yards – 50 – 260
2-1 – Fumbles-Lost – 3-0
3-34 – Punts-Avg. – 3-35
6-50 – Penalties-Yards – 6-41
Rushing: Smethport – Mike Cioffi 8-51, Jeff Defillippi 12-44, Matt Baun 5-9, Jason Herzog 1-6, Woody Maynard 3-1. Scotland – Duane Haney 23-141, Juan Maniqo 8-36, Stan Sandle 6-23, Twymon Forth 2-8, Roger Beckwith 307
Passing: – Jeff Defillippi 0-for-4, 0 yards. Mike Cioffi 0-for-1, 0 yards1 interception. Scotland – Stan Sandle 3-for-7, 45 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception. John Thornton 0-for-1, 0 yards.
Receiving: Scotland – John Thornton 2-37, Roger Beckwith 1-8.
MIKE CIOFFI STATS 1990-1992
1990 – 832 yards rushing, 12 TDs (Doesn’t include Farrell PIAA semifinal game where he scored a 13th TD)
1991 – 181 carries, 1,290 yards, 15 TDs (Doesn’t include Rochester PIAA semifinal game where he scored a 16th TD)
1992 – 223 carries, 1,221 yards, 17 TDs (Final stats)