Beating Dobyns-Bennett has become a once-a-generation event for Science Hill, and the Hilltoppers had a once-a-generation caliber running back in 1994.
Terry “Kojak” Copeland rushed 29 times for 265 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown, the last time Science Hill defeated D-B. The 14-7 victory at Memorial Stadium gave the Hilltoppers (6-1, 7-3) their second straight share of a Big East Conference title, and Copeland’s performance gave him the league rushing title over Kai Bell of the Indians (5-2, 8-2).
Copeland, who also broke Gary “Shorty” Adams’ career mark at Science Hill that night (Adams rushed for approximately 3,800 yards), entered the game with 999 yards and Bell had 1,033.
“We really wanted to stop Kai and help get Kojak the rushing title,” said Scotty Busler, a starting linebacker in ’94. “Copeland didn’t have great breakaway speed, but he was tough and shifty – a little like Barry Sanders, I guess. It was hard to get a shot him, and he had great vision. He was good at hitting the hole fast and getting to that second level.
“I mean, there were runs where you’d say, ‘How’d he do that?’ I remember Mike Turner saying he was the best running back he’d coached.”
Science Hill’s defense was just as good that night. Coordinator Gary Bacon’s 5-2 defense included Jeremy Owens, Ben Rowland, Justin Kinch, Geoff Benelisha, Brandon Jones, Katon Collins, Robert Grunder, Ben Caldwell and Joey Sanders.
Science Hill intercepted Bryan Kerns four times. Benelisha’s interception helped set up the 41-yard TD run in the second quarter by Copeland, who scored seven TDs in a playoff game against McMinn County the following week.
“We made them throw the ball,” Busler said. “Kerns was a big, tall kid and they thought they could throw it on us.”
Science Hill held D-B to 43 yards on 20 rushes. Bell had 12 carries for 43 yards. He did run for a 21-yard TD, which concluded the scoring with 2:39 remaining in the game.
The Hilltoppers’ defensive effort was highlighted while denying the Indians a 4th-and-1 at the Hilltoppers 9-yard line early in the game. Busler remembers it being a fourth-and-inches.
“They didn’t give it to Kai; they gave it to the fullback (Chris Machen),” Busler said. “I think about six of us were in on the tackle.”
Owens, who went on to reach Triple-A in the San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays organizations and still plays for Brooks Robinson’s independent South Maryland Blue Crabs, still gets excited recalling that Friday night stop.
“We didn’t even wait to see the officials measure it,” Owens said. “We ran off the field hitting each other in the heads like we didn’t have any sense. I’ve never felt so much excitement.”
Owens and Busler are each quick to credit quarterback Andy Harman’s value in what Busler described as “Mike Turner’s veer offense.” Turner coached Science Hill to a victory against D-B in 1992 and a co-conference championship in ’93 before Scott McClanahan took over in 1994.
“Andy wasn’t a 6-5, 220 guy like a Brian Miller who could just stand back there and sling it all over the field,” Busler said. “But he was tough and hard-nosed, and he could read that tackle and read that end. He knew when to pitch it.”
Science Hill quarterback Justin Snyder’s toughness and option reads, although executed from a shotgun spread attack, remind Busler of Harman. Harman had 10 carries for 67 yards in the win against D-B, but gave Science Hill a 14-0 lead when he capped the second half’s opening drive with a 14-yard TD pass to Clarke Dempsey. Of course, Copeland set that up with a 54-yard run to the 14 on a 3rd-and-3 when it appeared he was initially stopped well short of the sticks.
“He was an amazing back,” Harman said.
More amazing is the fact that Science Hill hasn’t beaten Dobyns-Bennett since Copeland left. Similar to the 1972 Miami Dolphins, Busler says the ’94 victory looms large each autumn.
“When the streak is over the ’94 team’s done,” Busler said. “But I want to see the ’Toppers beat Dobyns-Bennett.”