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Spotlight on Football: Titans From 1988 and '89 Reunite

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Posted by Titan Sports Blogger

Westminster held a pre-game reunion luncheon and a halftime recognition ceremony for its 1988 and 1989 NAIA Division II National Championship teams on Saturday as part of the Homecoming game festivities.

Head coach of those teams, College Football Hall of Famer Joe Fusco, provided insight on what reunions like this mean.

"It means a lot, especially because I haven't seen some of these guys in a long time," Fusco said, while marveling at how many children his former players now have. "Both of those teams were special because, one, we had great talent and, two, they were a tight-knit group. This group had a tremendous impact on Titan football."

Westminster did not lose a game in those two seasons, going 27-0 and outscoring opponents 877-307. The two national championships were the fourth and fifth out of six in team history and the third and fourth championships under Coach Fusco.

In attendance was Dave Foley, a 1991 graduate who caught the winning touchdown pass from Joe Micchia in the 1988 championship game that is simply known in Westminster football lore as "The Catch."

"It's nice to see all the old friends and relive some of the memories," Foley said.

How about retelling the diving 33-yard touchdown catch that he made into his outstretched arms with seven seconds left?

"I let other people talk about that one," Foley said. "It does get deeper every year. Instead of fourth-down-and-10, it's fourth-and-50 with one second left."

Still, it's hard to further embellish a last-second touchdown pass to win a national championship on your own snow-covered field with fans mobbing you in an end-zone celebration afterward.

"For me it's more important that we won 27 in a row," Foley added. "That's more impressive than one single play. More than anything we played as a team and we had the best team in country."

The following are recaps of those two NAIA Division II Championship games:

Westminster 21, Wisconsin-LaCrosse 14

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. (Dec. 17, 1988) - With seven seconds remaining in a 14-14 tie, the unexpected became a reality. Shocking all in attendance, Dave Foley caught a 33-yard over-the-shoulder pass from QB Joe Micchia for the miracle win. Micchia, despite nursing the flu, was voted Offensive MVP. With 21 seconds remaining in the first half, Micchia threw a 17-yard TD pass to Foley to tie the game at 7-all. When the Indians acquired a 14-7 lead, the Titans rebounded to score on a 63-yard drive to tie the game with 5:11 left. The last-minute heroics of Foley and Micchia negated what appeared to be a dual championship for the two squads. Attendees of the Miracle on Ice saw the Titans win their fourth national championship.

Westminster 51, Wisconsin-LaCrosse 30

CANTON, Ohio (Dec. 16, 1989) - On a snow-covered and frigid Fawcett Field with a minus-16 degree wind chill, the 12-0 Titans traveled to defend the national title in the shadows of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The squad was led by Kodak All-American quarterback Joe Micchia, the game's Offensive MVP. With strained ligaments in his right thumb, Micchia used the shotgun offense for the first time. Wisconsin-LaCrosse took a 14-0 lead early and a 17-14 halftime advantage. In the second half, the Titans scored first for a 20-17 lead and never looked back. Defensive MVP Louis Berry posted two fumble recoveries, setting up two of four second-half touchdowns for Micchia, who completed 18-of-33 passes. With little time remaining, Berry intercepted a two-point conversion pass, returning it 100 yards to add the final two points.


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Dave Foley makes "The Catch" in 1988