East Liverpool’s Oliver to enter OVAC HOF as a Legend

Four multi-sport athletes and a record-setting boys track and field coach will be feted in the 13th class of Legends of Ohio Valley Athletic Conference schools.

Tom Rataiczak, Executive Secretary of the OVAC, announced the five Legends selections will be honored at the 14th annual OVAC Hall of Fame banquet on Saturday, August 19 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.

The honorees include George Cheroke, two-sport athlete at Shadyside and Ohio State University who played on first Cleveland Browns team; Harry Diehl, the architect of the dominant Stanton boys track program; Frank Gilliam, three-sport Steubenville Big Red standout who starred at the University of Iowa before enjoying long pro football career as player and administrator; Tom Harp, two-sport Barnesville athlete and college gridder who made his mark in high school and major college football coaching ranks; and Ed Oliver, one of East Liverpool’s top all-round football players and three-sport athletes who competed at Miami (Fla.) University.

Cheroke and Oliver will be honored postumously.

The OVAC Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Robinson Automotive Group of Wheeling, and the OVAC Sports Museum are located inside WesBanco Arena.

“The Legends of OVAC schools is an effort to honor athletes and coaches who competed prior to the conference start in 1943 or while their schools were not OVAC members,” Rataiczak said.

Capsule summaries of the Legend honorees:

Ed Oliver (East Liverpool, 1953 Class) — Regarded by some veteran Potter observers as the best all-round prep player at the school, he was a statewide honoree on both sides of the ball as a three-year regular. The runner, passer, placekicker, punter, linebacker and defensive back was a first team All-Ohio linebacker pick by The AP as a senior after rating second team All-Ohio defensive back honors as a junior. The UPI selected him a first team All-Ohio offensive back as a senior.

The Potters went 9-0-1 in 1952 and 8-2 in 1951 as Oliver was the team leading rusher and scorer. The program only produced one previous nine-win season.

He was also the leading basketball team scorer as a senior and lettered in baseball.

Awarded a football scholarship to the University of Miami (Fla.), he was a three-year letterman at running back. As a senior on an 8-1-1 record team ranked 6th in the national AP Poll, he was second on the team in rushing and scoring.

After graduation, he coached in he high school ranks. He is deceased.

George Cheroke (Shadyside, 1940 Class) — He was a football and wrestling standout for the Tigers, which produced the area’s first wrestling power under coach Art Kirkland. The four-year grappler won the one-class Ohio heavyweight title in 1940 after capturing the 1939 crown at 165 pounds. As a sophomore, he placed third at 154 pounds. The Tigers placed second to Cleveland John Hay, 21-20 for 1940 team laurels after Shadyside defeated John Hay in a dual meet.

Cheroke, nicknamed Chief, also was a stellar 5-foot-9, 185-pound football guard. The three-year gridder, and two-time team captain, earned All-Valley honors as a two-way standout. The Tigers went 9-1 and 7-2-1 his final two seasons.

He enrolled at Ohio State to compete in both football and wrestling. Playing for coach Paul Brown on 6-1-1 record team, the sophomore moved into starting lineup in fifth game after a teammate injury. He left OSU before 1942 season to serve in the Air Force during World War II.

After his discharge in 1946, he again opted to play for Paul Brown, who was starting the Cleveland Browns in first year in All-American Conference. Cheroke played in 12 games for the 13-2 record Browns, which defeated New York, 14-9 in championship game. After one season, he re-enlisted in the Army for a 20-year career, retiring in 1965 to enter business in California.

He passed away in 1986.

Harry Diehl (Mt. Morris, Pa., 1952 Class) — When he joined the Stanton High athletic program in 1960 as head basketball coach and assistant coach, there was no track program. So, he guided the 1961 and 1962 basketball teams to unbeaten regular seasons and overall 19-1 and 23-1 records.

In 1963, without a home track, he started the Stanton boys track program and competed in the Indian League at Mingo. Four years later, the first all-weather track in the Ohio Valley was installed at Stanton and the Indian League moved its meets from the Mingo cinder track to Stanton. Diehl’s teams then reeled off 75 consecutive dual meet wins, reportedly an OV record, from 1967-76 as Stanton fielded one of the most dominant small school track programs in the area. Other teams in the Indian League included Mingo, Jefferson Union, Toronto, Cadiz, Springfield, United Local and Beaver Local.

Stanton won multiple Ohio district titles, two Class A regional crowns and competed in state events. While no first places were recorded, sophomore sprinter Bob Haught, who signed a University of Alabama football scholarship, posted the state’s fastest 440-yard Class A time in 1970 before placing second at the state meet. OVAC Hall of Famer Blaine Rose also competed for Diehl, who ran track and cross country at West Virginia U.

Stanton joined the OVAC in 1981 and Diehl’s teams won Class A titles in 1983 and 1986, his final year at the helm.

Diehl also served as an assistant football coach including the 9-0 record 1966 team with head coach Glenn Trout.

Diehl received several awards before retiring in 1986. Included the second Robert McKelvey Award from the Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dans in 1976 and the Cal Giffin Award from the OVAC in 1993.

He resides in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Frank Gilliam (Steubenville, 1952 Class)–He, and charter OVAC Legend honoree Calvin Jones, led Big Red to itsmost successful football-boys basketball year (1951-52) in history. The court team is the winningest (28-1) in Big Red history with an unbeaten regular season followed by eight post-season wins in Ohio’s largest Class A sectional, district and regional tournaments plus wins over Toledo Central Catholic and Akron North in the state event. Big Red bowed to Middletown, 63-53 in the finals. Gilliam was team captain.

The 1951 Big Red football team went 9-1, losing only to Massillon (13-6) and routing Canton McKinley (63-6) before being ranked No. 2 behind Massillon in the final AP state poll.

Gilliam, nicknamed Shag, was a two-way end who earned third team largest class All-Ohio plus All-Eastern Ohio and All-Valley honors. He played in the W.Va.-Ohio All-Star Game.

He lettered three years in basketball and two each in football and baseball. The diamond team went 16-3 his junior year.

The University of Iowa recruited Jones, Gilliam and running back Eddie Vincent and the threesome were called the “Steubenville Trio” by Iowa media. Gilliam was a three-year starter at end including a sophomore season when the Hawkeyes tied Notre Dame, 14-14 and ranked No. 9 nationally. He st out the 1955 season with a broken leg and returned in 1956 as Iowa went 9-1 to win the Big Ten title and a first-ever trip to the Rose Bowl, beating Oregon State, 35-19. Gilliam was All-Big Ten and second team All-American.

In 1989, for Iowa’s 100th football anniversary fete, fans selected Gilliam (and Jones) to an All-Time Iowa team.

Gilliam was drafted in the seventh NFL round by the Green Bay Packers but opted to follow Jones to the Canadian Football League. He played three seasons at Winnipeg before becoming an assistant coach (1966-70) at Iowa. He then joined the Minnesota Vikings for a 36-year career in scouting and personnel.

He resides in Windermere, Fla.

Tom Harp (Barnesville, 1945 Class) — A Shamrock football and basketball standout and college athlete who later made his mark in the coaching world. A four-year quarterback and fullback in football, he was a three-year basketball standout who helped the Shamrocks to won-lost records of 18-4, 16-6 and 16-4 and titles in th East Ohio Athletic League. He was selected All-Conference has last two years.

He was recruited by Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman to play football at Miami of Ohio and lettered as a freshman fullback before he was drafted into military service for two years with the Navy.

Returning home in 1948, he enrolled at Muskingum College and played quarterback and fullback on two Ohio Athletic Conference title teams in 1949-50.

After graduation, he turned to coaching and became head coach at Carrollton High from 1951-53 with a 20-6-1 record. He became one of over 100 coaches to apply for the vacant Massillon Washington High head coaching job and landed the job vacated by Brilliant native Chuck Mather, who compiled a 57-3 record before opting for University of Kansas job.

Harp coached Massillon two years to 17-2-1 record and the state No. 1 and No. 2 rankings by The Associated Press.

He then joined the college ranks as backfield coach at Army before a 15-year stint (1961-77) as head coach at three colleges — Cornell, Duke and Indiana State. The 1958 Army team, led by Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins, was ranked No. 3 in the nation.