Tullai goes out in style 26-0 win over rival Boys' Latin caps 41-year career of St. Paul's coach Football

November 06, 1993|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

The scene became slightly unbelievable at St. Paul's School yesterday during the final minutes of Mitch Tullai's farewell to coaching football after 41 years.

The referee had to stop the game and walk over to the sideline to get all the television crews and photographers off the field as they encircled Tullai to capture the emotions of the man in the final moments of an incredible career.

And when Tullai was congratulated after the game by television sportscaster Jim McKay, the legendary St. Paul's coach seemed to realize that he was truly someone special.

Tullai went out in grand style with a 26-0 victory over Boys' Latin.

Adding to the storybook finish for Tullai was that on the last play of the game, St. Paul's defensive back Richard Reid intercepted a pass and returned it 25 yards deep into Boys' Latin territory.

Reid and all the St. Paul's players seemed bent on giving their beloved coach something to remember in his retirement.

For Tullai's final game, hundreds of people packed into the St. Paul's stadium to be part of a memorable day.

Commemorative T-shirts were sold and commemorative programs for the game were available. Everyone was invited to a reception for Tullai after the game.

Boys' Latin fans showed the ultimate respect for Tullai at halftime when they paraded around the field with a banner honoring the coach of their bitter rival.

Even 7- and 8-year-old boys pressed as close to the St. Paul's bench as possible to get a glimpse of the man they had heard so much about.

"That's Mitch Tullai," said one of the boys in slight awe of the man dressed in a blue sweater, a light-blue shirt and light brown pants.

Through 41 years and a 209-126 record, Tullai, 65, never changed his coaching style.

He exhorted his players, praised them for doing well, expressed disappointment when they made mistakes and celebrated with them aftertouchdowns.

As usual, he had time to work the officials a little and squeeze every precious second out of timeouts to give instructions to his players.

When the final whistle sounded, the St. Paul's players hoisted Tullai on their shoulders for a ride and some more celebrating.

The Crusaders (7-2-1, 4-0-1) clinched a tie with Cardinal Gibbons, a 57-0 winner over Spalding yesterday, for the Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference championship with the lopsided victory. It was the fifth straight conference title (outright or co-champs) for St. Paul's.

Then several people gathered around to share some final moments with Tullai on the football field before he left.

"I want to relax and savor this moment for a little," said Tullai, who seemed to be fighting back tears. "I'm almost speechless. Coaching at St. Paul's and having all these tremendous kids is worth more than any amount of money I could ever have. I'll never forget this day."

Neither will St. Paul's fullback Chris Berrier who rushed for 135 yards on 22 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead the rout.

Boys' Latin coach Drew Haugh said of Tullai: "He's a legend. I'm sorry to see him go. He dedicated his life to these kids and made an incredible sacrifice. He went out the same way he coached all these years, with class."

Tullai, who said he might come back some day as an assistant coach, said it was impossible to compare him to any other coach.

"There's only one Joe Paterno, only one Don Shula and only one Mitch Tullai," he said. "People only listen when [Vince] Lombardi speaks. But I'm saying right now that football is all about blocking. We had four blocks on that 71-yard touchdown run by Chris Berrier."

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