LaRosa's High School Hall of Fame: Newest inductees include Luke Kuechly, Jerry Doerger

Scott Springer
Cincinnati Enquirer

Five outstanding area sports legends, representing basketball, football, wrestling and swimming, are the latest inductees into Buddy LaRosa’s High School Sports Hall of Fame. Joining them is a legendary Cincinnati basketball coach and two fabled high school sports’ teams representing basketball and volleyball.

The new 2021 LaRosa’s Sports Hall of Fame inductees are:

  • 2004 Colerain Football Team
  • 1980 Villa Madonna Girls’ Basketball Team
  • Tara Boothe (Smith), Highlands High School, Class of 2002
  • Pete Carothers, St. Xavier High School, Class of 2004
  • Jason Druso, Anderson High School, Class of 1993
  • Luke Kuechly, St. Xavier High School, Class of 2009
  • Orlando Scales, Elder High School, Class of 2009
  • Coach Jerry Doerger, McNicholas/Moeller High Schools, 1966-2009

The latest additions to the LaRosa’s High School Sports Hall of Fame will be officially inducted into the Hall in ceremonies in summer 2022. Now in its 47th year of recognizing outstanding local high school athletes and coaches, Buddy LaRosa’s High School Sports Hall of Fame has honored 289 athletes and coaches and ten top teams since its founding in 1975. It is the oldest and one of the only Halls of Fame of its kind in the country.

COLERAIN FOOTBALL 2004

(Coach Kerry Coombs)

Kerry Coombs led Colerain to their last state football championship in 2004

Team Record: 15-0

Colerain won the Ohio Division I state football championship in 2004

Arguably one of the five best high school football teams in Greater Cincinnati history, the 2004 Colerain football team was a blitzkrieg through the regular season and post-season as well. Led by LaRosa’s Hall of Famer and MVP of the Year Dominick Goodman, the Cardinals were the Ohio Division I state champion and finished ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps and No. 5 by USA TODAY.  This team was so overpowering that its defense scored more points than it allowed during the course of the season.

Dominick Goodman was a force for the 2004 Colerain state football champions.

Coach Kerry Coombs truly believes the groundwork was laid in 2003 when the Cardinals suffered a 24-23 loss to Elder in the regional championship. Elder went on to win the state title.

“I think that disappointment motivated the team all the way through the next year culminating with a state championship,” Coombs said. “I believe what made the 2004 team different from other teams was these guys played basketball together, worked out together, hung out together from the time they were 11 years old until their last game together in Canton.  They knew each other better than anyone else, and more importantly, they truly loved each other.”

Kerry Coombs was the head coach of the 2004 state champion Colerain Cardinals. He has since coached for the Cincinnati Bearcats, Tennessee Titans and Ohio State Buckeyes

After an inauspicious start in the state title game that saw Colerain lose three fumbles within its own territory and falling behind 13th-ranked Canton McKinley, 10-6, the Cardinals put on a record-setting show with a 50-10 victory over the Bulldogs. It was the most points scored and the largest margin of victory in the big-school title game, and senior quarterback Goodman rushed for a division record 259 yards and four touchdowns. Colerain, which outscored its five tournament opponents, 191-22, set a division state finals record with 463 yards rushing and held McKinley to 127 total yards.

Mister Simpson was a vital ball carrier for the 2004 state champion Colerain Cardinals

In addition to Goodman, other key players on this squad included LaRosa’s 2005-06 MVP of the Year in offensive lineman Conner Smith (Ohio State), defensive lineman and LaRosa’s Hall of Famer Terrill Byrd (Cincinnati) and brother Tirdell, free safety Eugene Clifford (Ohio State), running backs  Mister Simpson (Michigan) and Terrence Sherrer (Minnesota), and linebackers Andre Revels (Cincinnati) and Cobrani Mixon (Kent State). This team set school records in: Most Points Scored/Season (504), Most Extra Points (Brad Schutte 62), Yards Per Carry (Sherrer, 11.8), Career TDs (Simpson 40) and Career Points (Simpson 240).

VILLA MADONNA VOLLEYBALL 1980

(Coach Carla Austin)

Carla Austin has made the LaRosa's High School Sports Hall of Fame as coach of Villa Madonna's 1980 volleyball team

Team Record: 39-2

Villa Madonna's 1980 Kentucky state championship volleyball team will enter the LaRosa's High School Sports Hall of Fame

The script could have been called “Hoosiers”, but since this took place in Kentucky, the “We Are Family” Villa Madonna team wrote their own title – a championship title! The 1980 volleyball team clearly fit the bill as the “little” school in the “big” school matchup in the fall of 1980. It was only the second state volleyball tournament in Kentucky history. With an enrollment of only 158 girls, Villa Madonna Academy came away with the Kentucky state championship crushing Our Lady of Providence, 15-4, 15-1. The Kentucky state volleyball tournament is not broken into divisions, so an overall state title meant defeating notable schools out of Louisville and Lexington.

Villa Madonna's 1980 state champion volleyball team has made the LaRosa's High School Sports Hall of Fame

This Villa Madonna squad featured four eventual Division I college athletes. Both Lori Erpenbeck and Fredda Simpson went to the University of Kentucky, Lisa Warman to Florida State University and Stephanie Scheper (University of Tennessee). Cousin Jane Scheper wound up at Thomas More College. One of the teams’ two losses came at the hands of Mother of Mercy’s team, which went on to win the Ohio Class AAA state title (coached by LaRosa’s Hall of Famer, Rose Bauer Koch). Interestingly, team captain “Freddie” Simpson starred in the movie  "A League of Their Own" as Ellen Sue, the beauty queen and shortstop.

Villa Madonna hoists the 1980 state championship trophy in Kentucky volleyball

“As a coach, one could only dream of a team willing to learn the game of volleyball, to have athletic talent, determination and the intelligence to understand all the different aspects of the game necessary to be successful,” head coach Carla Austin said. “The team members always gave 110% at each practice and game,” she continued. “They all believed in the journey we were on, to work hard, to get along, and believe we could achieve the goals we set. This was without a doubt a dream team.”

Villa Madonna's 1980 volleyball team will be inducted into the LaRosa's High School Sports Hall of Fame

Tara Boothe Smith, Highlands, Class of 2002

One of the most dominating girls’ basketball players in Kentucky, Tara Boothe seemingly could score at will as she powered Highlands throughout her career. Tara wound up at Highlands’ No. 2 all-time Scoring Leader with 2,286 career points behind another LaRosa’s Hall of Famer in the legendary Jaime Walz. Boothe also finished third all-time in rebounding. As a senior, she led the state of Kentucky in scoring (25.2 points), was ranked in the top five in the state in rebounding (13.4) and was in the top 10 in Field Goal Percentage (56.3%). She is one of only two female athletes to have her jersey retired at Highlands High School.

Highlands' Tara Boothe goes up for a shot over Dixie Heights' Sarah Wright in the first half of their Ninth Region girls basketball tournament in Hebron, March 7, 2001.

Her high school awards and honors with numerous. Tara Boothe was nominated as a McDonald’s All-American and finished as Honorable Mention All-American by Street & Smith. Selected to play in the prestigious Kentucky-Indiana All-Star Games, she went on to be named the Most Valuable Player in both the Kentucky-Ohio All-Star Game and the Kentucky Preps Classic. She was named First Team All-Northern Kentucky by both The Kentucky Post and The Kentucky Enquirer. She was a First Team All-State pick by both the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal. Boothe was three-time HM All-State by the Associated Press and was named as the Division II Player of the Year by the Kentucky Coaches Association.

She carried that scoring prowess on to the next level at Xavier University where she concluded a four-year career as the Lady Musketeers’ All-time Leading Scorer with 2,324 points. Among other XU records, she still ranks No. 1 in single-season scoring with 659 points and single-season scoring average with 21.5 points. She holds the career free throws made (490) and free throw attempts (661). She ranks No. 3 all-time in career rebounds (1,004).

Tara Boothe was named the 2006 Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Women’s Sports Association’s College Sportswoman of the Year.

She played professionally in 2006-07 in Switzerland’s Elite League for BC Beuchatel, winning the Swiss champion where she led the team in scoring and rebounding. She was named the league MVP that year. Currently, she lives in Burlington, KY with her husband, Steve and three children –Austin, Peyton and Harper. She works at Good Samaritan Hospital as a CT and X-Ray Technician.

Pete Carothers, St. Xavier, Class of 2004

St. Xavier’s swimming dynasty has always had their star swimmers, and Pete Carothers certainly fits that description during his high school career. As the Aquabombers were posting four-straight state championships, Carothers contributed nine state titles (four individual, five relays) of his own during that stretch as well as being named an 18-time All-American. He was a three-time Division I 100-yard Butterfly state champion, positing a career-best 48.29 as a senior. He also won the 100-Yard Freestyle (45.71) in 2004. He was an integral part of five state championship relay teams, including the 200-yard Medley Relay team as a senior.

Pete Carothers was a standout swimmer for St. Xavier's AquaBombers

Featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd”, Carothers was twice named both the Ohio Swimmer of the Year and The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Swimmer of the Year. An Olympic Trials qualifier, Carothers represented the United States National Junior Team in Brisbane, Australia. He went on to swim collegiately at Stanford University, where he placed fifth in PAC-10 200-Meter Butterfly (1:45.77), which ranked in the top 15 in school history. He was also an Olympics Trial qualifier as a collegian.

Pete Carothers is a new inductee into the LaRosa's High School Sports Hall of Fame

Upon graduating from Stanford, Carothers served as Captain in the United States Marine Corps and served two deployments in Afghanistan where he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat distinguished service. He went on Harvard Business School. Currently, he and his wife, Gretchen, live in Huntsville, Alabama where they have two children, Madge and MIller. Carothers is president of a Eurofins Scientific clinical testing laboratory in Huntsville.

Jason Druso, Anderson, Class of 1993

Three-sport stars may be rarer recently than in the past, but Jason Druso mastered three sports. It was not quite the combination you would think!

An outstanding football and baseball star, Druso added swimming during the winter months and he was such a talented athlete that he performed at the state championship level in two of those. Overall, he earned nine varsity letters during his prep career (three in football, four in swimming and two in baseball). He also earned another rare distinction in being inducted into the Anderson football AND swimming Halls of Fame!

Jason Druso was a multi-sport standout at Anderson before moving on to play football at Miami University

Druso captured a state championship medal in swimming when he won the 100-yard breaststroke in 58.85. He actually posted a career-best 57.60 time, No. 16 in the nation and No. 6 in his age group, as a junior when he finished state runnerup. His senior year time may have been even better if not for a football injury! Druso was selected both All-State and All-American in swimming. Football, however, was Druso’s best sport. As a senior in 1992, he was named the Ohio Division I Co-Back of the Year with another LaRosa’s Hall of Famer in St. Xavier’s Scott Sollmann. Druso rushed for 1,759 yards, collected 2,121 All-Purpose Yards and scored 29 touchdowns. A First Team All-City selection by The Cincinnati Enquirer, he was also the Southwest Ohio Division I Co-Back of the Year.  In his three-year varsity career, Druso rushed for 2,628 yards on 348 carries (7.6 average) and scored 43 touchdowns. He compiled 3,567 All-Purpose yards. As a baseball player, he led Anderson in hitting two straight seasons.

Anderson's Jason Druso is a new inductee into the LaRosa's HIgh School Sports Hall of Fame

Druso went on to Miami University and played football for the Redhawks, where he starred on defense at strong safety and was the nickel back player. Miami finished second in the Mid-American Conference in his junior and senior seasons. He played his senior season with a broken hand and still was one of the team’s leading tacklers with two interceptions. Currently, Druso lives in Valparaiso, Indiana with his wife, Katie, and four children, Ryder, Asher, Piper and Poppy. He is Vice President of Food and Beverage with White Lodging, one of the nation’s leading hospitality companies.

Luke Kuechly, St. Xavier, Class of 2009

Before his junior year at St. Xavier High School, the football coaches decided to move Luke Kuechly from tight end to linebacker. It proved to be one of the most significant decisions for both St. Xavier and Luke Kuechly as he has gone on to become, arguably, the greatest football player to come out of Greater Cincinnati this century. The Bombers went on to become Ohio Division I state champions in 2007, while Kuechly went on to earn the first of what has become an amazing list of football accomplishments that may well lead him to the National Football League Hall of Fame.

A two-time All-Greater Cincinnati League selection, Kuechly racked up 277 tackles, seven sacks, five forced fumbles, five fumble recovers, three interceptions and one touchdown in his final two seasons at St. X. Kuechly signed with Boston College, where his reputation for a ferocious style of play earned him every major award in the nation. In three seasons, Kuechly set the Boston College and Atlantic Coast Conference career tackle records with 532 tackles, just 13 short of the NCAA FBS record. In 2011, he won the Butkus Award, the Lombardi Award, the Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. He was a two-time Consensus All-American and three-time first-team All-American. He was ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year. As a sophomore, he led the nation in tackles (183 – 110 solos) AND as a junior (191 – 102 solo).

 Kuechly was the No. 9 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. He was named NFL Rookie of the Year (2012) and then named NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2013) – joining NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor as the only other player to do that. He has been a Pro-Bowl selection 7 times and a five-time First-Team All-Pro pick. He retired after 8 seasons in the NFL. Currently, Luke Kuechly lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Orlando Scales, Elder, Class of 2009

No one wanted to tangle with Elder’s Orlando Scales either on the football field or on the wrestling mat. An exceptional two-sport star at Elder, Orlando is regarded as Southwestern Ohio’s finest wrestler this century. He was the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the nation as a senior by Wrestling International Newsmagazine.

Orlando Scales was a two-sport standout at Elder in football and wrestling

As a football star on Elder’s Division I state runners-up team (2008), Orlando was named the Greater Cincinnati League Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2008. He was picked First Team All-City and All-Southwest Ohio and earned Special Mention All-Ohio in Division I. But it was on the wrestling mat, where Scales was in a league of his own. Competing in the 215-pound weight class, Scales enjoyed an amazing 112-9 career record. He won back-to-back Ohio Division I state titles as he posted a perfect 88-0 record in his final two seasons, after finishing third in the state as a sophomore. He was twice named The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Division I Wrestler of the Year and was a three-time First-Team All-City selection.

Scales carried his wrestling success on at the collegiate level where he was a two-time NAIA All-American at Notre Dame College in Cleveland. There he was a National Runner-Up and a National Champion. He was an NCAA Division II All-American in 2012-13 where he finished fifth in the nation. ND College was the National Dual Meeting Champions in Scales’ first two seasons and was runner-up in the Nationals as NCAA Division II. Scales was an assistant coach at Elder high school and a volunteer assistant at Mount Saint Joseph University.  He helped coach four state placers at Elder and three.All Americans at MSJ.

Orlando Scales is a new inductee to the LaRosa's High School Sports Hall of Fame

Scales and his wife, Ashley, currently live in Cleveland have twin boys, Orlando III and Oliver. Currently, Scales has his CDL and has become a truck driver.

Coach Jerry Doerger, McNicholas/Moeller,1966-2009

Fiery. Colorful. Even a bit controversial. All those descriptions could apply to Jerry Doerger. But the one that most aptly fits is winner.

Few coaches had a love for the game as much as Jerry Doerger as his career spanned five decades with three different schools: Moeller (1966-1970), McNicholas (1975-2002) and Clermont Northeastern (2004-10) in an amazing total of 59 years! Coach Doerger compiled a 537-354 career record which ranks No. 4 All-time in Cincinnati basketball history and ranks 35th All-time in Ohio basketball history.

McNicholas named their basketball court after former coach Jerry Doerger on Jan. 31.

His awards and accomplishments were, understandably, lengthy. His teams won 17 sectional championships, 11 district titles, nine regional titles and reached the Final Four with McNicholas five times in his career. Doerger’s teams have been named Cincinnati Enquirer City Champions twice. Inducted into the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2011, he was also inducted into McNicholas’ Hall of Fame the same year. Ten years later, in 2021, the Rockets dedicated their basketball floor in honor of Coach Doerger. He was selected for the Greater Cincinnati Hall of Fame in 1990. He has received both the Bron Bacevich Award and the Dick Berning Award.

More than 30 of his players have gone on to receive college scholarships, including LaRosa’s Hall of Famer and NFL star Steve Sylvester, University of Dayton star and Olympic Silver Medalist, Mike Sylvester, LaRosa Hall of Famer and Cincinnati Reds star, Buddy Bell and former major leaguers, Len Matuszek and LaRosa Hall of Famer Pat Tabler. Many others went on to become collegiate stars including Mike Ramey at Xavier and Craig Sanders at Northern Kentucky University. Currently, Doerger is retired and lives in Anderson.