This year (2013) New Albany sports fans are enjoying another great football season as the Eagles are knee deep in play-off games and another chance to be State Champs. Not always was the case, 65-years ago a group of dedicated parents and students welded goal post, made a practice field and dressed the first team New Albany had in years. It was a brutal season as detailed by Brad Willson in this October 17, 1948 Columbus Sunday Dispatch Magazine article. Thank you to Sally Conrad for dropping off the article at Eagles, Dennis Keesee.
Six minutes left in the ball game and the score 74 to 0, Grove City. New Albany had managed one first down, with the aid of a penalty. For the afternoon’s effort, the boys from Plain Township School had a bruising 45 yard deficit. On the New Albany bench, the reserve “strength” consisted of a scanty huddle of 11 lonely substitutes. The youngster at the far end could’ve passed for a mascot, except for his white jersey with the red numbers and a shiny marked helmet which kept slipping down over his eager eyes. He’d weigh maybe 86, in complete grid gear and after drinking four double malts.
In a thin, changing 14 year old boys voice he piped, “C’mon fellows, we still got nearly six minutes!”
Nobody on the New Albany side of the field figured his appeal was hilariously optimistic. Football, as played on the frayed shoestring at New Albany, is no joke.
The game ended at 74 – zero, but New Albany wasn’t glum.
“They’ll keep trying,” predicted coach Russ Salberg.”And they’ll get better.”
It’s tough to find a strong football squad in a school with only 50 boys.”In fact,” smiled Salberg, the young coach,” it’s tough to find a squad.”
But the boys and their parents were agreed that New Albany should try again. And “try” is something they know how to do at the intersection of Routes 62 and 161.
Before Russ, who looks like a high school senior himself, could start giving them plays there were other problems.
The boys built a partition for a locker room. The five showers didn’t work. The tract of ground between the cornfield and the playground had to be seeded, rolled and lined for a practice field. Somebody borrowed some 2 inch pipe and the players donned welders’ mask and came up with two goalpost. Lineman’s chains and down markers appeared from the school shops. Bravely the school went $1499.73 in debt for equipment and uniforms for the squad of 25. The same uniform served for practice and games. On the night before a game, the boys wash their jerseys to present a bright, if inexpert, front to the foe.
Stars and second-stringers (there are no third stringers) share the sweeping and cleaning of the locker rooms. Boys with the longest walk home or the heaviest list of farm chores usually are given first chance in the showers. Don Irvine, a tackle, Farms 125 acres. He milks eight Cows and feeds 25 hogs before it gets light. He’s lucky, though, because he has a car. Some of the boys bicycle or hike a couple of miles home after practice. Ray Morrow is another lineman who has cows to milk twice daily and faces a two-mile hike after practice. The coach knows about these things firsthand. He was a small-town boy and played four years at the Navarre, Ohio, High School, earning all-state mention his final season. Then he went to Bucknell to play some tackle and now keeps busy teaching math and science, coaching four sports and working on his degree at Ohio State. Of course he also takes care of the equipment and doubles as trainer. Superintendent S. J. Benedict is faculty manager, arranges schedules, hires officials, supervises tickets, plans and assigns the job of mimeographing programs and between times wonders whether they’ll be able to pay off that $1499.73 sent debt from their receipts.
Things should get better for the Plain Township school, with its 287 pupils and 12 teachers. Morgan” brute” Harlor, 5 feet tall, 95 pounds, substitute tailback, staggering under the weight of his shoulder pads, says,” wait till next year.”
More realistic, superintendent Benedict says, “at least we should have our own field.” This year New Albany played even its “home” games at opponent’s stadiums. The athletic boosters, a group of plain Township fans, have chipped in $1200 for a 4 acre piece of pasture adjoining the school. Right now New Albany’s forte is spirit and willingness. Football teams have been built on less.