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Blue Lions champs on gridiron in 1968

Bob Patton-
As the schools in the South Central Ohio Athletic League prepared for the 1968 football season, league coaches were picking McClain and Washington as the top threats to win the big trophy – perhaps, the gold football, which was symbolic of an undefeated (league) season.
    McClain, the heaviest team in the league, would have some fast men in the backfield to go with an experienced quarterback. Coach Paul Orr had 47 candidates, including linemen that would average over 200 pounds. Fourth-year Washington coach Moe Pfiefer was welcoming back 18 lettermen, including senior fullback Lowell Harper. Harper had gained more than 1,100 yards last year, and scored 96 points. The Blue Lions would almost certainly be in the running for a league title, and Harper would be a strong candidate for All-State.
    Coach Jim Knowles, at Wilmington, had only five starters returning and very little size. This would be the smallest team the Hurricane had fielded in years. But they had 44 hard-working candidates, and had looked good in some early scrimmages.
    Paul Starr, who had directed the Circleville Tigers to a 41-8-1 record over the past five years, had resigned to accept the head coaching job at Newark. He was replaced by Denny Williams. Williams was taking over a squad which lost all but three starters, but did have several good players coming up from the reserve team. The Tigers also had two backfield players who had transferred from Amanda Clearcreek. They were being counted on to boost the Tigers’ hopes, in the SCOL.
    John Beckley was back at Miami Trace, where the Panthers were beefed up in numbers and experience this year. The Panthers could be a dark horse in the league race, but they were something of an unknown quantity. They would be led by a sophomore quarterback, Jeff Blake.
    James Stanley was the new coach at Hillsboro. He had only 33 candidates, but he was pleased with the attitude and the work ethic that he had observed.
    Stanley planned to operate primarily from a winged T, but also throw in a little pro-type offense. Hillsboro lacked overall speed and quickness, a factor that caused most of the league coaches to project the Indians to bring up the rear in the league.
    On Sept. 6, Hillsboro opened their season at home, with Lebanon providing the opposition. The Warriors provided a little more opposition than the Indians bargained for, totaling 305 yards of offense en route to 22-6 win over the Indians. The same night, the hefty (but green) McClain Tigers were overwhelmed by London 32-0.
    The only victorious SCOL team in their non-league openers was Washington. The Blue Lions trounced class A Clinton Massie 33-12.
    The following Friday, the Jackson Ironmen visited Greenfield, and bombed the Tigers, 40-8. Meanwhile, the Hillsboro Indians won their first game since 1965, routing the Blanchester Wildcats, 14-0, and Washington scored on the final play of the game at Chillicothe, to edge the Cavaliers, 6-0. Also, Wilmington edged Cincinnati Withrow, 18-6. Miami Trace outlasted Pleasant View, 14-6.
    McClain fell to 0-3 in week three of the 1968 season when Chillicothe walloped them, 48-0. In Hillsboro, visiting Franklin intercepted five passes and crushed the Indians 28-6.
    The league season got under way on Sept. 27. McClain traveled to Wilmington to meet the Hurricane.  Circleville journeyed to Hillsboro, while Miami Trace played Washington in Washington C.H. Wilmington beat McClain, 40-6, Circleville spotted Hillsboro an early 6-0 lead, but ran the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown and beat the Indians, 33-12. Lowell Harper carried 39 times for a grand total of 241 yards, and the Blue Lions downed Miami Trace, 42-20.
    Hillsboro senior Nancy Burkett was crowned Homecoming queen prior to the Hillsboro-Wilmington game Oct. 11. The attendants included Judy Collins, Terri Wagoner, Janice Shaffer and Charlene Dean.
    Wilmington, however, spoiled the event by pummeling the Indians, 36-0. In other games, Washington beat McClain, 35-6, and Miami Trace edged Circleville, 21-14.
    Week five saw McClain play well against visiting Circleville in the first half. But the Tigers faltered in the second half, as Circleville dumped McClain, 34-6. McClain’s record was now 0-5. At Miami Trace, the Panthers stormed to a 51-0 halftime lead over Hillsboro, as they pulverized the Indians, 71-28, in one of the highest scoring games in the history of the SCOL. In an important SCOL match-up, WCH edged Wilmington, 18-16.
    McClain entertained Hillsboro on Homecoming weekend Oct. 18, with an opportunity to get not only their first home win of the season but their first win anywhere. In a game filled with fumbles, penalties and lost opportunities, the Indians got out of town with a 26 – 22 victory. In other games, Washington crushed Circleville, 35-8, and Wilmington beat Miami Trace, 18-8.
    October 25 marked the final round of SCOL games. The final two weeks  of the season featured non-league contests. League-leading Washington traveled to Hillsboro, where the Indians blew several great scoring opportunities, and the Blue Lions racked up a 36-6 win. McClain played Miami Trace and absorbed their most one-sided shellacking of the season, 62-6. Wilmington shut out Circleville, 32-0. The last two weeks of the season saw McClain drop two more games to Columbus Mohawk and Hamilton Township, while Hillsboro defeated Goshen, 38-12, and lost to Clinton Massie, 28-14.         The final standings for 1968 were:
Washington — 5-0, 8-2
Wilmington — 4-1, 7-3
Miami Trace — 3-2, 6-4
Circleville — 2-3, 3-7
Hillsboro — 1-4, 3-7
McClain — 0-5, 0-10
    Hillsboro and McClain placed two players each on the All-SCOL football team. Jack Monts de Oca, senior tailback for the Indians, was named as an All-SCOL halfback, and Rick Pierce, senior end, was named to the defensive unit as a linebacker. Ron Coleman, defensive halfback for the McClain Tigers and Steve George, Tiger tackle were both named to the defensive unit.
    Following are the All-SCOL selections: Stanley Brown, WCH; David Da Rif, WCH; Darrell Smith, Miami Trace; Dick Williams, Wilmington; Dale Willis, WCH; Don Cordel, CHS; Doug Gordley, Wilmington; David Ault, MT; W. Garrison, CHS; Steve George, McClain; Eric Kellough, WCH; Dave McClure, MT; Dave Stratton, Wilmington; Rick Pierce, Hillsboro; Dave Pusateri, Wilmington; Jeff Tarbutton, Miami Trace; Karl  Rosenburg, Wilmington; Bev Lee, MT; J. Monts de Oca, Hillsboro; Rick Simms, CHS; Chuck Fazio, Wilmington; Gary Mount, WCH; Lowell Harper, WCH; and Ron Coleman, McClain.
    Bob Patton is a Highland County sports historian and a contributing writer to The Highland County Press.[[In-content Ad]]

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