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The 1959 Hillsboro football squad: Full steam ahead in the summer heat

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, as we discussed last time, first-year Hillsboro High School head football coach Bill Atsalis didn’t have much of a Tribe when he opened summer camp in August of 1959 as just 17 players came out for the team.

As a result, the 26-year-old Wilmington College graduate and two other first-year HHS coaches hit the recruiting trail, canvasing the town, knocking on doors, visiting restaurants and so forth, and were able to bolster the ranks to 33 players in a span of two days.

When summer camp opened on Aug. 20, 1959, practice was held twice daily, the first from 8-10 a.m. and the second from 3-5 p.m.

On the first days of practice, it was reported that the “33 grid candidates are getting into shape and working on basic fundamentals – blocking, tackling, stance, etc. Coach Atsalis reported that the twice-a-day sessions have been generally good, despite searing afternoon heat.”

“They’re trying hard, and they’re willing to work. Already, they’re pulling into shape. In general, they’re a light team with potential,” Atsalis said.

By Friday afternoon, Aug. 21, it was reported that the tentative linemen “had started cracking leather and the backfield candidates had started running play patterns.”

“Of course, we haven’t picked out anyone for specific positions yet,” Atsalis noted. “The first 11 positions are wide open.”

On Aug. 25, the candidates for the team, with their position indicated: Larry Daniels, halfback; Dan Kelly, end; Floyd Kessler, guard; Harry Glaze, tackle; John McBride, halfback; Wayne Murphy, tackle; Steve Swisshelm, tackle; Roger Mullenix, quarterback; Bobby Storer, quarterback; Don Jones, fullback; Larry Lucas, center; Jim Keith, guard; Dave Cole, end; Mike Collins, halfback; Jim Wright, halfback; John Brown, end; Phil Stout, center; Stuart Davis, center; Dave Cloud, end; Bob Hottle, tackle; Doug Bays, halfback; Bill Beatty, end; Willard Parr, tackle; Jack Chestnut, halfback; Ollie Gross, tackle; Ray Whiting, guard; Bob Stanforth, fullback; John Randle, tackle; Ronnie Jenkins, guard; Don Patterson, end; Joe Rogers, halfback; Dale Dent, end; and John Schuman, guard.

While Atsalis and his assistant coaches were busy with football practices, they also were taking time to drum up community support. At a Hillsboro Rotary Club meeting at noon on a late August Tuesday, Atsalis and assistants Ron Fenik and Tom Bryant were guests and briefed the club on the HHS football schedule and asked for support of the Rotarians in boosting athletics at the school.

It was written following the meeting that the “three young coaches made a definite impression on the Rotarians. They are enthusiastic workers and have done quite a job in recruiting players for the high school team. Only 17 boys showed up at the first practice, so the coaches made a house-to-house canvass and as of Tuesday, there are 37 boys out for practice. Coach Atsalis explained his procedure of conditioning the boys for football. The coaches are making a determined effort to turn out an improved team this fall.” (The varsity team finished 3-6 and 1-4 in league play in 1958.)

From there, the coaches took part in helping the Hillsboro Boosters Club reorganization efforts and outlined the needs and purposes of a booster club and relayed some of their experiences with booster clubs in other communities. New officers of the reorganized club were Kenny Humphries, president; Harold Hottle, vice president; Ben Bays, treasurer; and Warren Higgins, secretary.

“Other towns and communities have clubs with 500 to 1,000 members,” Humphries said. “I don’t see why a community the size of Hillsboro cannot do the same.”

As summer practice continues and preseason games approach, let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next time.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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