Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The roots of a rivalry

Friday night the Little Giants, followed by their loyal fanbase will make the trip east on US 6 to do battle with their ancient arch-rivals from Sandusky High. The game will be the 104th meeting in a series that began back in 1895 when each school played their first-ever football game, and it just so happened to be against each other. Who would have known that at the end of the contest, and a 6-0 Sandusky win, that one of Ohios historic rivalries was born? Or was it already alive?

Let's backtrack 44 years to 1851. The following is taken from a WPA writers program project on the history of Fremont and Sandusky County copyright 1940. The topic is our historic War of 1812 cannon know as "Old Betsy".

Close to the grave stands OLD BETSY, the single cannon available for the defense of the fort. The six-pounder, originally captured from the French during the French and Indian War (1756-1763) , was at Fort Pitt from 1814 to 1851, when Brice J. Bartlett, mayor of Fremont, discovered its whereabouts and made arrangements to bring it back. The War Department missent the cannon to "Lower Sandusky," although the name of the town had long since been changed to Fremont. As a result Old Betsy landed in Sandusky where local patriots, eager to keep the relic, promptly buried it under a barn. When the cannon failed to reach Fremont, Mayor Bartlett hired a detective, who quickly found it. The citizens of Fremont then added another episode to Old Betsys life. They made a night foray on Sandusky and brought the war relic home in triumph.

Now I'm sure the local folk, led by Mayor Bartlett, had no idea when rescuing Old Betsy that not only were they adding another episode to her life that they had also fired the first shot in a now ancient rivalry between the two communities.

Back to 1895 and football. Just as the Mayor couldn't have known in 1851 what would transpire in the future football seasons to come, the young people playing that first game in Sandusky could not have know the length, intensity, and history that would develop between the two schools. But we know, and are so lucky to be a part of it.

From the very early years on Ross-Sandusky became known far and wide as a tremendous rivalry. Big crowds would show up every time the two teams battled. After that intial 1895 contest, the two teams met again in 1896, a 12-0 Sandusky win. The two teams would not meet again until the 1906 season when they met twice. Once again the Erie Countians won, both times. In 1907 Fremont was able to battle Sandusky to a tie. Fremont was finally able to taste victory over Sandusky in 1908 by a 16-11 score. Later that same 1908 season the two teams met again and Sandusky was leading 33-6 when the demoralized Fremont team quit during the second half. Sandusky was awarded a win by forfeit, 1-0. The two programs met again in 1909 and 1910 before missing each other in 1911. From 1912 to 1920 the teams met yearly. The 1921 season would have seen another meeting between the two but a smallpox epidemic shortened the season for both schools, cancelling their annual showdown.

The two rivals were back at it in 1922 and continued playing nonstop until the 1943 season when Sandusky was replaced by Fremont St. Joe for one year. That period of '22 to '42 saw some strong Sandusky teams. Sandusky dominated the Little Big Seven and the Buckeye League. The Blue Streaks ruled the rivalry in the 1930's going 9-0-1 against Ross from '30 to '39. The mid-twenties to late thirties period was when the two met in the final game of the season in their annual Thanksgiving Day battle.

After not playing in 1943, the Little Giants and Blue Streaks met once again in the 1944 season(a scoreless tie) and would meet every year until the breakup of the Buckeye Conference in 1986. The mid-1940's through mid-1980s saw some of the greatest football both schools have played. Ross dominated Sandusky in the late 1940's including the 1949 season when coach Les Binkleys Giants crushed Sandusky 47-7. The 50's were ruled for the most part by the Mal Mackey coached Little Giants which featured Ross going 29-0-1 in 1955, 56 and 57.

Just as the 50's was a great decade for the Little Giants, the 1960's was a monster decade for the Blue Streaks. In fact the Blue Streaks were known as the "monsters of the midway" during that decade. The Blue Streaks crushed a couple of bad Ross teams during that period by scores of 54-0 and 74-0.

From the huge Ross upset, 28-27 over state ranked Sandusky in 1969 to the end of the Buckeye Conference in 1986 the two rivals squared off regularly for the conference title. 1983 was a highlight year for the two. Week 10 of '83 the two unbeaten and state ranked powers battled at Strobel Field for the Buckeye Conference title. Ross won that game 7-0. The following Saturday night at Harmon Stadium the two rivals battled again in the regional championship game. Ross won that one as well 7-0.

Sadly the two schools did not meet in 1987 or 1988 after the Buckeye broke up and they joined seperate conferences. But come 1989 the two schools made up for lost time and staged a battle royale at Strobel Field. Sandusky took a quick 17-0 lead in the game only to see Ross battle back to win 21-17. Since that game the two have met yearly. From 1997 to this year the game has been in week 1o. Since that 1989 game that Little Giants and Blue Streaks have met 20 times consecutively. Ross leads during that time span 12-8.

What rivalry can boast coaching matchups like Jeff Dehaven vs. Les Binkely. Chuck Shuff vs. Gene Kidwell. How about Mal Mackey vs. Earle Bruce? And now we have Derek Kidwell against Mike Franklin.

Thom Darden, Tommy Liggins, Elmer Lippert, Kelvin Lindsay, Rob Lytle, Bob Brudzinski, Orlando Pace, and Charles Woodson, just some of the standout athletes who have played in this great rivalry. The list of players who have played in this historic series would go on for pages, just as the history of this great rivalry would also go on for pages, chapters maybe.

This old series saw a whale of a game in 2008 and the 2009 showdown looks to be a good one as well. And the good news is that despite the two teams parting ways conference-wise come 2011, the series will go on uninterrupted. Beginning in that '11 season the Little Giants and Blue Streaks will meet in week one of the season. I cannot imagine the preseason hype and buildup that will take place beforehand. Maybe that change will breathe new life into the old series.

To date the two teams have met 104 times. Sandusky leads the series 52-43-8. Ross won last years game 26-20. The Little Giants are on a four game winning streak over their rivals. The last Blue Streak win was a 21-12 decision in 2004. Ross has never won five in a row over the Streaks. Could this year be the year that changes? Or do the Blue Streaks finish 2009 on a high note. Find out at Strobel Field this Friday night.

1 comment: