It has been said that old football players never forget their days in pads. Judging from a phone call I received this week, I have to agree.
One of my fellow 1979 classmates called me to tell me he thought I erred a bit in this space last week, and to share a funny story about how he knew.
Last week, I said that from 1960 to 1987, Hillsboro never defeated Circleville in football and had just one tie in those years, a 6-6 game in 1965. But local resident Mark Wilson told me that if I checked my records, he didn’t think that was quite accurate. He said that he believed that during his junior football season in 1977, Hillsboro played to another tie with Circleville. I looked it up and he was correct, the Indians and Tigers played to a 7-7 tie that season.
Mark said the reason he knew was because he was asked to say a prayer before that game, and that memory has stuck with him all these years.
Mark said that before the Indians left the locker room for that final game of the season in 1977 against Circleville, his coach approached him, said he knew that Mark went to church and his father was a minister, and asked if he would say a prayer before the Indians departed the locker room. Mark said he figured there were people on the team more qualified than him to give a pregame prayer, but he agreed to the coach’s request.
Things get a little excited before a football game though, and in the commotion the team left the locker room without remembering the prayer. Somewhere between the locker room and Richards Memorial Field though, and not long before kick off, one of the Indians shouted that the team had forgotten the prayer. So back to the locker room they went, and Mark offered a prayer.
As it turned out, the return trip to the locker room made the Indians late to the field for the start of the game and they were penalized for the infraction. And, as Mark remembers it, the penalty led to an early Circleville touchdown.
Mark said that to this day he remembers what he was thinking when he saw the Tigers score that touchdown.
“My thought was that it’s all because of prayer. I kept thinking we can’t lose because of a prayer,” Mark laughed.
And they didn’t. The Indian defense rose to the occasion, shut the Tigers out the rest of the way, and recorded one of only two non-losses to the Tigers in at least a 28-year span.
Mark also said he remembers the game because the Indians were gunning for a winning season, something he said this week that he believed they had not experienced for several years. It turns out he was right about that, too. That tie helped the Indians finish 5-4-1 in 1977. It was the first winning Hillsboro football season in 14 years, since they went 6-4 in 1963.
The Indians also went 3-3-1 in the South Central Ohio League in 1977. That was their first non-losing season in the SCOL since 1965 when they went 3-1-1 and finished as the SCOL runners-up to 5-0 Wilmington.
For the record, I remember that 1977 season pretty well myself. I was a junior and heavily involved in athletics. I did not play football in high school, but had attended most Hillsboro football games since I was a little kid. I remember the winning record that year because it seemed that in all the years I was growing up that it had never happened. The fact of the matter is that it had not – since I was 2 years old.
From 1965 to 1976, Hillsboro recorded consecutive records of 4-5-1, 0-10, 0-10, 3-7, 1-9, 5-5, 4-6, 1-8, 2-8, 2-8 and 4-6.
But the 1977 season started a new trend for the Indians. My senior classmates posted a 5-5 record the next year and the Indians went 8-2, 4-5-1, 5-5 and 6-4 in the following years.
Anyway, I appreciated the call from my old friend the other day. And since we’re remembering old times, I have to ask Mark a question: Do you remember buying me a sweet James Bond secret agent kit for like my 8th or 9th birthday, or the time when we were little fellas and your mom had to pick tick after tick off of us when we got done playing in the wheat field?
Those were some pretty good days. Like the ones where teams could say a prayer before heading out to play.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.