Archive for Thursday, September 4, 2008

There’s lots of football ahead of us

September 4, 2008

This is the weekend I've been waiting for - football season officially starts. Yes, I know the colleges opened last weekend, however, what I am talking about is the real game, high school and recreation football.

The Bonner Springs Braves open the season at Bishop Ward and Basehor-Linwood plays Santa Fe Trail. Probably one of the biggest games of the year will be on Friday, Sept. 12, when the Braves and Bobcats hook up in Bonner Springs. My guess is that will be the biggest crowd this year in Bonner Springs except for the Tiblow Days parade.

Yes, the Chiefs do open on Sunday but I will be attending some bigger games. Grandsons Stan, Sam and Shane Skwarlo will be playing in their various age group season openers on Sunday afternoon in Lawrence. If you toss in listening to college games on the radio on Saturday while I work in the yard you can see that I've got a lot of football ahead.

Other than my grandsons' games my favorite is high school football. I have been the statistician for the Braves since the early 1980s, so Friday night I will be at the game and Saturday morning I'll be busy compiling the stats and entering them into the computer. It is one of my favorite volunteer jobs because it keeps me involved in a game that I love.

Former Bonner Springs mayor Del Hininger and my father were teammates on the only undefeated football team that Garnett High School has ever fielded. They were coached by Chub Meisenheimer, who later coached at Bonner Springs. I grew up loving football and dreaming of the day I could go on the field in the Red and White. I always went to the Garnett games on Friday night and spent Saturday afternoon listening to college football. I remember the KU and K-State broadcasts and the national game done by Bill Stern. I was fortunate enough to have played football at Garnett High School and at Ottawa University. Yes, football has always been a big part of my life.

Of course, football is a truly American sport and somewhat of a late arrival on the athletic scene. At the turn of the century, baseball was about the only game in town. Certainly that was the case in Bonner Springs. While the Chieftain had many stories about the fortune of the Bonner Springs Grays, a good semi-pro baseball team, there was relatively little about football. However most area high schools started football programs in the years just after the turn of the century.

I thought I would do a little research and see when Bonner Springs and Basehor got started playing each other. Let me say from the outset, that my brief research showed one thing - Bonner Springs and Basehor probably never played a game in the early days. Bonner Springs did play Linwood in football and Basehor in boys and girls basketball. As far as I can tell, the first meeting was in 1994 between Basehor-Linwood and Bonner Springs. I wasn't able to find any reference to an Edwardsville High School football team. Edwardsville did, however, play both Bonner Springs and Basehor in basketball.

I had heard that Bonner joined the ranks of gridiron competitors in 1914 and there was a story about the "first football game." I believe that was the first football game that season, not in the history of the high school. There was a mention in the 1908 yearbook about a football game at Tonganoxie, however, there were no details. Apparently, Bonner Springs played football, baseball and basketball in 1911, but again there were no details given in yearbooks.

In 1914, the most popular team in town was the Bonner Springs Blues baseball team who played games until November. Next in line was the Bonner Springs Merchants football team, which had a fairly extensive schedule. In those days, it seems that football didn't get started until the last week in September or the first week in October.

I was fascinated to find virtually no mention of the war, which started in Europe on Aug. 1, 1914. No one took much notice of that increasingly bloody conflict for the next couple of years. No, in Bonner Springs the biggest news was a visit by Gov. Capper.

Football got front-page coverage when it was reported to the newspaper. There were no statistics given, and sometimes the names of those who scored touchdowns were left out. In the first high school game, reported in 1914, Bonner Springs lost to Gardner, 19-12. According to the story, a player named Scheidt scored the first touchdown. In a later report of a 12-7 win over Olathe, the winning touchdown was scored by Beaver, a tackle, who returned a fumble. In 1919, Bonner Springs defeated Rockhurst, 13-0. No the Braves didn't have a tremendous year - they were 3-4 with wins over Country Day and a school I never heard of, Oakland.

Hopefully, you'll join the crowd and support high school sports this year.

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