This was the weekend of the new big rivalry football game, between Sandusky and Perkins High Schools. The old rivalry game, between Sandusky and Fremont Ross, was last week. This rivalry of more than a hundred years is documented in a recently published book by Vince Guerreri, soon to be in the library’s collections. A newer school (Perkins) brings a new rivalry for Sandusky High School football, a program with a long and interesting history. (We also have relatively little documentation on Perkins High School and its football teams in the Sandusky Library collections – contributions of historic records are always welcome.)
The early history of football at Sandusky High School is a bit vague, but it appears to have begun around 1895; the rivalry with Fremont began that same year. Probably, the first “official” varsity team was the 1901 squad that went 2-1. Early games were informal, to say the least – not much more than pickup games. Often games were scheduled after players from one team issued a challenge to another school for a game. Sometimes the same opponent was played twice in a season, as in 1906 when Sandusky played Fremont and Lorain twice each. That 1906 team was one of the best ever at Sandusky, not allowing a single point in their perfect 5-0 season.
In these early years, referees were often volunteers from the home towns of each school. For example, in the Fostoria at Sandusky game of 1904 (an exciting 0-0 tie), the referee was a Mr. Hatfield from Fostoria, and the umpire was Mr. Wolfe from Sandusky. The earliest games probably were played wherever an open space for a football field could be found, but after 1900, it appears that home games were played at the fairgrounds at Camp Street and Perkins Avenue (now the site of MacArthur Park) – most likely on an improvised field there, too.
In 1922, things improved significantly for the football team when the new Strobel Field was dedicated on the day of the Fremont-Sandusky game. Sandusky won that game, 32-0. Seating at the original stadium was on wooden bleachers capable of accommodating about 3000 spectators. The Strobel Field we know today came about through a project of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) during the Great Depression. Completed in 1937, the new concrete stadium seated about 6000 fans. As it did throughout the 1930s (five undefeated seasons), the team had another successful season that year, finishing 6-3 and defeating Fremont for the seventh year in a row, 26-0.
The 1930s and the “Sensational Sixties” were two of the most successful eras in Sandusky High School football history. The 1930-39 teams had a cumulative record of 83 wins, 14 losses, and two ties; the 1960-60 teams went 87-10-3.
The Sandusky High School football team has produced many successful men over the years, from both the ranks of players and coaches. Just to name a few: Bill Mallory, a 1953 SHS graduate (and student council president), went on to success as a football coach, most notably as head coach at Indiana University for thirteen years – the most successful football coach in Hoosier history. Ben Espy, a star halfback during the early part of the “Sensational Sixties,” served in public office in Columbus for many years, first on the city council, then in the State Senate. Earle Bruce, one of the most successful Sandusky football coaches, was also one of the most popular head coaches for the Ohio State University football team. More recently, Orlando Pace completed a soon-to-be Hall of Fame career in the National Football League.