Sixty years ago I was intently following the exploits of Lou “The Toe” Groza of the Cleveland Browns as I practiced diligently for my initial entry into the local “Punt, Pass, and Kick” competition sponsored by Wagner Ford. I’ve paid close attention to football place-kicking ever since.
Last Friday I saw something during warmups at Sidney Memorial Stadium that absolutely stunned me. The kicker for the Tippecanoe Red Devils was routinely making 60-yard field goals, not unlike his heralded counterpart with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Senior Jackson Kleather then booted a pair of fielders from 27 and 41 yards in the 34-20 verdict over Sidney. For the season he’s perfect with those two field goals and six extra points, along with numerous kickoff touchbacks and an almost 40 yard punting average..
Coach Matt Burgbacher, formerly at Fort Loramie and Troy, told me on Sunday that Kleather has been kicking for only three years and punting for two. Thus far his most enthusiastic Division I pursuers have been Bowling Green and Cincinnati. Believe me, that will change. “His best is yet to come,” the coach summarized. “I truly believe that.”
In an odd twist, Burgbacher and company will return to Sidney again this Friday to “host” Vandalia-Butler due to ongoing stadium remodeling delays in Tipp City. Sidney also hosted the JV game with Tipp last Saturday morning that would normally have been played at the opposite site from the varsity contest.
An impressive New Bremen squad dominated Lehman for a second straight season on Saturday night at SMS to conclude a contract that will not be renewed. Lehman has already booked Southeastern from the Springfield area for 2023. New Bremen, meanwhile, is encountering difficulty in locating a new opponent, an often ongoing issue for the upper echelon of the powerful Midwest Athletic Conference. The 10 MAC members just won 14 of their 20 non-league games, consistent with past performance.
Cardinals Athletic Director Chad Wells visited the pressbox last Saturday and detailed the scheduling dilemma. “We’ve contacted several schools with Week 2 available who looked like a good matchup, but they want nothing to do with us,” Wells revealed. “We did have an offer from a big school power in northeast Ohio that didn’t make sense from our end, either geographically or competitively.”
Thus, the search continues.
As Wells and I gazed across the field to the visitors side, I remarked that a good crowd had journeyed to Sidney. “Pretty decent when you consider the two big weddings in New Bremen today along with our boosters golf outing,” the AD noted.
Here’s tangible evidence of the oft publicized shortage of high school athletic officials. A number of Friday football games north of Lima have been rescheduled to Thursday and Saturday to secure officials. There aren’t enough to staff a traditional Friday night.
Last Friday’s column involving former Jackson Center boys basketball coach Jerry Harmon drew a nice response from Bob Wise, the historian of basketball for the Shelby County Athletic League. I did radio and TV broadcasting with Bob for many years, and much of his research also made its way into the sports pages of this publication. Bob’s tidbits were both informative and entertaining, and made us all look good. He has also authored and regularly updated the history of each gender of SCAL basketball.
A 1955 Jackson Center graduate and longtime Hardin area resident, Wise and wife Helen just marked their 63rd wedding anniversary. Bob will turn 85 on Labor Day and pledges to be around when the league turns 100 in 2024. Happy birthday Bob!