The 1968 Sidney Yellow Jackets had a perfect 10-0-0 season. In 1969 a new quarterback was needed but he would be surrounded by many key returnees and the same outstanding coaching staff. Repeating would be tough. The success of 1968 would help ensure that opponents would give the Jackets their full attention. Could Sidney make it 20 in a row?
The answer would be positive and ten more would follow in 1970. However, the middle season of the 30 & 0 streak contained many obstacles especially in the middle weeks of the campaign but by the end of 1969 there were still no blemishes.
Two-a-day practices in pads began on August 15, exactly three weeks before the traditional opener at St. Marys. Quarterback Steve Williams was gone to Miami University. It was hoped that his brother would emerge to take over so the other candidates could play elsewhere including Mike Flanagan who became a standout receiver in 1968 after calling signals for undefeated eighth and ninth grade teams.
Fellow junior Bruce Williams had a good camp and became the starter as hoped. He had a great arm but needed to advance in executing Sidney’s “bread and butter,” the option play. Cautious optimism prevailed on the bus trip to St. Marys and the eleventh straight win was secured 47-20. I was a sophomore kicker and got to make my debut. I was overwhelmed to participate in what I witnessed from the stands just a year earlier.
Sidney had always been an enthusiastic and supportive football town but this success took things to an even higher level. It was great to watch in 1968 and even better as a 1969 team member.
Three easy home wins followed over Wapakoneta, Dayton Patterson, and Greenville but we weren’t playing well when it was time to head to Bellefontaine for the second Miami Valley League game. They hadn’t scored in their first four outings but that didn’t stop the Chieftains from becoming a major test. The closest call of 1968 had come against the Chiefs 35-28 but they graduated four year stars Gail Clark and Jesse Williams who were both gone to Michigan State.
We again won by seven points, this time 13-6. The key play was an early Bellefontaine fumble that bounced perfectly into the arms of senior defensive end Bill Hudson who ran it in from 15 yards for a 7-0 lead. We led 7-6 much of the night, scored again late, and missed the two point conversion that would have iced it. Our defense took over after we made it 13-6 to ensure victory.
The game was very intense and physical as evidenced by Sidney’s five cracked helmets. It wasn’t easy but the halfway point to 30 and 0 had been reached.
Win number 15 was in the books but the future was clouded by injuries to key players who missed all or parts of previous games. This included star running back John Wiggins and defensive tackle Dan Murray. It was hoped that Wiggins would make a healthy return to face unbeaten Lima Shawnee a week later in Sidney. We just weren’t the same without his elusiveness and breakaway speed. His mere presence also did wonders for our passing game. After we tallied only one offensive touchdown against Bellefontaine, the guy called “Jumping Johnny” by SDN Sports Editor Zack Crusey needed to be at full strength.
One common thread between 1968, 1969, and 1970 is that Sidney met Shawnee when both had perfect records at mid-season. Yes, this happened three straight years. The Bellefontaine game had been a close call but Lima Shawnee 1969 would be even closer.
Friday October 10, 1969 is a day I vividly remember as around 6000 fans jammed Julia Lamb Stadium to witness the Yellow Jackets come from behind and hang on for a 13-12 verdict over the Shawnee Indians. I’ll provide my first hand account next Friday. Half a century later the memories remain vivid.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Ross authored a book on the first century of Sidney football, available at the downtown Ross Historical Center.