I’m the chairman of the 50th reunion of Sidney High’s “30 and 0” football teams of 1968-69-70 which had to postpone to this Labor Day weekend due to the covid situation of a year ago. When that happened, my initial concern was that we wouldn’t lose any attendees for any reason especially health.
On Tuesday morning I got the news that 1968-69 Assistant Coach Frank Focht had died as he was close to turning 83. He was anxious to attend when we had to postpone. Frank’s time in Sidney was brief but he still considered us as “his guys” and joined us many times over the years even when just a few of us would meet for lunch. He never forgot how to get to Sidney as we kept him in the loop.
The Air Force veteran came to Sidney to coach and teach in 1966. I first met him in 1969 as both a coach and math teacher. A year later he entered administration, taking his legendary pregame pep talks with him. I respected him immediately and thereafter as an outstanding and intense professional.
Racial tensions at Sidney High School were at a boiling point in the spring of my senior year (1972) and I became aware that an eruption was likely on a Monday morning with outsiders becoming involved. I called Mr. Focht and told him what I knew. I had confidence that my friend would know what to do and he did, helping diffuse a turbulent situation.
In the summer of 1972 Frank Focht became Principal at Graham Local HS near St. Paris. In early 1976 I was awaiting a student teaching assignment from Urbana College. The director told me I was going to Graham. End of discussion. “Their Principal says you’re one of ‘his guys’ and he’ll find something for you.”
Frank made a brief return to Sidney in 1977 as Principal of Bridgeview Middle School but that was short lived due to ongoing uproar caused by the Superintendent. He returned to Graham, became and retired as Superintendent, then joined Urbana University (College) to work with student teachers as he concluded his career.
He was back with us when we had a memorial at our old stadium for Dennis Powell, a cornerstone of our 30 straight wins. I sat with him a few years later when we said goodbye to Head Coach Dave Haines in 2018. He made the effort to be with us and we were always glad to see him.
Frank Focht was from Bellefontaine and spent most of his professional career in St. Paris. I’m eternally grateful that he made a stop in Sidney. I’ve heard from many folks this week who share that sentiment.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross has spent 45 years in sports media and authored a book on the first century of SHS football that is available at the downtown Ross Historical Center.