My early years of following Sidney High School sports include many highlights. Two prominent ones were in the same school year by identical scores in different sports.
This was during an era when the entire athletic department consisted of six boys sports with a whopping four of them in the spring. The total had been five until baseball came along in 1961. Cross country and wrestling would enter in 1965 with girls athletics a bit down the road.
The duplicated scores had the Yellow Jackets winning 22-20. The school year was 1963-64. The football game is still widely remembered but the same is not true of the basketball result.
The 1963 football season ended with a visit to always powerful Fairmont West (previously Fairmont) which had historically dominated Sidney. This would be our final shot at them before their move to the new Western Ohio League.
The Jackets trailed 20-6 at halftime but pitched a shutout in the second half while scoring two TD’s and a pair of vital two-point conversions for a 22-20 win. The upset gave Sidney a 6-4-0 winning season while a first Miami Valley League loss meant that West shared the title with Xenia. Sidney players were warmly greeted by their Xenia counterparts the next day at an Ohio State game. I’ve written about this thriller several times over the years. Longtime local observers still talk about it.
About three months later our basketball team was concluding a solid regular season when state ranked Lima Shawnee paid a visit to Campbell Road. Their starters averaged 6-foot-6 across the front including future Ohio State star Jeff Miller whose Buckeye career was derailed by a knee injury. The supporting cast was strong and athletic but the Indians were held back by a methodical coaching style. This was the Bil (not a misspelling) Gallagher era of Sidney hoops and he also preached the more deliberate pace, sometimes employing a full delay.
When Sidney held the ball for about four minutes on one possession, Shawnee never came out to force the action. Finally, Phil Steenrod found an opening and drove for a layup. The Jackets led most of the game and claimed a 22-20 verdict.
In those days, football schools could play 18 regular season basketball games. Sidney went 16-6 overall and was a district semifinalist. Shawnee ended 16-4, a great record for most but not acceptable for this talent laden bunch. The coach was fired and Jeff Miller’s senior campaign of 1964-65 eventually ended in the state semifinals under a new coach who let his team play fast-break basketball. It was their only setback.
A 2018 article in our sister publication, The Lima News, specifically mentioned the 22-20 loss to Sidney as a major reason for the coaching change preceding the almost perfect season.
I got to attend both of the 22-20 upsets… special memories before my 10th birthday.
Back in the 1960’s the Sidney City Schools offered elementary interscholastic basketball and football within self-contained leagues. There were six basketball teams in both fifth and sixth grades and four in football including a pair of hybrid squads in a league where those grades played together. The schools were Central, Emerson, Longfellow, Orange, Parkwood, and Whittier.
We wore red and white for basketball and yellow and black for football as we represented Whittier from 1964-66. I believe we were called the Wildcats but I’m not totally sure. I’m positive that it was some type of cat.
Basketball was played at the high school on 10 Saturday mornings during the winter, coached by high school boys who enjoyed the sport but weren’t in the SHS program. Football got the big stage of Julia Lamb Stadium on three springtime Fridays and playing there was a special thrill. Our football coaches were from the Sidney varsity. We utilized junior high football equipment since they played in the fall.
My brother, Bill, coached Orange Township basketball during the 1964-65 season. I mention this because he had two major talents on his rosters in sixth grader John Freytag and fifth grader Craig Morris who both became NCAA Division I talent. Freytag played a pair of seasons for the Miami Redskins while Morris began at Indiana and finished at Morehead State.
However, neither became Sidney Yellow Jackets as Freytag went the Catholic school route with fine teams at Holy Angels and the first year of Lehman, and Morris moved to the nearby Riverside area where he starred for the Pirates. Freytag played on the Miami squad that won at sixth-ranked North Carolina in 1973. A season later I saw Morris start for Indiana at Miami after Freytag had transferred to Ohio State to pursue his specialty in architecture. The Knight-Indiana dynasty was just getting underway with the prominent names of Quinn Buckner and Kent Benson among the eight Morris teammates who would go on to play in the NBA.
Yes, Craig Morris is the only player in basketball history to have taken the floor for both Bill Ross III and Bobby Knight.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Thanks to Brett Bickel for his assistance. He and Dave are keepers and promoters of SHS athletic history. Merry Christmas!