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Glory Days

There’s an old Bruce Springsteen song of the same name as this title, which talks about those lost yet fondly remembered, for some and not so fond for others, younger days when we all were in school. For many this means either High School or College. The song is intended to relive, or at least remember, what has been affectionately referred to as “Glory” days. While college had it’s share of rewarding and fun accomplishments, for today, I’m going to focus on high school, because in our small school, it was much more of a family environment than college. Now, I so badly want to single out some incredible people and teammates, because they are so deserving, but my mind isn’t what it used to be and I know myself so well that I know I will forget some incredible people and athletes, so I may mention players and events but I’m going to not mention names, as much as this pains me. Because I really want to acknowledge these great folks but I also don’t want to miss any truly great and deserving person – I hope you understand!

This week will mark the 46th anniversary of my High School graduating class. We were the 99th class to graduate from our high school and the first to spend all four years of this time at our schools’ newly built facility/building…AND…in 1975, we were the largest class to ever graduate. I was fortunate to move to Edinburg (you’ll see me spell the town name without the “H” as it was not added until 1977, two years after we graduated 😊) at the beginning of my freshman year. While it was a bit of a new start for me, I had missed out on the fun and youthful experiences my newly found classmates had in their earlier school life.

Before I get into the sports part of this message, I want to point out that we had the very best dance/jazz band in the state of Indiana for 4 years straight. The entire band was outstanding and we were in demand all throughout the area. Our saxophone players were just outstanding and we had great trumpet and trombone players as well. Our percussion players were stellar and all the other supporting instrument players truly outperformed all of our dance/jazz band rivals. It was an outstanding group who could play anything given them, at a level, that resembled the great big-bands of the 40's, 50's, and 60's. It was truly an outstanding group and sound!!!

As it is with most schools, football practices started a couple of weeks before school actually was in session, and for me that was a perfect introduction to my new digs. Because right off the bat, we all got to know and respect each other because of the teamwork and conditioning we had to master in those first couple of weeks of two-a-day practices. What also helped us build a common bond was our circumstances. As I think through this, I sound like one of those old guys spinning their crazy stories…but…you see in those days, we had to walk from the high school to Irwin park, about ¾ of a mile. Of course, it was August and usually 90+ degrees and we made this walk usually in full football gear. So, by the time school had started, us teammates had done quite a bit of very hard work together and literally sweated together through the entire effort.

I loved football at Irwin park. It was a park right about water level next to the Big Blue river, with only a man-made embankment separating the football field from the river. The weather and field conditions at Games, practices, and nearly all other events at this park, were always a bit questionable. We would fight a flooded field at times, a lot of mosquitos and other pesky insects, and during the games, the field would often turn to mud and be encased in a low fog. When you have these conditions and logistics, and you practice on the same field you play on, it becomes quite a mess as the season progresses. But it was fall time and we loved to play the games. The smells from the concession stands along with homes burning leaves in their yards, is a sensation I often miss today. Although, on the off occasion, I get a whiff of leaves burning or concessions from a nearby sports complex, and it takes me back to those times and such fond memories.

As far as the sport goes, we didn’t have a great team. In my four years we only won 6 games collectively. However, at that time, we were the fifth smallest school in the state, that fielded a football team, and we didn’t play anyone near our size. So, all-in-all, I guess we didn’t do that badly when every team on our schedule had a larger school, and much larger group of athletes to choose from. But we had a great group of guys who always did their best. For me the highlight of H.S. football was a rematch against our county rivals, the Indian Creek Braves. We played them twice a year, for a couple of seasons, and they had beaten us 46-6 in the first meeting that season. So, we put in some special plays we called the “Polecat.” In fact, we spent more time preparing these special plays for the next game against the Braves than we did preparing for the games, against other teams, preceding our rematch with Indian Creek. Well, we ran these plays to perfection and nearly pulled off the upset only losing to the Braves by a final score of 8 – 6. So close!!!

Ironically, the week before this big rematch, we travelled down to Milan to play. To our surprise, they ran out their own version of the “Polecat” against us. This was a total shock to us. Funny thing is, we extensively practiced how to run it on offense, but we never practiced how to defend it. Luckily, we had seen this crazy offense enough that we defended it pretty well and Milan gave up trying after a couple of failed attempts/plays. I also affectionately remember our special all-out blitz defense we called the “Monster Mash’” appropriately named after the Bobby "Boris" Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers (1962) hit song. 😊

Basketball in Edinburg was very much like basketball in Indiana. The people are both passionate and intensely involved in everything to do with this sport. Fortunately for me and my teammates, we had some pretty good teams. My freshman year we battled for the conference crown and did relatively well. But my sophomore year was one for the ages. Even though I and my teammates made up most of the junior varsity, our elder teammates, the varsity, was one of the best teams in the state. The press called us the cardiac kids as we won nearly every game and most of them were quite close. This team was a great group of perfect characters. A great overall player, a great rebounder, a couple of great slashers, good ball handlers, and a really good outside shooter. We had clinched at least a tie for the conference championship and only had to beat Hauser to win the title. What then transpired, in tiny Hope Indiana’s gymnasium that night, was the longest game in the state of Indiana that year – a 4 overtime classic. When the dust cleared, we were the new conference champs beating Hauser 77-76.

Then onto the sectional. In Indiana’s one class system, the Columbus Bulldog hosted sectional was always one of the toughest sectionals to win as it had been dominated by Columbus since it’s inception with the Bulldogs winning 97% of these championships. We received a first round bye and were slated to play our first game in the second round. Ironically, we drew Hauser in the first game of this sectional which meant a rematch of the 4-overtime thriller that had occurred just one week ago. Well, we handled Hauser, this time in regulation, winning 65-58 and then awaited the winner of the Columbus East-Southwestern contest which immediately followed our second-round victory. Southwestern won that contest which set-up the championship game between the nearby rival Southwestern Spartans and our Lancers. We won that game handily 67-38 and were crowned Sectional Champions for the first time since 1951 and the last time in the single class system. What a marvelous feeling that was!!! I remember us storming the court and all the jubilation of this incredible victory. I also remember one of the Columbus school officials coming onto the court to tell my father (he was our school’s superintendent at the time) that our fans were not supposed to act like this. I remember my dad said to this official “we don’t get to practice winning the sectional every year like you folks do, so let them celebrate – they are not hurting anything!” He was right – we were civilized and respectful and boy we had a great time celebrating what this team had just accomplished!!!

We advanced to the Columbus regional and for the first time ever we were one of two teams, from the same county (Johnson) to ever participate in this regional. We were pitted against long time powerhouse Bloomington South with the winner advancing to play the winner between regional favorite Franklin or underdog Greenfield Central. The stadium was filled to the rafters and the sold-out crowd was full of anticipation for these sure to be thrilling games. There must have been 90% of the crowd buzzing in excitement for a potential David and Goliath, Johnson County, match-up potentially between Franklin and our Lancers (Edinburg). Franklin easily defeated Greenfield Central by 29 points, in the first game, yet nearly everyone stayed for our game. The crowd was hoping to see little Edinburg-David, tackle big bad Bloomington South-Goliath, hoping that David would be victorious and set-up an all-Johnson County championship. It was an extremely hard fought and very tight battle, but in the end, we never could quite get control of the game, and unfortunately this great and incredible run had ended, as we fell to Bloomington South by 4 points, 69-65. Wow-what a season and what a great team. To see our entire community, dare I say entire county and those neighboring counties, pull together, all rooting for us – it was truly a marvelous site and experience. MEMORIES FOR A LIFETIME!!!

The following season we had a pretty good team but not quite the caliber of the champs from last year. We had some great guys and players and we won as many games as possible but just weren’t quite the force that the cardiac kids were. However, we did beat them in one thing. We had a marathon game against Brown County, at home one particular weekend, that took overtime to resolve. We ended up victorious in this game, just like our predecessors had done in their 4-overtime, longest game in the state, victory over Hauser. And we too ended up having the longest game in the state as this game also went into multiple overtimes. But our game went a bit further as we defeated Brown County 105-101 in 5 overtimes. Wow little ole Edinburgh with the longest game in the state, two years in a row – and we won both of those contests!!!

Now, playing athletics for one of the smallest schools in the state, offered myself and my team mates some advantages most athletes don’t have. For example, in the Fall seasons, to be able to maintain enough participants to actually field competitive teams, we were allowed to play both baseball and run track. At most schools this is a select one or the other decision. So, a few of us participated in both. In track, we were a pretty darn good team, even though I don’t think we ever had more than 12-16 members of the team. We routinely won many events and always battled for the conference championship. We usually won nearly every discuss and shot put, every 440, 880, and mile, every low hurdles and 100-yard dash, and a great deal of the relays. For as small as we were in numbers, we had quite the team. Ironically, I mentioned that the football field was next to the river, separated only by an embankment. Unfortunately, one of my not so favorite memories was that my senior year in track was a very rainy season, and due to the location of the track, it spent most of the season underwater and thus most of our meets were moved to away locations or cancelled. So as Seniors, we rarely had a home track meet. Oh well, you have to take some bad with the good😊!

In baseball, another great fortune was that we played throughout the fall and even got to play a summer season after the school year had ended. I remember this oh so well because I was allowed to grow my mustache during the summer season (facial hair was not allowed in school). Isn’t it amazing sometimes what insignificant and minuscule things you remember? But our baseball team was truly great as well and we won some conference titles and were a team to be reckoned with come tournament time. We had great play at shortstop, first base, catcher, second base, third base, and center field. In fact, we were very strong at every position and our pitching was generally pretty good as well. We hit extremely well and our base stealing was league leading. I truly miss these guys and this game because this was one of the fondest memories of my life. While I excelled more at football and track, I truly miss those great baseball teams and the wonderful teammates I grew up loving, admiring, and respecting!!!

If you are still with me and reading this message, I congratulate you for putting up with my Glory Days story, I’m sure it may have been tough for anyone who was not part of all this. But my class of teammates, classmates, and truly great friends, were wonderfully unique, creative, athletic of course, and really great people. Yes, there were accolades and acknowledgements. One of my best friends and I still are believed to hold the school record, these 46 years later, with 12 varsity letters earned, over our four years of high school. There are still some other records my teammates and I hold still today. But most importantly were the friendships, the team work, the trust, the respect, the hard work, and most importantly the fun.

I will never forget these teams and these great teammates. We worked our butts off, played on some teams that hardly ever were victorious, but also on some teams that won a great deal and were feared by our competitors. My one regret is that I didn’t stay closer to these guys but I know, just by knowing them, that they have all have had, or are having, great lives and have raised wonderful families, and just knowing this, and that they are all champions in my heart and mind, I will never regret.

Thank you, God, for bringing me to this incredible little town to meet such extraordinary and wonderful people. My life would not have evolved, matured, and grown in the way it has without you connecting me to these people and starting my life off on the right foot. I will be forever indebted to You and these super folks, for as long as I live.

Thank you AGAIN God…AND…Thank you AGAIN Edinburg for helping turn this weak, bashful, unassuming boy into the beginnings of a man!

I leave you with the final verse of Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days:

In fact I think I'm going down to the well tonight And I'm gonna drink till I get my fill And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it But I probably will Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture A little of the glory yeah Well time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister, but Boring stories of

[Chorus] Glory days, well they'll pass you by Glory days, in the wink of a young girl's eye Glory days, glory days

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