New Campfire Series Explores 1931 Tornadoes Team
If you didn’t get the hint from daily temperatures routinely topping 90 throughout the Midwest, then count me among you. But the calendar — and this dispatch from The Times-Reporter back home — tells it like it is. School is back in session, and with it, the Friday night ritual observed by thousands of the faithful in my hometown of Dover, Ohio: high school football.
Certainly, having a heart that palpitates for autumn nights under the lights, the band blaring away from the end zone, cheerleaders high-kicking along the sidelines, and the whole town seemingly turned out and tuned in to the movement of a cowhide-covered ball, is a condition shared by many. But I’d argue that for my town, and my family, the connection is a touch more special.
Maybe it’s because so many of us called Dover home, and for so long. It’s hard to ignore tradition when you’re walking the same school halls as three or four generations of your family did before you.
Or maybe it’s that in an old mill town, and canal town before that, with a population a thousand or so souls above 10,000, year after year, there just was no way of getting around the excitement shaking Crater Stadium each Friday night at 7:30. It was the biggest show in town, the only show in town.
It probably has something to do with the brand of ball Dover plays, and has played, for decades. The Tornadoes are recognized as one of the longest running, and most successful, programs in a football-mad state.
This year will mark the 107th time Dover will square off in the season’s final game with arch-rival — and neighbor just over the river — New Philadelphia. Fifty times Dover has won (including 14 of the last 16); forty-seven times the victory has gone to the Quakers; nine contests have ended in a draw. According to WTOV-9, Dover has an all-time winning percentage of 62%, and an overall record of 623-332-44. For those scoring at home (or even if you’re alone), that’s 999 all-time games. So the team’s opener next Thursday, Aug. 26 against Carrollton will mark its 1,000th game.
But Dover football lore goes beyond the numbers, beyond even a personal store of memories of contests past, to a collective lore many kids in town were raised on. One of my favorite tales is of the legendary Paul Brown, destined for Ohio State and then the Browns and Bengals in the NFL, refusing to let his late 1930s Massillon squad play Dover during a decade in which the Tigers would win six straight state championships. Setting the stage for that power play was a 1931 squad – Brown would take over as Massillon coach in 1932 — led by my grandfather, Don Foutz, and captained by first-year coach Herman “Bup” Rearick.
My grandfather’s football exploits certainly qualified as legend in my family. According to relatives, he rarely — if ever — discussed his playing days. Although he was featured in a story during my Uncle Donn’s All-Ohio season as fullback in the early 1960s, we didn’t put all the pieces together of how good Grandpa really was on the field, and what the end of his career may have cost him, until much later.
The stats tell it this way — and again, I am kicking myself for having misplaced the volumes of football history I have by Dover gridiron scholar Denny Rubright.
* In 1930, grandpa almost single-handedly won the game against hated New Phila by accounting for 47 yards of a 49-yard drive and scoring Dover’s first touchdown, and then throwing the winning 50-yard touchdown pass with barely 5 minutes remaining.
* In 1931, he rushed for 220 yards in the rivalry game and scored two touchdowns. The yardage mark would remain tops in the record books for another 67 years. As of 2001, it was still the sixth-best single-game rushing mark in team history. (He also owned the eighth-best mark, with 209, set earlier in the 1931 season.)
* But for all Grandpa’s prowess running the football, he was most coveted — and feared — for his foot. Specifically, as a punter and place kicker. Here is where the statistics give out, and legend kicks in.
According to family, he never spoke of it, but Grandpa was recruited by Ohio State and spent a year on campus as a member of the varsity Buckeyes squad — though he never played a down. Tragically, He got lime in his eyes (they used to line the fields with it) and never returned to Columbus.
This summer, my father and I decided to preserve an important collection of family documents by scanning Grandpa’s football scrapbook. Before, during and after his senior season, Grandpa dutifully kept a record of newspaper articles clipped and pasted, and his own notations on the contests as they were played out. There are team and individual photos, programs, his treasured varsity letter, telegrams, and yes, recruitment letters from Ohio State, his report card, and record of his final withdrawal.
As a sports fan and writer, I particularly relished the game-by-game accounts published in the local Times-Reporter and other area papers during that 1931 autumn. In the coming weeks, as this year’s Dover season is played out, I’ll share the scanned scrapbook and the written account of each contest from 79 years ago.
Somehow, seeing it all in print, and holding these important family artifacts in my own hands, all these years later, doesn’t take away from the legend, but only makes it all the more indelible.