Jul 19

Reitz Football Legendary Game Series: A Year of Tragedy & Triumph Under the Stars (Nov. 30, 1940) #TraditionTuesday

[The 1940 game against Memorial] would be long remembered as one of the toughest, hardest hitting games the locals had ever seen. The papers the next day would call it “a cruel affair.”

Mike Whicker

Legendary Game Series
Reitz vs. Memorial: November 30, 1940
by Mike Whicker

Tragedy was no stranger to the world in 1940. The planet was busy engulfing itself in global conflict. This country would soon join the war, and take with it many of the young men who were engaging in much more pristine combat on the gridiron for Reitz High School.

Tragedy was also no stranger to Reitz High in 1940. Senior halfback Harry Mortis Jr. lost his life when he drowned in the Ohio River. Mortis and four of his football teammates were attempting to cross the river in a borrowed boat when it capsized. The other boys survived but the river claimed Harry.

But triumph and victory also would be a mandate for Coach Elmer Weber‘s Panthers in 1940, a year that would see games under the stars in Reitz Bowl for the first time. Night games were now possible thanks to newly installed lights paid for by the West Side Nut Club.

Entering the final week of the season, the Panthers boasted an undefeated record and the state’s No. 1 ranking. This set up a much awaited grudge match against perennial power Memorial, a team Reitz had not beaten since 1933.

An eager Reitz eleven took the field that day at a packed Bosse Field.

The Boys from the Hill came to play and it looked early as if Reitz might have their way with the Tigers. On the opening kickoff, speedy Jack Dezember fielded the ball at the 10-yard line and brought the hordes of Reitz fans to their collective feet when he broke through and romped down the sideline for what looked like a 90-yard touchdown run for Reitz. But Dezember, in skirting the sideline, stepped out of bounds at the Reitz 42. This would serve as an omen for this game—nothing would come easy.

Midway through the first quarter, a hard hit by the stout Panther defense forced a Memorial fumble on its own 37-yard line. After a mad scramble for the ball, and a huge pile up, Reitz tackle Ray Gooch claimed possession for the Panthers on the Tiger 34 yard line.

With the Memorial goalpost looming, the Panthers took advantage. Jack Dezember picked up a tough four yards on first down. Dezember was called upon again and the speedy halfback came through with a sparkling 17-yard run, which put the ball on the Tiger 13-yard line.

Fullback Bob Ritter, one in a long line of Ritters to proudly wear a Reitz football uniform, punched the ball to the 10. The jack rabbit, Dezember, behind fine blocking, sliced through the line and went airborne, bringing the ball to rest on the Memorial four-yard line. Back came Ritter and he pounded it down to the one, going down under a wedge of Tiger defenders. A desperate Memorial front wall turned back Dezember on the next play. The referee spotted the ball on the one foot line — fourth down. Reitz quarterback Don Savage knew this was a job for the slower, but hard-nosed Ritter. The ball was snapped. There was a ferocious surge by both teams. Ritter knew he had to deliver, and he did. When the bodies were untangled Ritter was clearly across the goal line and Reitz had the lead.

Taking plenty of time as they lined up for the conversion, Dezember booted the ball squarely through the uprights for the seventh, and what would prove to be the last, point of the game.

The rest of the game was a no-holds-barred brawl. All afternoon, the Reitz defensive line would sift through to worry George Ellspermann, the Memorial passer, several times sacking him for huge losses when he couldn’t find an open receiver.

A proud Memorial squad was not without their moments. After stopping the Panthers and forcing them to punt near the end of the second quarter, the Tigers’ Joe Mattingly broke through and blocked the kick. Memorial recovered on the Reitz 46, but the Tiger’s couldn’t take advantage against the rugged Panther defense which, as it did all afternoon, rose to the occasion.

It was a game that would be long remembered as one of the toughest, hardest hitting games the locals had ever seen. The papers the next day would call it “a cruel affair.”

It would elevate the Panthers to a final 8-0-1 record, with a scoreless tie with Central the only blemish on an otherwise perfect season. Two players that year, Art Deig and Harold Wolf, would be accorded All-State honors. It was Reitz’ second undefeated season and would gain them their second mythical state championship.

1940. A season of tragedy and triumph for the Boys from the Hill.

Want to know more about Reitz Football’s legendary games? Click the link below to subscribe to the email newsletter and get your free copy of Mike Whicker’s Legendary Game Series: The Ultimate Collection!

I learned (1)

1940 Results

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Jul 16

WANTED: 1971 team photo for class fundraiser

Does anyone have a good copy of the 1971 football team picture?

That class is doing a fundraiser and would like to use a good quality copy of the picture.

While there is the large version that exists in the gym (pictured below), it would be very difficult to not only take the picture down, but also scan such a large photograph.

E-mail us at info@reitzfootball.com and thanks!

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Jul 14

All are in invited to Reitz Football Family Fun Day!

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Jul 12

Tristen Clark latest to represent Reitz Football in IFCA North-South All-Star Game

Reitz Football Alumni who have playedin the IFCA North-South All-Star Game (1)While Tristen Clark will be the most recent Reitz High School alumni selected by the Indiana Football Coaches Association to participate in the annual North-South All-Star Football Game, he certainly isn’t the first to represent the Mighty Panthers over the course of the game’s 50-year history.

Clark will join 39 other players, coaches and others who have represented the Blue & Gray in the prestigious event’s half-century of existence, including Reitz Football Hall of Famers Bob Stephenson and Ricky Crider.

“I must say that I had a great experience with the IFCA All-Star game,” according to Crider, who played in 2006’s contest. “It really opened my eyes to the talent in the state of Indiana. The experience allowed me to meet athletes that you hear about throughout the season. I gained some friendships that still last today.”

“It was a nice reward for a great high school season and career,” explained Stephenson, who helped lead the Panthers to a state championship game appearance and played in the 1978 all-star game. “I played tight end in the game but also got to be the kicker. I was named Most Valuable Offensive Lineman.”

Week of preparation gives preview of what playing college football will be like

Players participate in a week-long camp that not only gives them a chance to practice with and get to know their teammates, but also get an idea what playing football at the college level will be like.

“You get a feel for the college life before you actually leave for college,” according to Jordan Summers, who played in the 2014 game. “I went into the week not knowing what to expect since it was my first time around another team. But it’s a great feeling to see how everybody supports each other and has each other’s backs almost instantly.”

Billy Hewig, now the athletic director for Pike Central High School, expressed a similar sentiment.

“Looking back on the whole process, it was a lot like what college was going to be like. Playing for new coaches, a new set of players that were all top-notch and staying in dorms was a great experience for what college ball was going to be.”

Crider wanted to prove that he belonged there.

“The speed and competitive attitudes from every player demanded that you bring your A game to practice. That’s one of the things that I took from the All-Star experience that helped me throughout college. In college, you have to bring your A game every single day.”

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Andrew Backes represented the Panthers in the 2005 IFCA North-South All-Star Game

Game provides opportunity to play for legends and with future NFL players

Not only did it give the players a preview of what playing at the next level would be like, it also gave them the opportunity to be around others that they normally wouldn’t have been able to.

“Playing in that game was a big deal for me for many reasons,” according to Zach Whicker, who played in 2002’s game. “It gave me an opportunity to play for the legendary Jerry Brewer from Jasper who was our head coach that year and his last game he ever coached after winning a state championship in 4A the previous fall.”

“Playing with all of those guys was a humbling experience,” added Whicker. “I’m practicing against Jeremy VanAlstyne who was a great middle linebacker who went on to play four years at Michigan, I started over James Marten at left guard who went to Boston College on a full ride and was later drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. Played against a guy named Anthony Spencer on the North team who played nine years in the NFL and was a pro bowler and the list goes on.”

“I got to work with different coaches that I otherwise never would get to work with,” said Hewig, “like former Reitz assistant Jerry Bland and Mater Dei Head coach Mike Goebel. It was also a cool experience to be on the field with the best in Indiana. I was lucky enough to play with Jay Cutler and four other players that played in the pros.”

Giving back

In addition to the practices, the players also have the opportunity to visit Riley Children’s Hospital.

“We got to visit Riley hospital, which was an amazing experience,” remembered Stephenson.

Ryan McIntosh, who played in the 2009 game, agreed. “The one thing that sticks out still was going to Riley. Everyone was able to interact with all the children and it was a really cool experience.”

Words of wisdom for Tristen Clark

Several of the former participants offered advice to Tristen Clark, who is currently in Indianapolis preparing for this Friday’s North-South All-Star game.

“Every time you make that jump [from high school to college, college to pro, etc.], you basically had the best of the best playing,” said Stephenson. “Everybody’s faster. Tristen can expect much of the same. Everybody’s good. It will help him prepare for playing at the college level.”

“If I have any advice for Tristen,” offered Whicker, “play hard for Reitz High School and the SIAC. During practice and the game, hit somebody in the mouth for every player on his 2015 Reitz team that got snubbed from this all-star game. Make these guys remember Southern Indiana football.”

Final thoughts

“[It] was a great experience for me,” said McIntosh. “I was able to meet a lot of great football players and great people.”

“I’m glad I participated in the All-Star game,” said Crider. “It’s something that I will always cherish and remember.”

Said Stephenson, “it was an honor to represent Reitz and the great tradition it has.”

“I feel very blessed that I got to be a part of the North South game,” said Hewig.

“This game was a blast,” said Summers. “It’s amazing how the game of football can make so many friends and memories.”

Getting the opportunity to show the rest of the state what the Mighty Panthers are all about was very fulfilling for Whicker.

“I take a lot of pride in having started in that game, played very well, played with some great football players, but most importantly, played for Reitz and was able to show these big-name players and coaches from Indy and Fort Wayne that we have some players down south that not only belong but are better.”

Having begun in 1966, Friday night’s contest will be the 50th edition of the all-star game. It will be held at North Central High School in Indianapolis. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. eastern time.

Want to read the full interviews that were conducted for this article?Join PantherPlus to get immediate access to this and so much more!

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Jul 05

Reitz Football Legendary Game Series: A Gift for the Heart (Oct. 7, 1933) #TraditionTuesday

Oct. 7, 1933 is a date that should be remembered by all Reitz faithful. For on that day, the Reitz Football Tradition was born.

Mike Whicker

Legendary Game Series
Reitz vs. Memorial: October 7, 1933
by Mike Whicker

Let us return a little back. In the fall of 1933, people were looking for changes. The world was in the throes of the Great Depression. These were the darkest of days. New leaders promised new eras. The newly elected Chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler, was promising to establish a New Order and put Germans back to work. In the United States, the new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in office only seven months, was promoting to Congress an unorthodox economic plan called the New Deal.

Americans wanted to escape from the gloomy realities of everyday life if only briefly. Movies were a popular outlet. In Evansville, Busby Berkeley’s Gold Diggers of 1933 was drawing the biggest crowds.

The Golden Age of Sports, born in the twenties, had become ingrained in American society. Sports were as important a relief from the burdens of everyday life in 1933 as the motion picture industry. If not able to attend, people huddled around the radio to listen to Babe Ruth hitting them out for the Yankees. Boxing and college football also had huge followings.

Evansville was no different. Besides the national sports scene, interest in local sports was high. None were followed more closely then the local high school football rivalries that had sprouted in the 20s. Before 1918, Central was the sole high school in Evansville. But by the mid-20s, the city had four: Reitz in 1918, Memorial in 1921 and Bosse three years later.

Going into the ’33 season, the school on top of Coal Mine Hill on Evansville’s Westside had been competitive in football, but it was Memorial and Central that had set the standards in the 20s and early 30s for local football supremacy. It was those teams most experts thought would lead in 1933. Most thought–but not all.

Prohibition was still in effect, but at Old Man Ritter’s business in the Westside neighborhood of Tekoppel thoughts ran differently. Thoughts on local football, and thoughts on Prohibition, for the Ritter family had plenty of stock in Reitz football and Old Man Ritter’s business was a speakeasy. The old man’s son “Chief” had been an All-State football player at Reitz just a couple years earlier, and more of the Ritter boys would make their mark on the gridiron for Reitz in the late 30s. Also, the Reitz coach, Elmer Weber, had been known to stop by the establishment on occasion to socialize; so Reitz football was common conversation among Mr. Ritter and his patrons. Hope was high at Old Man Ritter’s “social club” that ’33 would be Reitz’ year.

That year’s Reitz vs. Memorial tilt was the third game of the season for both clubs. Each team entered the contest at 2-0, both having defeated their first two out-of-town opponents. Around Evansville, anticipation for the game was high. During that week, local newspapers carried several stories from both camps concerning preparation for the Saturday meeting.

Memorial was confident. Coach Don Ping promised Memorial fans his boys would be ready. The Tiger squad was a tough crew, led by All-State halfback Tom McGannon, who would later play football at Purdue. McGannon’s trademark was playing without a helmet, which was optional in those days. The blond star was easy to spot during games: the only player on the field without headgear.

On the other end of town, up on the Hill, Coach Weber’s crew was hungry. Since 1930, Reitz had experienced a taste of success on the gridiron, and gained a measure of respect from opponents with their tough and aggressive play, but, as of yet, a great season that would set them apart had alluded them. That year’s team captain, and Kiwanis Award Winner, Jim Mueller, still remembered the Memorial game vividly in 1995: “That was THE game for us. We had focused on that game since before the season. We were all close–the boys on the team. We would go fishing and camping together in the summer–it was the only thing we could afford to do–and we would lay out under the stars and talk of whipping everyone in football that fall,” Mueller said.” We knew Memorial would be tough that year, and we knew we had to beat them.”

That day 7,500 people paid fifty cents apiece to witness that fall’s biggest game; at that time the crowd was the largest ever in Reitz Bowl. Memorial arrived early and spent almost two hours before the game warming up. For the first time in his career, Tom McGannon was wearing a helmet! The Tigers had come to play! But where was Reitz? Just moments before kickoff, the Panthers, who at that time dressed in the cafeteria, were spotted walking down the long steps of the Bowl, in single file, through the cheering Reitz faithful, sporting brand new jerseys with large orange numerals.

Head referee Birch Bayh, whose son would later be elected Indiana’s governor, greeted Reitz captain Mueller and Memorial’s McGannon at mid-field for the coin toss.

The rest is history.

Unwilling on this day to except defeat, the Boys from the Hill left everything they had out on the field. Inspired performances were had by all, especially Mueller, George Freeman, Melvin Schoettlin, Fred Wunderlich and Gene Buttram. Everybody played a role in a great team victory. Substitutes Tommy Rice and Doc Bitz came off the bench and made several key blocks that sprang Panther runners for critical first downs.

Reitz would finish the season 9-0. This was the first undefeated season in the school’s history and it captured the first of what would become many state championships.

There would be other tough games that fall. A few weeks later, a tough Central High squad would fight valiantly before losing 14 to 7. Bosse also would put up a noble effort in the last game of the season, but all would bow in 1933 to the boys that had laid out under the stars and dreamed.

October 7, 1933. A date that should be remembered by all Reitz faithful. For on that day the Reitz Football Tradition was born. The Tradition of preparing yourself to win and expecting success. The Tradition of lifting yourself up, along with others around you. A legacy that would be handed down from fathers to sons, and to grandsons. Many other young men with the dream would follow, but the boys of ’33 were the first to make the dream a reality. They are the founding fathers of the Reitz football Legacy. Their gift to those who would follow can’t be held in the hand, it must be kept in the heart.

October 7, 1933. Drinks were on the house that night at Old Man Ritter’s speakeasy.

Note: For the game recap, a reproduction of an article appearing in the Sunday, October 8, 1933 Evansville Press is offered on this page. Written by the late Dick Anderson, it is an interesting example of the journalistic style of the day.

The Evansville Press                                    SPORTS                                   Sunday, Oct. 8, 1933REITZ PANTHERS WHIP MEMORIAL, 20-6

WESTSIDE
OUTFIT IS
POWERFUL

______

Parrish Leads the Way and is
Given Grand Support
By Mates

______

McGANNON IS STOPPED

______

Tigers Score in Fourth Period
With Desperate Passing
Attack

 By DICK ANDERSON
Press Sports Reporter

With a roar that sent shivers up the spines of the football players in the Central and Bosse camps, the Reitz High School Panthers hammered their way to a 20-to-6 victory over Memorial’s Tigers Saturday afternoon in the Reitz Bowl before 7,500 frenzied fans.

Blond Tom McGannon, Memorial’s chief scoring threat, and his comrades fought every inch of the way but they had to bow to a superior team. With the score 20 to 0 against them, the Tigers opened a desperate passing attack that shoved over the lone touchdown in the fourth quarter.

It was up to Reitz to stop McGannon and this they did effectively after the opening quarter. In the first few minutes of the game the flashy Memorial halfback had the Panthers worried plenty. His one big run of the day electrified the fans and brought him a round of applause.

Standing on his own five-yard line in punt formation, McGannon started running, twisted his way around Reitz’s right end, and carried the ball to the center of the field on the 50-yard line, before he was tumbled.

That run was his last big moment. He carried the ball time after time thruout the game but he could never break into the open and he took a world of punishment from the stiff Reitz tackling.

A Big Day
The Panther’s Gene Parrish, running behind a big, hard working line, captured the individual honors of the day from a ball toting standpoint. He ran the ends, out thru the line, and ran back punts for a big gain in yardage. Schoettlin, Freeman and Buttrum alternated at the ball carrying job and they were mighty effective. Freeman drove into the line with a swish that could be heard yards away and scored two of the Reitz markers while Parrish got the other.

In the line, Eakins, Mueller, Hape, Owens, Wunderlich and Fulton lived up to their advance reputation and smeared the Memorial running plays easily.

Not until the Tigers took to the air did they have a chance. After Reitz scored the third touchdown, Memorial began tossing them. Hess passed to McGannon for 35 yards and he was downed on the Reitz 41. Another pass was incomplete and then McGannon passed to DeVault who caught the ball on the 15 and ran over for the lone marker. The pass was about 38 yards and Devault scampered home the remainder of the distance. The try for point failed when McGannon’s kick was wide.

Just before the close of the game DeVault passed to McGannon who snatched the ball out of the air with three Reitz men at his elbows. He was flopped down hard on the 13 yard-line as the game ended.

Want to know more about Reitz Football’s legendary games? Click the link below to subscribe to the email newsletter and get your free copy of Mike Whicker’s Legendary Game Series: The Ultimate Collection!

I learned (1)

1933 Reitz Football Results

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Jun 28

#TraditionTuesday The Legacy of Herman Byers

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Of all the important elements that make up the Reitz Football Tradition, one individual deserves special recognition.

Herman Byers.

The Reitz Nation will always be indebted to Herman Byers. The legacy left by the Hall of Fame coach, who compiled a 189-51-15 record while on the Hill, produced an impact that will forever be remembered.

Herman Byers demanded perfection. He was a person that didn`t take alibis. There was always a job to get done and there was only one way to do it. That was his way, the correct way.

the late Don Henry, Reitz Football Hall of Famer

Coach Byers’ famous saying was:

Winners never quit and quitters never win.

Want to learn more about Herman Byers and the other awesome things that make up the Reitz Football Tradition? Click the link below to subscribe to the email newsletter and get your free copy of 5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Reitz Football Tradition!

5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Reitz Football Tradition

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Jun 21

#TraditionTuesday The Reitz Bowl

bowl1922The Reitz Bowl. For all those who have seen in at full capacity, its mere presence can create a polarizing response. A sense of pride, community, tradition and more is felt by those who love Reitz Football. But for those teams that must oppose the Mighty Panthers, the Bowl can create a sense of overwhelm and impending doom.

While players inevitably graduate, and coaches come and go, the Reitz Bowl is the glue that holds all the tradition and fans together.

Todd Yonts, Class of 1999

Want to learn more about the Bowl and the other awesome things that make up the Reitz Football Tradition? Click the link below to subscribe to the email newsletter and get your free copy of 5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Reitz Football Tradition!

5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Reitz Football Tradition

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Jun 14

#TraditionTuesday Chris Singleton Memorial Golf Outing raises money for team, scholarship

Chris Singleton was loved by all who knew him. He had such a positive affect on the Reitz Nation, that, every year, for the past 15 years, a memorial golf outing has been held that helps raise money for the Reitz Football team and fund a scholarship created in his honor.

ReitzFootball.com would like to give a special thanks to all the businesses who donated prizes for the silent auction, to the golfers who came out and braved a hot June afternoon and to all who donated their time to make this year’s event another success.

Want to learn more about the Reitz Football Tradition? Click the link below to subscribe to the email newsletter and get your free copy of 5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Reitz Football Tradition!

5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Reitz Football Tradition

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Jun 13

ReitzFootball.com presents a special Father’s Day celebration

Father’s Day is this Sunday, and ReitzFootball.com wants to celebrate the wonderful dads who share their love of Reitz Football with those who they love!

Do you have some awesome memories of your dad taking you to games as a kid? Are you now a dad and have created some wonderful memories of your own with your kids?

Please share your stories and pictures! Send them to info@reitzfootball.com, or post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #rfdad

We’ll post them on ReitzFootball.com and the best stories will earn prizes!

I’ll share mine first:

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My oldest son, Logan, and I at last year’s Castle game.

My dad wasn’t always able to come to my games because he was working so much, but when he could, it made it more special. In the years since I’ve graduated, he’s come to several of the Reitz vs. Mater Dei games with me and other family members.

Now that I’m a dad, I’ve gotten to take my boys to watch the games. I love sharing something that I enjoy so much, Reitz Football, with my kids.

Share your Father’s Day memories one of four ways:

1) Email info@reitzfootball.com

2) Post to Facebook using the hashtag #rfdad

3) Post on Twitter using the hashtag #rfdad

4) Post on Instagram using the hashtag #rfdad

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Jun 11

ReitzFootball.com is hiring!

ReitzFootball.com is looking for someone who loves the Mighty Panthers and loves to write.

The right candidate should have a positive attitude and be able to:

  • produce regular features about Reitz Football
  • produce weekly game previews
  • be at every game and produce timely game recaps
  • bring new and fresh ideas to the table

This will be a paid freelance position. Journalism experience and skills in social media, photography, video and WordPress are helpful but not required.

To apply, please send your resume and a sample of your work to jobs@reitzfootball.com.

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