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BY MIKE AVITT
I’m fascinated by early high school sports because of how disorganized it was. There was no schedule nor conference. Equipment, if it existed at all, was inadequate. Coaches were novices and playing fields were muddy pastures. Basketball was played in barns and opera houses before gymnasiums were built. Let’s look at early football.
The first news I find concerning football is in June 1888 when a group of boys in Kellerton pooled their money and bought a football from a firm in Chicago. The first game I found was in late July 1896 when the Redding town team went to Blockton for a contest. I’m guessing that in 1896 there were no goal posts, yard markings, referees, helmets, or Gatorade. I doubt if the players knew the rules. But, none of that mattered because football was the latest craze and it would soon be a high school sport.
Mount Ayr High School’s first football game took place on October 26, 1899 at Saville’s Park. The high school boys beat the town team 18-0. A rematch the next day saw the high school squad win again by the score of 5-0. On November 29, 1900, Mount Ayr High played Leon on their field with Leon the victors by a score of 5-0. On October 11, 1902, our high school boys beat Graceland College in Mount Ayr 27-0. That 1902 season also included games with Osceola and Davis City.
While looking at early football, I was stunned to discover Kellerton had a high school football team! The Record-News reports the Kellerton boys were practicing for a game with Lamoni in October 1911. On September 20, 1912, Kellerton, with Arthur M. Hamilton as their captain, played Lamoni at Woollums Park. The first game of the season in 1914 was against Graceland College and the Kellerton boys lost that one. The reason Mount Ayr and Kellerton played against Lamoni so often is because we were all on the same railroad line. So, why didn’t Kellerton play against Mount Ayr? Because Mount Ayr didn’t have a team when Kellerton did.
I had read somewhere that Mount Ayr High School abandoned the football program for ten years in the early part of the last century. My research found the 1909 season was the last until 1922. I found no evidence of a football team between 1910 and 1921. Neither did I find an explanation as to why football was scratched for twelve years.
But, football came back in 1922 and by the 1930s, Mount Ayr High School football became an annual wrecking crew. Their first undefeated season came in 1931 when Mount Ayr clipped the previously unbeaten Albany, Missouri squad on Thanksgiving Day, the last game of the season, 6-0. For the season, Mount Ayr outscored their opponents 257-6. Clearfield was the only team to score against Mount Ayr the entire season.