Xenia football history


By Joan Baxter



It has been an exciting year for Xenia High School football fans. For the first time in many years the team was able to make it to the playoffs. What a great year!

The Xenia High football teams have been wearing the blue and white uniforms for over one hundred years, although the game, uniforms and scoring have changed considerably since those very early years.

The first football team for the Xenia High School went onto the field one hundred twenty years ago on October 14, 1899. The team played the Antioch College team and lost the game 31-0. Not a very auspicious beginning, but the team was new and the sport was just beginning and so it got better.

The first victory came when they played the O. S. S. O. team and won with a score of 10-1 (touchdowns earned five points at that time).

In those early days of playing football, the team became more organized. They learned how to throw and catch that oddly shaped ball and certainly how to run to avoid being tackled to the ground.

The 1902 season was one to remember. That was the year the newspaper declared that the squad was termed “possibly the greatest team in Xenia history”.

Team members were Ralph John, Lawrence C. Landaker, James D. Adair, Lawrence A. Wagner, Adna Crow, George Arbogust Fleming Watt, Kenneth Gordon John Harris, Will Harner, James McMichael, Elmer Kelly, Charles W. Adair and Clark McVay.

The team posed for a photograph, which though a little grainy shows the team wearing shin guards but no shoulder pads. Pullover shirts with a hand-made “X” gracing the front of the shirt seems to be the only “uniform”. One of the players is holding a football with the lettering “X.H.S.” The coach’s uniform consisted of a suit with a shirt, tie and a starched collar.

In those very early years, it was not unusual to have college players on the team. Often students of the Xenia Theological Seminary played with the high school team. This practice ceased after 1904.

Several years went by before another winning team was on the field. Central High (as it was called then) had a winning year in 1921 with a total of 222 points to only 7 for all the opponents.

The first coach for the Xenia team was a man whose name was Thompson. He was not a teacher at the school. For some years, it was essential for the coach to be a full-time member of the teaching staff as well. This did have some advantages. If the students could convince the coach to discuss in detail the previous game, the daily lesson might have been put off for a while.

The coach was responsible for instructing not only the football team, but all other sports including basketball and track.

Years went by with some years bringing a team which was exceptional and the next year not so very good.

1918 was an especially good year with a 55-9 score against Urbana. In 1938 another winning team scored a win of 54-9 over Greenville. Another special year was the 1952 season with Coach Ben Ankeney when the Bucs score 54-13 against Piqua and then a 52-13 win over Troy.

1928 was the year the Central High team became a charter member of the Miami Valley League.

A large number of men have coached the Xenia team over the years; some names are readily recalled by folks who have lived in the area for some time. Some of those early coaches were Paul Boxwell, Jerry Katherman, Walter (Pinky) Wilson, Clark McVay, Percy Shumaker and Tom Blackburn.

Tom Backburn held the record in the earlier years for being the longest-running coach. He coached the team from 1935 to 1942. Until 1953, he held the record of having won more games than any other coach in Xenia history. His record was 25-25-11.

In 1937, Mr. Blackburn was the head coach assisted by Paul Boxwell. Coach Boxwell graduated from Xenia Central in 1922 having played only one position on the football team, that of fullback. He had served as captain of the only (in 1937) undefeated team at Central.

In the early days, football games were played during daylight hours in the infield of the track at the Greene County Fairgrounds.

Later the games were played at Gatch Field. This was located on Dayton Avenue and used not only for football but also baseball games for some time. It was located near the present entrance to Woodland Cemetery.

In 1914 a committee was appointed by a student body to raise money for an athletic field. The proposal was to have the field named in honor of Professor E. B. Cox, long time superintendent of schools who was much loved and admired by the students of the Xenia School System. He had his office on the second floor of the building and with no speaker system in the building and with his booming voice; any announcements which concerned the entire school were made from the door of his office and apparently well heard throughout the school. The kids called him “Daddy” Cox.

Getting a new stadium required quite a few years with the senior class of 1914 starting the fund and classes of 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918 contributing until there was adequate funding.

Games were always playing during the daylight hours until September 1931 when Dayton Power & Light installed a lighting system. More improvement to the field took place in 1934 when a grandstand was built, the field leveled and new sod placed.

Over the years, the rules have changed and uniforms are much different, but the spirit of the earliest Xenia Buccaneers lives on to the present team.

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By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and guest columnist.

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and guest columnist.