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Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 25, 2012, Pages 1 & 7

1902 football team

Snapshots of History
by Mike Avitt

Congratulations to the Mount Ayr Raiders on yet another undefeated football season. The previous two were in 2006 and 1996.

The first one that I know of was in 1931, and I'll reveal that season in a minute.

I have only a little information on this week's photo. Clyde RUSK is in the middle of the back row, and Basil WILLEY is to his right. Willard Roy WILLEY is second from left in the middle row, and his twin brother, Willis Ray WILLEY, is fourth from left.

I assume that this 1902 team did not have much of a schedule, if any, and would have played other teams that were on Mount Ayr's railroad line, like Lamoni and Grant City, as automobile travel did not yet exist.

Anyway, it's a pretty good picture for 1902.

Mount Ayr High School football has had many great coaches, the first one being Harry KNAPP. Harry's first year as coach was 1928-29, and Ralph LONG was his captain.

Mount Ayr only had a single victory that season but succeeded in shutting out its opponents five times with the help of four 0-0 ties.

The next year, with Merle STEPHENS as captain, there was much improvement. The football squad finished the season with five victories, four defeats, and one tie. All four losses were by shutout.

Coach KNAPP would develop into a master leader in the fall of 1930, and Mount Ayr would dominate this football campaign.

John KITSELMAN quarterbacked the team to a 9-1 record including eight shutouts. Mount Ayr amassed 277 points while allowing 26, 19 of those in a loss to Osceola. Lamoni scored against us in a 33-7 Mount Ayr victory. We blew out Clearfield 45-0, but Clearfield would prove to be a much tougher team the next year.

The only way to improve on a 9-1 record is to go undefeated, and Mount Ayr was poised to do that in the 1931-32 school year.

Captain Roy PAYNE played center, end, and defense while senior John McFARLAND was the quarterback. Linden MORRIS, Eugene MOSIER, Elmo ROE and Howard THOMPSON led a strong offense, but this Mount Ayr squad would succeed through its defense.

Afton was our first victim by the score of 45-0. Clearfield was next and managed to break through our defense by scoring one touch-down. It wasn't enough, though, as we scored 26. We then thumped Greenfield 27-0 but struggled with Bedford and squeaked out a 6-0 victory.

Coach KNAPP was able to get the team back on track as we dumped Lamoni by the score of 33-0. Osceola stood next, and it was payback time. Mount Ayr stomped Osceola 53-0 on our field. We then shutout Lenox and Leon while Corydon forfeited.

There was one game left in the season, and it was against a powerful and undefeated team from Albany, Missouri. The two undefeated teams met on Albany's turf on Thanksgiving Day of 1931.

The field was covered with snow, slush, and water. The condition of the field and the defensive strength of both resulted in many turnovers.

In the second quarter, Elmo ROE recovered a fumble deep in Albany's zone.

John McFARLAND eventually plowed over the goal line for a touchdown, but the extra point failed.

ROE had five interceptions in a game that was dominated by defense. Despite being penalized 150 yards (to Albany's zero), Mount Ayr held Albany scoreless as we posted our first undefeated season by winning the game 6-0.

Mount Ayr scored 257 points that season while giving up only six.

Captain Roy PAYNE was named a first team all-star by the Des Moines Register and coach Harry KNAPP would lead Mount Ayr football to another undefeated season before taking a coaching job in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1943.

Mount Ayr's next great football coach was John CHAMPLIN, but that's another article.

Again, congratulations to the Raider football staff and team for an undefeated season.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2012

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, March 16, 2017, Page 1

Snapshots of History
by Mike Avitt

I first ran the photo [of the 1902 Mount Ayr football team] in October 25, 2012 issue of the Mount Ayr Record-News. I have identified one more person since that article ran. Basil Willey is second from left in the back row. Clyde Rusk is in the middle, and manager George Malone is on the far right. In the second row we have the twins Williard Roy Willey second from left and Willis Ray Willey fourth from left.

I had a little time so I got into the old newspapers and found brief notes about the early days of Mount Ayr High School football. My notes say the high school boys played the town team to a 0-0 tie but another game was scheduled. The high school team beat the town team 5-0 in late October 1900. At this time, there were no conferences, no schedules, and no sponsors.

I didn't find any information about the 1901 season but I found three games in 1902. Around October 11, 1902, the Mount Ayr High School football boys defeated Graceland College 27-0 at Mount Ayr. Another game between these two took place October 25 at Lamoni. Graceland College won 6-5 but not without incident. The Lamoni Chronicle newspaper admonished our boys for poor sportsmanship without giving any details. A "grudge match" was scheduled but the December 4, 1901 Ringgold Record newspaper announced the cancellation of that game.

The other game I have information on took place at Mount Ayr on November 22. Our high school lads shut down the Davis City town team 17-0. Middleworth and Rusk scored touchdowns while team captain Jesse Sawyer did the kicking.

I hope you noticed what Lamoni and Davis City had in common. They were both on the same railroad line as Mount Ayr, therefore, travel between these points was reliable and speedy.

I know that Mount Ayr played its home games at Saville's Park in 1900. Saville's Park, a baseball diamond, was sponsored by J. H. Saville, a successful dry goods merchant of Mount Ayr and Redding. J. H. Saville also sponsored the most triumphant baseball team of the era. I don't know where Saville's Park was but football games were later played north of the Jeff and Kim Lutrick residence at 201 Shelway Drive. There is a large level area for two or three lots north of their house.

The high school suspended football operations from about 1912 until 1922. The home-opener of the 1922 season was played at, where else, Sheldon Heights. So I'm guessing the old ball diamond was there, too. In September 1923, the new field east of the high school was dedicated. The football boys called this field home until 1957. The new field by the bus barn was dedicated in 1958.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2017


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