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October 5, 1999

The return of football season is always an exhilarating time. No matter what level of the game you follow -- the NFL, OU and/or OSU or other collegiate teams, high schools, grade schools and so on -- it's a wonderfully exciting sport. It does you good to holler, jump up and down and just generally get the old vascular system churning, so don't hold back. Take in all the games you can and be part of the spectacle.

In that respect, I think the most fun I've had as a spectator came during the seasons Rex Edgar was coach of the Perry Maroons. This was back in the early 1960s, when Rex also was head coach of the PHS wrestling team. He had winning seasons in both sports, and some of Perry's most notable football games were played during his tenure. I was covering PHS football for this newspaper at the time and developed a close relationship with Rex, as well as other coaches.

Rex left the Perry school system in 1969 and began a successful career in banking. At the time, he was frustrated by some of the rebellious trends already manifested among young people. He was a disciplinarian, an Infantry officer in the Army National Guard, and he demanded total and unquestioning obedience from those who served under him. His football and wrestling programs were predicated on that kind of behavior and control. Rex truly loved the competition and the young people he worked with, but perhaps he saw some handwriting on the wall. The decade of the '60s had its own unique problems. Many things were in a state of drastic change.

My apprenticeship as a PDJ sports writer actually began in the autumn of 1941 when I was a young and very green reporter, but things were different then. Locally, the standard football coverage was a play-by-play account of the entire game, typed in the press box as the action took place. A one-paragraph lead was inserted to explain who won and where the game was played. It did not call for much creativity and I'm not even sure we always had the five w's - who, what, where, when and why - but anyone who read the play-by-play account knew exactly what happened. I suspect only a few took the time to do that, even though the details were faithfully printed in Saturday's Journal the day after the game.

When I entered the Army in 1943 during World War II someone else inherited the sports writing job. When I returned to civilian life in Perry after the war, the late Jimmy (Sugar) Cain volunteered to write the post-game football stories so I was not involved. Jimmy also handled the public address system for home games. Various others followed him, but I started doing it again about the time Rex got the job as head coach. If you recall that era, young Mickey Ripley was just hitting his stride as a passing quarterback and some of the best athletes Perry has ever had filled key roles in the Maroon offense. The team had a good season in the fall of 1963 and went to the first round of the playoffs against Stillwater on fabled Hamilton Field, the Pioneers' home turf. Rex's Maroons were given little chance to win, but hard-running Bobby Drebenstedt and others of that team gave the Pioneers a tough fight before bowing, and it was clear the PHS program was on the upswing. That playoff game, by the way, was played the night of President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. More football memories will follow soon.