COLUMBIANA – Ohio (WKBN) – High school football in northeast Ohio is embedded with long lasting traditions and customs. One prime example of that is found in the small village of Columbiana where the Clippers are celebrating 100 years of Clipper football.
The first year of Columbiana football was 1916 when the “Red and White” as they were known then, completed a 2-3 season under head coach and school principal Byron McCready. They practiced and played their games on East Park Avenue, across the street from Firestone Park where the Clippers play today.
It wasn’t until the end of World War II that the Columbiana sports teams began using the moniker of the Clippers. The nickname came from Columbiana graduate Dick “Sonny” Fisher who was called the ‘Columbiana Clipper’ by radio broadcaster Tom Manning when Fisher carried the ball as a halfback on the Ohio State Buckeye football team.
Fisher was an outstanding player for the Buckeyes on both the gridiron and basketball court, being named to the All-Big Ten team in 1941 and leading the basketball team in scoring in the 1941-42 season. After serving in the Navy during the war he returned to finish his collegiate career in 1945. Unfortunately, Fisher passed away in March of 2015 at the age of 95, just short of seeing the 100 year anniversary.
From that humble beginning in 1916, the Clippers have amassed a 454-398-26 record over the years on the gridiron. Current head coach Bob Spaite has the most wins in school history with 153 over 22 years.
“It’s been and continues to be an honor to Coach the Clippers. I really feel it’s a special thing to mark 100 years of anything, but especially to be a part of a program with the rich history that Columbiana has,” Spaite remarked.
On Saturday the Clippers are celebrating their 100 years with an open event for all former Clipper players and alumni to enjoy food and drinks following their scrimmage with Indian Creek at Firestone Park. Time for the event is scheduled for approximately 2pm.
“As far as the players go, it’s hard to say. I know they are aware,” Spaite said of the current players being aware of the milestone. “I know they feel the pride of representing Clipper football. But being teenagers I don’t think they grasp the true significance. None of us as teenagers, or young adults really do. Hopefully it will sink in and add to what they already should know is a special time.”
Columbiana will also have a special ceremony recognizing the 100 anniversary during their home game against rival East Palestine on September 9th.
“Right now we are trying to organize a large reunion style gathering. I’m looking to create a 12th man Clipper football alumni group. I would like to see it as much for a way for players to stay in touch as anything else. We will recognize all former players that attend the week 3 game versus East Palestine. Exactly how we do that will depend on the turnout,” Spaite added.