Multiple Teams · “Magical” Football Bag Returns to Cardinal Ritter

This season proved to be a magical one for our Cardinal Ritter family.  Many are unaware that this season also marked the 50th anniversary of the Varsity program’s existence.  In the beginning of October the Raiders faithful seemed a little down, after a 1-4 start there were many naysayers and typical for a team having a disappointing start, many playing the blame game.  It seemed as if everyone was looking for something to turn this season around.

The Raiders then beat the Triton Central Tigers who were then ranked followed by a narrow Beech Grove victory.  Now with a 3-4 record and Scecina next, there was still (for some reason) some who were pessimistic about the Raiders chances the rest of the season.  As many know Scecina beat Cardinal Ritter in the Sectionals the year before and only had one loss coming into the game.

Then a package came, with a letter, the day before the highly anticipated match-up against the Scecina Crusaders.  It was the bag that was used in the inaugural varsity season for the Raiders in 1966 with a note from Assistant Coach Richard Durfour who had held onto the bag for the past 50 years.  After the bag came home the Raiders rattled off 8 more consecutive wins to finish the season 11-4 and become the IHSAA Class 2A State Champions.

Below is the letter that accompanied the bag.   Was this bag in fact the magic that helped the Raiders excel them to their 5th State Championship?  Read the letter and you be the judge.

October 6, 2016

In 1966, Cardinal Ritter football began its first year of varsity competition.  New to the Raiders athletic program were head coach, Paul rose and his assistant and line coach, Dick Ricker.  The two coaches had come from a successful stay at Thorntown High School, where they had turned that school’s football team into a winning program.

A June 1966 college graduate, I was hired soon after as a social studies teacher, and then asked to join the football staff as an assistant.  A first-year varsity football team, two new but experienced coaches, and one freshly degreed assistant.  What was this launch season going to look like?

As two-a-day workouts got underway, the first hour of the first practice fore-shadowed how Ritter Raiders would compete in the weeks ahead.  built on what Coach rose already knew about his players, he and Coach Ricker found that they were well-suited to the brand of football they believed necessary for a metropolitan team to succeed.  Cardinal Ritter youth possessed an inherent toughness and competitiveness, guided by personal discipline and the willingness to improve.  Beginning with the first kick-off of the 1966 season, on both offense and defense, the Raiders surprised opponents with their quickness, decisive play, energy and visible desire to excel physically.

As a part of this growing identity and reputation, I learned more about working with the youth from coaches Rose and Ricker than I did from teacher education.  Indelible is Paul Rose’s credo: “I have never met a kid who is chicken.  I only know kids who need confidence.”  In the classroom, too, my mentors were no different than the enthusiastic, genuine coaches they were on the football field.

Over many years, I have had a special interest in the lengthening narrative of Cardinal Ritter High School.  As one of the early-years’ teachers and coaches in the CRHS lifespan, it has been a source of satisfaction to see how academics, the football program and the mission of the school continue to maintain strength and character.  As well, over those five decades, a keepsake from my time at Ritter has traveled with me.  Now, I am returning it to its original home, where I first saw it in 1966.

The aged, cloth football bag bearing the block red R and the number 23 has been my link to Cardinal Ritter and has even found service in my teaching and coaching since I left CRHS with Coach Rose to head the championship football program of Marion Catholic HS, Marion, Ohio.  The bag was replaced by a new bag in 1967.  But today, I understand it will be displayed in a place of honor.  Perhaps this 50th year of Raider varsity football, there will be a new trophy to accompany it.  

Love the sport.   Play with heart.    Compete with pride.

Richard Dufour, CRHS football coach/freshman coach, 1966-1968