Friday, November 19, 1999

Lebanon turns maroon and white

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Peggy Miller measures the success of Lebanon High School's football team by the yard. Literally.

        When the team is hot on the field, Mrs. Miller is busy at work, measuring out maroon and white ribbon in the fabric and crafts department at Wal-Mart. With the Lebanon Warriors facing the Edgewood Cougars tonight in the Division II quarter-final football game, there's been a run on ribbon.

        Maroon craft paint — perfect for daubing footballs and putting “Go Warriors!” onto the cheeks of devoted fans — also has flown off the shelves.

        “They've hit us pretty good,” Mrs. Miller said. “We have to keep extra on hand, or we'll run out.”

        In every nook and cranny of Lebanon, football frenzy is mounting. Maroon and white streamers tacked to street lamps catch the wind. Storefronts in the historic downtown district scream “Good Luck, Warriors,” “Shine in '99,” and “End the season with a bang.”

        Rancor about the city's fast-paced growth and controversial street projects takes a back seat to talk about whether Lebanon can win back-to-back state championships.

        This is football. And in small-town Ohio, with a team making a run at the state finals, football is everything.

        “If they had me work on Fridays, they'd miss me,” said Bob Hicks, of his job as a third-shift superintendent at PLM, a Cincinnati packaging company. “I don't work Friday nights.”

        For six years, Friday football at Lebanon High School has been a Hicks family tradition.

        From a closetful of maroon hats, sweat shirts and pants, Mr. Hicks pulls the same sweat shirt to wear for each game. Gray, with maroon trim. A football across the front. On the back are his sons' numbers, 56 for Reese, who graduated two years ago, and 65 for Jordan, a senior defensive end and team captain.

        “Some years, it's a little tighter than others. But this year, it's pretty good,” Mr. Hicks laughed.

        “We've had such a good season in the last four or five years, I'm afraid not to wear it. I'll wear it until Jordan's finished, then I'll retire it.”

        Superstition may be genetic. On Thursdays before a game, Jordan wears a college football shirt. On Fridays, it's a gray T-shirt under his football jersey.

        The community support has spurred on the team, Jordan said.

        “We're real pumped,” he said. “We want to bring the state title back to Lebanon.”

        Phyllis and Dave Hartsock left 80-degree weather on the west coast of Florida to bundle up at the playoff football games. Their grandson, Tyler Alexander, is a senior and offensive lineman.

        “All sports mean a lot to Lebanon, really, not just football,” Mr. Hartsock said. “But when you've got a winning team, everyone just rallies around them.”

        Since the playoffs began, Tyler's mother, Susie, has met weekly with the football moms' club to make streamers and signs. At a community pep rally earlier this month, Mrs. Alexander and other moms performed a cheer.

        “I can't say that we did any cartwheels,” Mrs. Alexander said. “There was a lot of jumping around, though.”

        Karol Aylor, cheerleading sponsor and fourth-grade teacher at Donovan Intermediate, estimates most of her wardrobe has some maroon, even her coat.

        “I'm crazy, I admit it,” she said. “I think I bleed maroon.”


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