Friday, September 07, 2001

Old meets new on field




By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — As he goes about his work, veteran high school football coach Ed Mignery is understandably a proud man.

        Coach Mignery's team is undefeated and ranked No. 6 in The Enquirer Division I poll in his 14thyear as field general of the venerable and popular “Big Blue” football team of Hamilton High School.

[photo] Lakota West head football coach Larry Cox and the team joke with one another in the team's weight room following practice.
(Michael Snyder photos)
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        But there's a smallish brick room on the high school campus that humbles his good-natured bravado.

        Under the school's football stands is the “Blue Room” football museum — a loving shrine to this old industrial city's 110 years and counting of football excellence.

        As he enters the decorated room, Coach Mignery's usually gruff coach's bark gives way to tones of respect and awe.

        “Look over here: we have every team photo of every Hamilton team back to 1891,” he says, pointing to rows and rows of fading black and white photos.

        He motions toward a leather helmet from the 1930s — a decade that saw Hamilton follow up its 1929 state football championship with repeats in 1935 and 1939.

[photo] Hamilton High head football coach Ed Mignery stands in the "Blue Room' at the high school.
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        Hamilton's high school teams are a reflection of the Butler County city's historical pride, he explained. And though newer and more prosperous suburban high schools are flexing their muscles as contenders — such as tonight's opponent,Lakota West High School — Coach Mignery is respectfully unbudging.

        He refers to newer suburban high school football powers as “the so-called haves” with their new buildings and expensive weight rooms.

        The Lakota West Firebirds have a lot more gridiron dreams than history, having only fielded a team for five years.

        But the ninth-ranked Firebirds have the boom township of West Chester buzzing about the birth of a new football legacy.

        Lakota West Football Coach Larry Cox counsels patience, having been an assistant coach at Hamilton and still a resident of the nearby city. He knows you can't short-cut a century-plus of football excellence or grow an alumni fan base in a half-decade.

        Tonight's game at Firebird Field is the Greater Miami Conference opener for both top-ranked teams and a standing-room only crowd of nearly 5,000 is expected to pack onto the West Chester high school's campus for the game.

       



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