Victory is More than a Touchdown
Lights went up. Tailgaters made their way to the stadium. Alumni laughed with old classmates. Kids grabbed snacks, and began playing tag football. Trimble High School football team marched single file in their scarlet and white onto the field. Tomcat pride filled Trimble Stadium Friday September 27, 2013 with cheers of encouragement to defeat the Miller Falcons.
“There is nothing like walking out of that stadium on a Friday night with a Tomcats uniform on.” LR Faires experienced a moment of nostalgia standing on the empty Trimble field Friday afternoon before the Trimble versus Miller game. Faires was raised, and raised his own family in Glouster, Ohio, a small coal mining town in Southeast Ohio. He played football for the High School and graduated in 1979.
Football is everything to the Glouster, Trimble, and Jacksonville region and has been since 1919, when the first team formed for Glouster High. The football stadium, located on route 13, is the epicenter for this passion and brings a tremendous amount of life to the area.
The Works Progress Administration built the stadium in the mid 1930s during the heart of the Great Depression. This provided a space for the Glouster Tomcats and Jacksonville-Trimble Cardinals to play (they shared the stadium despite being rivals), until the school districts combined in 1965 and the newly formed Trimble High School took over.
The long tradition of Tomcat pride does not fall short for the young men and women attending Trimble today. Kids start playing football as early as third grade eventually leading to a large portion of boys enrolled in high school on the football team.
This season, students started to shave their heads in a mohawk style and dye it red showing support for their school and football team. This expression of Tomcat pride has spread like red and white wild fire across the Glouster, Trimble, and Jacksonville area. Everybody from football players, to their younger brothers, coaches, and community members began shaving their heads in the same fashion. This movement became known as the “Mohawk Mafia”, and formed camaraderie among the area centered around the Tomcats and Trimble High.
Victory alone has not driven the Tomcats to keep playing. The Tomcats have had amazing seasons, along with ones deemed unspeakable, but the community kept coming back. So many consistently attend that people have designated spots in the stands and some have sat there for fifty plus years. Don Holbert, alumni football player class of 1959 from former Glouster High, and now co-football coach of the Trimble Tomcats, recounts what it feels like to be in the Trimble Stadium on Friday nights today: “You can still feel the thrill.”
Glouster has a troublesome economic history. The town was once a lush coal community: neon signs blinding hundreds of pedestrians on High Street; cars parked nose to tail on both sides of the stretch; skating, bowling, and theaters for entertainment; filled shop window displays. “You didn’t have to go anywhere, you could buy everything in town,” Faires affirms while walking past an empty store front. Those shops are no longer around, but have left an imprint. “I have seen it thriving, and I have seen it fall,” Faires recounts, who grew up during the tail end of the mining industry. Older generation men and women who graduated from Glouster High as early as 1959 iterate the economic problems of the area.
“This is the poorest school district in the county,” Sam Jones said over a cup of Dairy Queen coffee. Jones is the owner of Sam’s Gym located on High Street in Glouster, a small but mighty boxing facility built to help young men and women lead a healthy lifestyle. He graduated from Jacksonville-Trimble in 1959 and witnessed first hand the changes Glouster and the surrounding area went through. “Once coal mining left, we had no industry. There was nothing left.” Drug and substance abuse, and crimes related to poverty caused Glouster to collapse even further.
Lack of funding has threatened to close the high school. If this were to happen, it would be the end of football, and the vital cultural experience the stadium brings to Glouster every fall season. Faires said, “We don’t have much, but what we do have, we are proud of it.” There is no doubt that a lot of that prideful energy is funneled to the Tomcats.
The people of Glouster are in a hard place. Their town struggles to stand, but every autumn brings hope and the Trimble Stadium becomes a safe place where negative burdens wilt away. Here, the love of Glouster shines bright like stadium lights powerfully reflecting the spirit of the community. The victory is not in the score of a game, but in the pride of tradition.
Friday afternoon before the Tomcats versus Falcon game, Faires sat on the empty visitors’ bench of the stadium and looked across the field at the empty stands. “Tomcat Pride” was freshly painted in white lettering above the vomitorium. Absorbing the peacefulness of the scene, Faires confided, “I believe in this, I believe in this community.”