Struthers football program marks 100th year


Struthers football program marks 100th year

By Sarah Lehr

slehr@vindy.com

STRUTHERS

Greg Ekoniak, a former Struthers Wildcat football player, still remembers entering the stadium at Campbell Memorial High School in 1985 to the sound of cheering fans.

Ekoniak described the atmosphere that day as “electric.” He is one of many Struthers alumni who speak fondly of the decades-long rivalry between Campbell and Struthers football.

Many Wildcats, past and present, gathered Friday at Struthers High School, 111 Euclid Ave., for a celebration of the football program’s 100-year anniversary.

A tailgate in the high school parking lot before the home game against Toledo Scott sold out at 400 tickets. Donavito’s Italian Grille provided food and ticket proceeds benefitted the Struthers Gridiron Club.

The program also recognized its alumni during a ceremony. Among those honored was Laddie Fedor, who is believed to be the oldest living Struthers football alum and is the namesake of the “Laddie J. Fedor” football field. Fedor, a member of the class of 1947, served in World War II before becoming a teacher, principal and eventually a superintendent for the school district.

Another notable alum is Struthers Mayor Terry Stocker, who belongs to a family with four generations, including three living generations, of Struthers football players.

Stocker, a member of the class of 1967, described football as central to his high school experience. In particular, he remembers team members gathering on porches on crisp fall evenings to recap that day’s practice.

Struthers football also factored prominently into the childhood of Marsha Kliem.

Her late father, Howard “Howdy” Heldman, himself a member of the Struthers High School class of 1934, coached the football team from 1947 to 1951. He also coached track and field and basketball, served as a referee and became a Struthers High School principal.

When she was about 5 years old, Kliem would attend practices and described herself as a “sort of mascot” for the team.

Founded in 1916, Struthers football saw its first undefeated team in 1930. The school built its first home football field in 1925, four years after the construction of a high school on Euclid Avenue. The stadium saw several renovations and notably, received construction help from the federal Works Progress Administration in 1937.

Struthers City Schools athletic director Nancy Knight says the district’s century of football fever mirrors the enthusiasm for high school football throughout Northeast Ohio.

“Oh, it’s huge.” Knight said of high school football. “On Friday nights, the stadium is the place to be.”

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