When Morgan High hosts John Glenn in a Muskingum Valley League football game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, the homestand will include several members of the 1965 Malta-McConnelsville Big Reds team and their families.
M&M, as Malta-McConnelsville High was called back then, became what it is now the Morgan Raiders the following year in 1966. Its last autumn on the gridiron was a banner one as it compiled an unbeaten 9-0-1 overall record, 7-0 in the MVL.
More remarkable, the Big Reds of M&M were unscored upon in MVL play - and no school in the league since then has accomplished that feat. Their only "blemish" on the season was an 8-8 tie with non-conference opponent Caldwell in the season finale on Armistice Day in Noble County.
No overtime was played back then.
Ten years ago in 2000, a 35-year reunion was held, and a good time was had by all who attended - and now this weekend, the 45th.
"When Terry Roberts, our team manager died last summer, that kind of got us to thinking," said 62-year-old Grant Earich, one of the M&M football standouts and primary organizers of the reunions.
"Life is kind of short and sometimes we take for granted that something we can do next year or five years down the road...well, it doesn't always work out that way. So, that's what kind of spurred us that maybe we'd better do something."
"Plus, the fact is Coach (Jerry) Brannon and assistant coach John Murray are both in good health," he continued. "You know, when you get to our age, you just don't know. Not a good idea to put those things off, I don't think."
To prepare for this upcoming weekend, Earich and Tom "Turkey" White, co-captains of the '65 Big Reds, sent out invitation letters a while back to team members, and that included not just the players and coaches but managers and cheerleaders as well.
"The majority of the guys are still close to McConnelsville," Earich said. "So, we got a good response.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing team manager Goodie Coulson again. He hasn't been back to one our class reunions, and his coming to this has really touched me. He lives over by Logan."
Earich said that so far between 20 to 23 former players will be returning.
"The thing that really tickles me," he said, "is that all but one of the living seniors are coming back. That's a big thing for us."
Other than the late Rodney Sherman, the returning M&M senior players are Bill Rex, Dorian Sealock, Charlie Eddelblute, Bill Greuey, Ed Hopkins, Stan Allen, Gary Bogolin, Bill Young, Steve Koskey, White and Earich.
Before attending Friday night's game, the M&M team will sit down with the 2010 Morgan football team for a pregame meal. At the contest, the Big Reds of '65 and their families will sit together - and be recognized at halftime.
"We've arranged seating for about 50, and that would include wives, kids and grand-kids," Earich said.
After the game, the group is scheduled to meet at McConnelsville's Riecker Building, about a block from the athletic field.
"It's nothing formal," Earich said. "We'll be using their community room for a reception and just a catch-up period. We'll be having some snacks and telling some stories."
Ah, the stories.
In 1965, Lyndon Baines Johnson was the President of the United States; The Beatles were the kings of pop music; the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Minnesota Twins in the World Series; and Vietnam was in the headlines.
Over in McConnelsville, a Jerry Brannon-coached M&M football team was kicking some serious butt on the gridiron. Coming off an 8-1-1 season in 1964, the Big Reds had lofty expectations with several letterwinners returning in 1965.
Incidentally, before the season kicked off, M&M did scrimmage Marietta High, Earich said.
"This was the era of Woody Hayes-type football and '3 yards and a cloud of dust,'" said Earich, a 190-pound offensive and defensive tackle. "We had a lot of experience on that team, and that is the secret to a good football team."
Experience-wise, M&M took a hit in the season opener when halfback Danny Bellville broke his leg. He would be replaced by John Christie and Steve Sherman.
That smashmouth-brand of football on offense, however, also extended to the defense where nobody, in the MVL at least, could score on the Big Reds that season.
After blanking Zanesville Rosecrans in Week 1, M&M went on to do the same to defending league champion New Lexington, Roseville, John Glenn, Dresden and Philo.
"We had not beaten New Lex in five years," Earich recalled. "So, we knew then that we could play with anybody."
In Week 7, M&M gave up its first scores of the season but still defeated Columbus St. Mary, 18-16.
M&M then came back and shut out Crooksville and Maysville to claim the MVL crown. In league competition, the Big Reds outpointed the opposition, 230-0.
Against Caldwell in the season capper, M&M owned an 8-0 advantage in the second quarter until the Redskins rallied in the same period to tie the score.
At the close of the 1965 campaign, Earich was named M&M's MVP; Hopkins, the top offensive lineman; Earich and Sealock, top defensive linemen; Allen, top offensive back; and White top defensive back.
Don Robinson, Rodney Sherman, Christie, Rex, Eddleblute, White, Allen, Sealock, Greuey, and Earich were All-MVL; and Brannon was MVL Coach of the Year.
After graduating from M&M in the spring of 1966, Earich played briefly at Ohio University. He is the only 1965 Big Reds football player to have competed at the NCAA Division I level.
"This is not about me, but about this team," said Earich, who went on to referee football for 30 years and work in the lumber, logging business.
At 9 a.m. Saturday, the 1965 M&M team and family members are scheduled to have a continental breakfast with 75-year-old Brannon at the Stockport Mill Inn. The cost is $7 and is open to the entire community.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org