Fairbanks will observe 50th football season; play 500th game on Friday


This plaque, which is located in the south end zone of Fairbanks High School’s Kyre Field, remembers the late Frank Spurlock, who was the Panthers’ first football coach. Fairbanks is playing its 50th season this fall. Friday night’s home game against West Liberty-Salem will be the school’s 500th. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)

The seventh week of the 2019 high school football regular-season will be extremely important to Fairbanks High School.
Not only will the Panthers hope to extend their four-game winning streak on Friday, but they will attempt to do so against unbeaten and state-ranked West Liberty-Salem (6-0).
Aside from what the game means for the current campaign, Friday will also give those in Panther Nation the opportunity to take a walk down the school’s football memory lane.
The 2019 season marks the 50th campaign for football at Fairbanks High School.
Friday’s game against the Tigers will also be the 500th in school history.
“Milestones such as this are things we should always recognize,” said Panther athletic director Larry Morris. “We have a rich tradition of several sports at Fairbanks and football is one of them.”
The football program began in the early 1970s and was spurred by the efforts of the late Galen Kyre, who was the district’s superintendent at the time. The football field is named for him.
The late Frank Spurlock had spent the previous five years as an assistant coach at Mechanicsburg, which would eventually become one of the Panthers’ arch gridiron rivals.
Spurlock was named the team’s first head coach and served in that capacity through the 1989 season.
He died after a valiant struggle with cancer in January of 1990.
He remains the program’s winningest coach with a record of 128-67-2.
Spurlock was followed in order by Mark Geer, Ted Wierzbicki, Dave Gebhart, Jeff Pica, Carlton Cotner, Morgan Cotter, Gebhart (for a second stint) and the current head coach Patrick Cotter.
The Panthers will carry an overall record of 288-210-2 into Friday’s contest.
Invitations have been extended to all former Panther players and coaches to attend the game.
Morris said he was not sure as of late last week how many had responded.
“Patrick has been the point man on that,” he said.
All registered alumni from the 1970s and 1980s will be recognized between the first and second quarters.
Those from the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s will be honored between the third and fourth quarters.
“I’m not exactly sure how many former players and coaches have registered for Friday’s celebration,” said Cotter late last week. “I would guess, however, that we will have 50-plus.”
Standout moments from the program’s history will also be announced during stoppages in play and timeouts.
The Panthers have qualified for the state playoffs a total of six years under Wierzbicki, Gebhart and the Cotter brothers.
The “golden age” of the program, as far as wins and losses, occurred between the 1980 and 1983 campaigns.
During that four-year span, the Panthers amassed a record of 37-3.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association did not take as many teams in the state playoffs back in those days.
As such, despite that sparkling record, Fairbanks did not earn a post-season berth.
Fairbanks High School football has long been about family traditions.
Spurlock’s sons, Dustin and Gaston, played on the Panther gridiron, as did grandsons Ryan and Tucker Green.
Grandsons Braylon, Brogan and Teegan Green are members of the current FHS squad.
The Spurlock family will be recognized along with former players and coaches during Friday’s celebration.
“We’ve also had generations of the Nicol, Scheiderer, Rausch and Burns families, among others, who have played football for Fairbanks,” said Morris.

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