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Blue Jays flew high from 1954 to 1963

We recently looked at great run the Darlington Indians had in the late 1960s and Crawfordsville’s run to the state championship game. Now it’s time to spread a little of the love to a school in the southern part of the county.

Perhaps no school has put together better nine-year run than New Ross did from 1954 to 1963. New Ross only won four sectional titles and two regional titles and they all came in that time.

It started with a great run in the years 1953-54, 1954-55 and it culminated in the season of 1955-56. Over that stretch, the Blue Jays posted a combined record of 67-9. That included 20-plus wins in all three seasons.

The school had its best record in the 1955-56 season when it ran off 26 straight wins before falling to Gary Froebel in the first game of the semistate by a 68-41 score. That loss ended the school’s longest all-time winnings streak.

New Ross went 21-0 in the regular season. It had also won its last seven games of the regular season the year before to give it a 28-game regular season winning streak.

New Ross, under the guidance of Glen Harper, really had two narrow escapes on its way to its 26 wins in a row. The first one came in the fifth game of the season when Darlington gave them a scare before the Blue Jays won 46-44. The next nail-biter came in the first game of the sectional against Crawfordsville where the team needed overtime to beat the host team 45-41. Dick Haffner, the leading scorer on the season for New Ross, led the way with 22 points.

Darlington provided another close game for New Ross in the second round of the sectional before the Blue Jays earned a 53-46 win. Once again, Haffner led the way with 21 and Larry Myers added 11. Finally, New Ross had an easier game in the sectional finals as it defeated Ladoga 38-23. In that game Haffner outscored the Canners himself as he scored 28 points. This sectional final pitted the top two teams against one another as New Ross entered the game 23-0 and Ladoga was 18-4.

In the regional, New Ross continued to play, and win, close games. Covington fell in the first game to New Ross by a 58-52 score. Larry Nichols led the way with 21 points, Haffner added 13 and Myers tallied 11. In the regional final, Haffner tallied 30 and Meyers added 16 to lead New Ross to a 63-59 win over Clinton.

For the season, the team ended up winning eight games by seven points or less and four were in the state tournament.

Team members of the 1956 regional champions were: Dave Anderson, Dave Carver, Dick Feltner, Dave Fruits, Dick Haffner, Dave Harris, Tom Harmon, Joe Linn, Benny McAnulty, Bob Morgan, Larry Myers, Larry Nichols, Rusty Nichols and Charles Stewart. The eight seniors on the team ended their careers with a 77-20 record, a county title in 1955-56, two sectional titles (1954 and 1956) and a regional title.

However, the school wasn’t done with great seasons. Beginning in 1958-59 the school posted five straight 20-plus wins seasons. Over that period, New Ross combined for an overall record of 109-13. The run from 1958-59 to 1960-61 the school went 21-2, 21-3 and 25-2 for a three-year record of 67-7. That run culminated with another semistate appearance in the 1960-61 season.

The 1960-61 team, coached by the legendary Waveland standout player Keith Greve, lost its third game of the season to Pinnell by a 69-63 score and then ran off 23 straight wins before losing to Logansport in the semistate by a score of 83-51.

The Blue Jays nearly didn’t escape the sectional. It beat Linden 45-43 in its first game. The team needed double overtime to beat pesky Darlington 52-50. In the championship game, the Blue Jays placed three players in double figures (Phil Haffner 22, Dan Isenberg and Bob McAnulty with 12 each).

At the regional, Attica fell 57-47 and then Greencastle was beaten for the school’s second — and last — regional title by a score of 64-45.

The team members of the 1961 regional championship team were: Don Bayless, Bill Evans, Charles Frederick, Curt Fruits, Phil Haffner, Dan Isenberg, Bob McAnulty, Gary Moore, John Norman, Alan Norris and Ronnie Youngs. That senior class went out with an 88-13 record.

New Ross ended up defending its sectional title in 1961-62 when the team ended the campaign 21-4 record and it conclude its streak of 20-plus seasons in 1962-63 when the team lost in the second round of the sectional to the eventual champion Crawfordsville. The seniors on the 1962-63 team compiled a four-year record of 88-11.

Barry Lewis has covered local sports for over 30 years. If he hasn’t witnessed it, he’s researched it and now he’s sharing the history of Montgomery County sports.

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