Loyal reader(s): I am back. This week I will spotlight some of the local players U.C. has had who came from local high schools. I will start with one of my favorites: Elder High School from Price Hill. Being an east-sider I had heard about Elder all of my life.
On this side of town all of the public schools live in the shadow of Moeller (Oh, congrats on the football and baseball state titles). Back in the 70s and 80s the Moeller shadow was quite large, although I don’t think it’s as prominent now as it was back then.
So I would hear about the stories about The Pit and the Elder Purple Monster and thought it was kind of cool but never really paid much attention to it. Things changed as I got older and start attending high school games again. Since I am a small-school guy I would really only get to see Elder, Colerain, Moe and St. Xavier the first weekend of the season in the Skyline Showdown.
These guys would either play each other or some out of town teams. This is when I got my first taste of Elder Football, and it was frankly awesome. Their entire huge fan base clad in purple, with grads all of the way back to the 20s!! I would also see them in the post-season where their fans would see me in a blue and gold jacket and think I was from Moeller (It wasn’t)!!!
Then in 2001 a friend of mine got tickets for the Elder-Warren Harding game at the pit. My first time to The Pit. All I could say was WOW. I had never seen anything like that. With the large grill right behind the end zone. The passion. The intensity. It was nothing like I had ever seen before, and it was great.
There is one similar stadium that I had been too and that was Reading, in terms of the concrete seats, but they had seats only on one side. It was just an incredible atmosphere. The fans we sat with couldn’t have been nicer. It was also the first time I saw one of my favorite players who would ever wear a Bearcat uniform: Bill Poland. Elder won big that day 24-14, holding future Ohio State Buckeye Maurice Claret to about 50 yards rushing. Poland was terrific with his receiving and blocking.
The next year Elder won its first state football title. I remember that team fondly, and it was not just the state championship. They opened that year against Dixie Heights in the Skyline game. Dixie Heights was the home team and was responsible for the chain crew. Those guys didn’t show up, so the linesman recruited me and my friends to do the chains. We were on the Elder side, and in 16 years of doing the chains I never had an easier game. The coaches told the players do not cross the yellow line on the sidelines, and NOT ONCE, NOT ONCE did any of the Elder players cross that line. It was the only game I ever worked where that happened.
Anyway, back to Poland. Not only was he a great football player, but he could really play basketball as well. When he was a senior they were playing Withrow in the first round of the tournament. Withrow was 20-0 and ranked #1 in the city I believe. Well, Elder (who was 11-9, last in the G.C.L.) beat them 60-55. Poland had a tip-in dunk that was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen a high school kid make. I remember it to this day. My jaw hit the floor, and the whole building just exploded. Even Withrow fans roared in their approval. Just a truly athletic play. Poland was a great athlete, and when I heard he signed with the Bearcats I could not have been happier.
Bill had a fine career with the Bearcats from 2003-2006. While he didn’t have great numbers he was always in the receiver rotation and made his share of drive-sustaining catches. I remember his most significant play in a Bearcat Uniform. Rutgers 2006 on the Brent Celek 83 yard T.D. reception. It was Bill Poland HUSTLING, HUSTLING down and making TWO, TWO key blocks on one play. That one play really defines who Bill Poland was as a football player.
Someone who played his butt off every snap and who put the team’s needs ahead of his own. I think his greatest legacy is that he was the first Elder guy to go back to U.C. and started a long line of Elder players going to play in Clifton for the Bearcats, as I will chronicle in my next post. Well done Bill. I wish him all the success and happiness in the world. See you next week.