Canal Winchester teacher and coach Mike Locke never got to read perhaps the greatest tribute to his legendary career-a book written by his son honoring his dad and the Indians’ 1975 undefeated varsity football team.
Locke passed away on July 27 at age 73. Steven Locke’s book about that championship season, "Little Locke and the Mighty Indians of 1975," was released Sept. 13.
Written from a coach’s son perspective (Steven was in middle school when his father and the team went undefeated), the book pays homage not only to the elder Locke and players, but also to the town of Canal Winchester and times that nurtured and influenced their lives.
"I was in seventh grade and thought the players were bigger than life," said Steven, who played football under his father’s coaching from 1977-80. "As an adult, I thought it would be neat to write a book about my dad, the 1975 team, and everyday life. In the mid-1990s I started sending out questionnaires and conducting one-on-one interviews with coaches and players. I wanted the book to be in two parts: the first on who we were and how we lived and the second part on the 10 game 1975 season."
The memoir was put on hold when Steven was in an accident and suffered a spinal cord injury. In 2006, he began work on the book in earnest and spent the next three years compiling information, interviews, remembrances and photos before sending out his final draft to publishers.
There were many "thanks, but no thanks" responses before the book was picked up by iUniverse for publication in softcover, hardcover and digital media. Three weeks before the book was published, Mike Locke passed away, but not before his son had a chance to read his father passages from the book.
"Through working on the book, I found out how much he (Mike) cared," said Steven. "He loved coaching and I wanted to include both funny and serious stories. I knew I didn’t want the book to be just a sports story. I wanted the reader to feel the life that we lived during that time."
While the second half of "Little Locke and the Mighty Indians of 1975" is devoted to the championship season, only one chapter is fully devoted to a single game-the Canal Winchester and Pickerington match-up of Oct. 24, 1975 when both teams entered Pickerington’s stadium undefeated and Woody Hayes was in attendance.
"Crowded as Pickerington would become that Friday evening, Canal Winchester would become inversely empty as a ghost town. Band members and their parents; band directors and spouses, cheerleaders and parents, coaches and wives (except for Mom), football players and their parents, grandparents, and extended families, the teaching staff, administrators, significant others, and every fan in town made their way to Pickerington for ‘The Game.’ In Canal’s locker room before leaving, Dad reminded his team to focus, telling them how best to approach the big showdown…
Despite the Tigers having home field advantage, Canal’s huge (have-son-will-travel) fan base – if not negating, certainly checked Pickerington’s edge in attendance and volubility. So when the Indians emerged from the visitor’s locker room and jogged onto the field for silent warm-ups they were simultaneously cheered and jeered, lustily, and in equal measure. Across the way the Tigers barked cadences with bravado during calisthenics. The pregame psychological warfare had begun." (From "Little Locke and the Mighty Indians of 1975.")
"I wanted the book to be honest-warts and all, but I also wanted to paint a picture of what an accomplishment the 1975 season was," said Steven, who taught history in Granville, where he lives with his wife Linda, and worked for the Ohio Historical Society as curator of history.
"Little Locke and the Mighty Indians of 1975" is available from online retailers and the author is offering signed copies of the softbound edition for $25 (shipping and handling included). For information, email Steven Locke at davi...@msn.com.
CW football history
Coach Mike Locke’s Canal Winchester Indians varsity football teams went undefeated in 1974 and 1975, finishing 10-0 both years and winning Mid-State League titles. Out of those 20 games spanning two seasons, the Indians shut out their opponents 14 times. Locke was named league coach of the year both seasons.
In 1974, the Indians defeated: Bexley, 22-20; Fisher Catholic, 13-6; Logan Elm, 21-0; Pickerington, 23-6; Bloom-Carroll, 31-15; Amanda-Clearcreek, 29-0; Millersport, 28-0; Fairfield Union, 21-0; Berne Union, 27-0; and Liberty Union, 9-0.
In 1975 the Indians defeated: Bexley, 27-0; Fisher Catholic, 34-0; Millersport, 32-7; Berne Union, 56-0; Fairfield Union, 40-0; Logan Elm, 30-0; Bloom-Carroll, 32-0; Pickerington, 12-0; Amanda-Clearcreek, 27-6; and Liberty Union 16-0.
(Source for CW football history: "A History of Canal Winchester High School Football, 1909-2001," by R. Scott Stiteler.)