Not only was I born and raised in "The Cradle of The Steel Industry", The Youngstown Area was known as a Hotbed for High School Football. I was fortunate enough to attend school in the late 60's and early 70's at Struthers High School. At that time, they were a State Powerhouse in Football. At one point, they had won 22 consectutive games in a row. It was Standing Room Only at their games.
I don't think I ever missed attending a game from first grade until I graduated. I guess it was in your blood. Most students did attend the games and cheer on our beloved Wildcats. Many Art Classes in grade schools were spent decorating windows and rooms with things made in the school colors of red and black. "Spirit Ribbons" were sold each week for girls to wear with a catchy slogan printed on them directed at our foe that week. Phrases like,"Ground The Eagles" or "Spear The Spartans" were proudly displayed.
Because an injury prohibited me from playing, I became an avid follower and unofficial leader of our cheering section at games and assemblies. I guess I inherited the job from another older classman, who also was a injured former football player. Maybe I got the job because I had the loudest mouth. In any event, we kept things lively at all events we attended.
During Struthers' Glory Days on the Gridiron, it wasn't unusual for several buses of students to travel to away games. The team's followers sometimes had more fans at an away game than the home team! Friday Night Fever at it's best! Struthers would often have huge Bonfire Rallies at the high school. The Stars of the team would speak over a Bullhorn and an effigy of the opposing Quarterback would be burned at the stake.
A famous cheer we often screamed at assemblies, went something like this: I would yell,"Hail Team!", the crowd would respond the same,"Hail Team!". I'd shout, "Hail Cats!", getting the reply,"Hail Cats!". I'd bellow,"Hail Falcons!", the students would hysterically shout,"HELL NO!". Our Principal, affectionately known as "Howdy" to everyone, would grab the microphone every time and admonish us with, "Ok, people, saying Hail is one thing, saying that other word in not! Understand?" Of course, we would totally ignore him and do it again the following week. You could just see the red move up his neck and the veins pop out!
Struthers and most public schools' athletic programs went downhill after the Steel Mills closed in the early 80's. Many folks pulled up stakes and literally moved to greener pastures. Along with the population, the tax base left with them. One of the first cuts to the education systems were their athletic programs. My kids attended Struthers schools and only have heard tales of what The Steel Valley was REALLY like. Football was The Heartbeat of all of it.