The first Lowell High School Football team was organized in the fall of 1900. The winning season included 7 wins and 2 losses. The first home game was played on Train’s Field (the future Recreation Park) against Greenville with the 11-0 win for Lowell. In the beginning, there were other independent Lowell teams. Those who have researched the local papers have experienced difficulty differentiating between the school and the independent teams.
The local newspaper was very outspoken against football and its dangers. The November 15, 1900, Ledger stated “A Chicago boy was killed while playing football last Friday. The Ledger is of the opinion that Lowell people will not enthuse over football to any great extent. It appears to rival the Philippine war for hazard to life and limb.”
During the Great War, in the Spring of 1917, the Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, encouraged everyone at home to lend a hand to the war effort and those serving overseas. Lowell male baseball and track athletes (many who also played football) worked with the football Coach and began donating one day a week to work on area farms. From the 1917 Retrospectus, “The money isn’t what the boys are working for, though, but to do the great thing the president is calling on all of us to do who cannot fight the battles. Go to the farm. This work is as healthful and beneficial as baseball or track, so the boys have entered the farming game with the same spirit as they would one of these athletic games; which mean more profit for themselves and others as well.”
World War II again saw football players as heroes. This time, in serving their country and giving their lives, the ultimate sacrifice. Eleven former players died in the war. They were Ray Barrett, Gerald Ellis, Robert Fineis, Harry Gould, Lee Hoag, Edward McDonald, L.J. Nummer, Hoyt Phelps, Lavant Potter, Calvin Preston, and Gerald Schreur.
The 1959 football squad stood out. Coached by Charlie Pierce, players became known as ‘The Ironmen’ because only 14 players played the complete game. Nine of those played both offense and defense. The team tied Grandville for the Grand Valley League co-championship, and they won the Grand Valley Sportsmanship Trophy. This award was voted on by the league members. Comments on the ballots included on how hard but clean the team played and other accolades to the fine sportsmanship of this ‘Ironman’ team.
A few of Lowell’s well-loved coaches include J. F. Thomas, Charlie Pierce, Ron Finch, Bob Perry, Carrol ‘Chris’ Burch, Gary Rivers, Phil Christensen, and Noel Dean.
Coach Burch took the title of winningest coach to that point, and in 1974 the field at Recreation Park was renamed in honor of him. A large rock was inscribed to read “These facilities dedicated to Mrs. and Mrs. Carrol Burch for years of service to Lowell Athletics, schools and community September 27, 1974”. The team played at Burch field until 1993. After the last game on October 22, the team moved to ‘Red Arrow Field’ located at the new high school. The rock was also moved, keeping the memory of Coach Burch alive and completely connected to Lowell High School football. After the death of Coach Bob Perry, the playing Field was named in honor of him, ‘Bob Perry Field at Red Arrow Memorial Stadium’.
Though the Lowell football team is well known for winning seasons, Football at Lowell High School means a lot more than winning. Sportsmanship, perseverance, patriotism, and loyalty are just a few of the lessons to be learned from the history of the team. For further information, the museum recommends Lowell High School Football 1900 - 2013, The History The Tradition The People, Compiled by Fred Lenger. (Can be found at the Lowell Area Historical Museum)
Lowell Football Team 1930-1940s
Hank Weaver 1930