Fact: Tippecanoe High School has never won a state championship in any team sport in over a century of competing. There have been several near-misses in basketball, soccer, and volleyball, but this week my hometown Red Devils are the closest they’ve ever been to breaking the curse in football. Our 12-0 gridders will take on Trotwood-Madison, 2011 state champs, in the third round of the OHSAA Division III playoffs on Friday, November 22. This is the elite eight stage. If they find their way through the final four into the championship game, they’ll likely face LeBron James’ alma mater, Akron St. Vincent – St. Mary. A tall order for sure.
Win or lose, growing up as a Red Devil was always interesting, especially when we played Holy Angels in junior high contests. “Go Devils, Beat the Angels!” we gleefully cheered. In high school, I mastered the art of painting realistic flames on spirit posters. We weren’t so careful when we flippantly wrote “Burn the Indians” across the top before a big game with Stebbins. The slogan seemed rather innocent when we played the Versailles Tigers, but implied human genocide didn’t go over as well with the administration.
Over the years, various community groups protested the mascot choice, and the official logo now looks like a cherubic sprite rather than the fierce devil with horns we sported in the ’90s.
The truth is, our beloved Devil wasn’t meant to have a satanic theme at all. The nickname derives from a nod to Native American braves (our yearbook is the Canoe, and the newspaper is the Birchbark) as well as a reference to the engine cars of a train line called the Interurban which passed the old high school along Fifth Street each day. The school needed a mascot in the 1930s, and students thought the 27-ton C&LE “Red Devil” train cars were suitably fast and strong to represent a football team.
Even if the Tippecanoe Red Devils aren’t as demonic as we might have once thought, there’s one eerie coincidence. I took the photo (posted above) at Tipp’s final regular-season game in 2011. Its series number in my archives is randomly 11-666.
Whichever version of the mascot you choose to identify with–brave warrior, hellish monster, or barreling train–find your way to Piqua on Friday night to support our boys.
My updated cheer? Go Devils! Roll over the Rams!
When: Friday, November 22, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.