(Editorial Note: Part 123 of a series of further development in the early days that impacted Franklin County. Sources: Hometown Album, compiled by Newell Hart; Images of America — Preston, by Necia P. Seamons; Salt Lake Tribune)
Trying out for “the team,” had a little different approach in the early days of competitive sports in Franklin County. It was considered to be an audition, proving your worthiness to make the playing team, no matter which sport. The initial sports offered at the Oneida Stake Academy were wrestling, boxing, baseball and track. When the Nielsen Gymnasium was built, basketball was added to the offerings.
From the Quiver of 1917, the yearbook of the Oneida Stake Academy, is a photograph of 12 young men in various forms of attire. Belted trousers, sleeveless undershirts, white shirts, sweaters and even one player sporting a tied tie. A suited man, with serious facial expression, collar down, tie in place, stands to either side of the group, indicating the importance of this occasion. Front and center, one of the guys is holding a placard with the words Class Soccer Champs, his jersey emblazoned with the year 1916.
“Class leagues were organized for the purpose of ‘creating legitimate rivalry between classes, and also to serve as tryouts for the Academy teams,’ according to the academy school catalogues from 1909 to 1913.” There were other requirements in order to qualify and make the team. It wasn’t all skill with the balls and being able to run, kick, shoot and the like. “The players must have character and scholastic ability as well...Our teams have achieved considerable success. Some of the best games seen in Preston have been played by Academy teams.”
In the 1919-1920 school year the sport of football was introduced to the Academy, and to its fans, by Coach W. W. “Woody” Romney. He developed a great team from these young men who were ‘green’ at this new game, not having any experience before. They came to him “well conditioned from working on the threshing machines” during the grain harvests throughout the county.
The Quiver of that year states: “The coach is to be highly complimented on the wonderful team developed out of such raw material. We were forced to undergo severe hardships on account of the weather. We had been practicing for about two weeks when almost a foot of snow fell . . . Our first game was played with Brigham Young College at Logan. We were defeated by a score of 13-3 . . . (but) we were able to play the B. Y. C. to a 0 to 0 score on our field. Malad sent their challenge to us and we gladly accepted it. We were able to defeat them . . . 40-0.”
The Salt Lake Tribune of that day had a great writeup about the Academy team at the end of their short season. “They closed their season of football on November 26, in a hard-fought battle with the East High School Second team. A glance over their first season’s work reveals the fact that they developed wonderfully during the extremely short, unfavorable season.
“Coach Wilford Romney, formerly of the University of Utah, had his men out for practice the first time on October 20. At that time eighteen men, nearly all of whom had never seen a football, let alone a football game, were out for practice. The coach turned in and was whipping his boys into shape when a foot and a half of snow descended. Although practice and training were not interrupted they were done under very adverse circumstances.
“On November 4 the first contest with the B. Y.C. high school was played at Logan. Although the Indians had had but little time to learn to run signals, they succeeded in making a drop kick early in the game. The Loganites, however won by a score of 13 to 3.
“The next two games. . .were played upon a field of mud nearly ankle deep. No team scored. The team then journeyed to Malad where the Indians defeated that team with a score of 40 to 0
“On Founder’s Day the undefeated East high school second team came to Preston and played the final game on a cloudy, frozen field. In this contest the Salt Lakers were more or less lucky in scoring a long touchdown very early in the game. After which Romney’s men held the visitors splendidly.”