Before everyone in Ohio rooted for the Buckeyes, they cheered for their high school team.
At the top of the high school football world was the annual Charity Game, which pitted the best team from the western and eastern conferences against each other at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Proceeds benefited The Plain Dealer's Christmas Fund, and the 1946 game boasted the highest attendance of any high school game before or since. More than 70,000 people came out to watch the Cathedral Latin Lions take on their archrival Holy Name Green Wave.
Tony Ferrante, class of 1949, played quarterback for Holy Name. And besides his constant focus on how good Latin was — "They beat the hell out of us," he says — he remembers the stadium's energy. "Running through the dugout from the locker room and coming up on the steps, the feeling was ... it gave you the chills," Ferrante says.
Holy Name lost to Latin 35-6 that year, but trounced the Lions in the Charity Game of 1947, ending that school's 37-game winning streak, Ferrante says.
In November 1946, Ferrante had just turned 16. But for so many young men who had recently come home from fighting in World War II, high school football — and the 1946 Charity Game especially — allowed a return to normalcy.
"Guys were coming back from the service, and at that time college football wasn't very big," Ferrante recalls. "It was really a big thing, that Charity Game, and it's something I still remember like it was yesterday. It was just an adventure."