Midland Sports History Lesson Helps Unite Beaver Area Football Team

MIDLAND ― For most football programs, spring and early summer are time periods to lay the groundwork for a successful season. Things like getting stronger, faster, and a better understanding of the playbook are normally the main focus.

Beaver Area High School head football coach Cort Rowse said those three things have stood out strongly for his team so far this year. However, as the Bobcats prepare for fall 2022, there has been an added element to their practices. This spring Rowse’s team got a little dose of grill history.

“I’m a big believer in the notion of ‘you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been,'” Rowse told The Times in a recent interview. “Football in this region is about culture and tradition. We make sure our kids know what it really means – so they can understand what Beaver football is really about.”

The Bobcats program has plenty of standout moments to teach, but those haven’t been the focus of Rowse and his team until now. Instead, their mission has been to teach the history of a team that no longer exists: the Midland Leopards.

In 1986, Midland High School closed due to economic turmoil throughout the region. Students who attended Midland found a new home at Beaver Area High School. Rowse was a junior at Beaver when students from the nearby town joined him both in class and on the football field.

He called the event one of the most memorable moments of his high school sports career.

“I just remember it going so well,” Rowse said. “That’s what makes the sport so amazing. In two or three days, I felt like I’d known some of these guys forever.”

Rowse remembers a strong connection between Midland and other beaver communities when he was in high school. However, when he took over as head coach of the Bobcats in 2021, he noticed the relationship had faded over time.

Along with winning, Rowse says one of the goals of his program is to reconnect with the cities his players come from. This spring, that meant a trip to Midland Athletic Field for remote practice.

“Sometimes you have to take these kids and put them on the grass,” Rowse said. “Having them train on the pitch where so many great players have played has helped them understand what we are trying to do.”

After practice and drills, a few speakers spoke to Rowse’s team to give a first-hand account of the Leopards’ legacy. Among those who spoke were Beaver County Hall of Fame coach Pat Tarquinio and Midland Sports Hall of Fame coach and former Beaver Area administrator Vic Martinetti.

The practice allowed players like senior left tackle and Midland native Omari Smith to practice on a field where so many of the stories he had heard had unfolded over the years.

“It was a real blessing,” Smith said. “People today think of Midland and think of Lincoln Park. As a kid whose father is from Midland, I learned about the great Leopards teams from a young age. Having the chance to training on this pitch with my friends, my teammates… it meant a lot.”

The experience was also a learning opportunity for players unaware of Midland’s history.

“I knew a little about the basketball teams they had, but not much else,” said senior receiver and defensive back Liam Gibson. “Things like that, learning and appreciating football history, embracing other communities, it helps bring our team together.”

Rowse says his band’s motto is “one team, one family.” Embracing the past and all of the current communities in his district, it seems the Bobcats are buying in.

Contact Noah Hiles at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @_NoahHiles.

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