The stories behind the nicknames of Portage County schools

By Tom Nader | Sports Editor Published:

Every day, every week and every year, area high school student-athletes put on uniforms that represent their schools.

Blazoned across the jersey's front, using the school's recognizable color scheme, are a form of block or script letters spelling out who they are and who they are playing in the name of.

In Portage County, some of the stories on how the nicknames came to be have been forgotten with time.

Everything has a story behind it, though, and still hold a significant place in history.

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Crestwood

Nickname: Red Devils

Story: Unfortunately, the origin of the nickname was unable to be officially uncovered. Though some locals worked hard to dig it out, all that could be confirmed was that the Red Devils had been the longstanding mascot of Mantua Village, dating all the way back to 1946. When Mantua consolidated with Shalersville in 1952, the Red Devils nickname carried over. The Shalersville school mascot had been the Ram.

 

Garfield

Nickname: G-Men

Story: The name stems from a high-stakes train robbery of 1935 in Garrettsville by Alvin Karpis. An investigation into the $27,000 heist brought federal government officers, known as G-Men, into town. Karpis was convicted of kidnapping, robbery, burglary and murder during a lifetime of criminal activity.

 

Kent Roosevelt

Nickname: Rough Riders

Story: The school is named after Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), who also had a direct influence on the school's nickname. The Rough Riders were a cavalry division he led up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish American War. Roosevelt's association with this event was one of the things that helped turn him into a war hero.

 

Ravenna

Nickname: Ravens

Story: With the help of the Portage County Historical Society, what appears to be at least one of the first references to the "Ravens" was in a cheer from the 1930-31 school year that was included in the Ravenna High School Handbook. No reference to the "Ravens" appears in the handbook from the year prior.While it does not confirm that 1930 was the first year "Ravens" was used, it is the first on record. Many believe the "Ravens" was simply chosen as a nickname because of its relativity to the city's name of Ravenna.

When Ravenna City and Ravenna Township schools consolidated in 1960, to keep things fair, it was the city nickname of the Ravens and township colors of royal, white and red trim that were kept. The original city colors were maroon and navy blue, while the township's original mascot was the Bulldogs.

 

Rootstown

Nickname: Rovers

Story: A friendly collie dog used to be the school's mascot. However, it was during the 1959-60 school year that a subtle student protest to change the nickname took place. Ultimately, an editorial written by student Richard Howell in the school newspaper "The Dog Gone" -- a name influenced by the hope of removing the collie -- indicated and motivated the need for a change. After citing a lecture by social studies teacher Robert Dunn that Vikings or Norsemen were Rovers, Howell went on to suggest a change to a rover of the seas. He never specifically mentioned the logo changing to a viking ship, but that eventually happened. The nickname remained the same, but logo and interpretation officially changed for the 1962-63 school year.

 

Southeast

Nickname: Pirates

Story: Southeast High School was formed in the fall of 1950 and was the consolidation of five township schools into one. The first graduating class of 1951 had 65 students. Initially, the school did not even have a true name to it. It was simply referred to as the "new school in the southeast district of Portage County." Eventually, the student body, and in particular the senior class, voted to simply name the school Southeast. The school board gave the OK. In similar fashion, it was the school's students who voted for the nickname "Pirates" among at least a half-dozen suggestions as remembered by Joe Kainrad, who was a member of the first graduating class. It was at this same time that the school's colors of maroon and gold were selected over black and white.

 

Streetsboro

Nickname: Rockets

Story: Finding an official story here was quite elusive. The story that was shared by multiple people and carried the most similarities was one that referenced Rev. Mel Grubaugh. He had been a preacher at the Baptist church behind Giant Eagle for 40 years and had a huge rocket outside of the church that had been used as a promotional item for the church. At that time, when people asked where Streetsboro was located, people would respond with, "You know, the home of the rocket."

 

Waterloo

Nickname: Vikings

Story: Randolph and Atwater schools consolidated in 1965 to form Waterloo. John Herchek, who was a freshman at Randolph when the consolidation occurred, said the student councils from each school met several times the year before to discuss and decide on a school name, colors and nickname. The name Waterloo was chosen because it was a common bond between the two schools. Waterloo Road ran through both as a main thoroughfare from Akron to Youngstown during a time when the "new 224" had yet to be constructed and the S.R. 76 exchange had yet to be added in Rootstown. When it came time to determine school colors and nickname, it was the consensus to avoid anything that closely resembled Randolph (nicknamed the Tigers with yellow and black as colors) or Atwater (nicknamed the Spartans with orange and black as colors). They wanted something new. With "water" being a part of the school's name, the Vikings became the top-voted nickname, while burgundy and white became the top choice for colors. Over the years, the burgundy has transformed into more of a maroon, while gray has been introduced as well.

 

Windham

Nickname: Bombers

Story: Windham historian George Belden is as detailed as it gets, but he admits that no one has ever been able to officially identify the origin of the Bombers. However, his best research actually brought him back to one-time Record-Courier sports writer Oliver Wolcott. The Windham teams were informally known as the Yellowjackets from 1928 through 1939. Then, in an article that published in the Record-Courier in November of 1939 about a Windham victory over the undefeated Edinburg Scots, Wolcott referred to Windham's six-man football team, who would be the eventual state champions, as the Bombers -- probably because of the incredible passing performances by sophomore QB Bob Turner, according to Belden. From that point moving forward, the nickname "Bombers" stuck. Many in Windham and throughout the county assume that the nickname originated from the Ravenna Arsenal, which appropriated half of Windham Township. However, the government did not start buying that land until 1940.

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For those keeping track, that leaves the Falcons of Field and Wildcats of Mogadore without a background story. Unfortunately, confirmed origins from the two schools could not be identified, leaving them mysterious for now.

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Email: tnader@recordpub.com

Twitter: @Tom_Nader

Facebook: Tom Nader, Record-Courier

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