Mike Maple holds a framed photo of the Logansport High School relay team he was a part of at Logansport High School on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. The photo is signed by the coach and lets Maple know he was, “one of the best.”

It’s football season and I decided to take a trip back in time to remember Mike Maple, one of my childhood football heroes and track stars.

This article honors him and all the great Logan Berry athletes of that era (1952-1960) who unselfishly blocked and ran with him, resulting in back-to-back NCC championships in football (1958-1959) and the first LHS sectional track championship in 1959 and a second one in 1960. This article attempts to pay tribute to the many grade school, junior high and high school coaches of the 1950s who helped mold these young men into the champions they became.

Mike Maple was coach Harvey Roberts’ record setting fullback for four years (1956-1959). He was blessed with speed and power that enabled him to run around or over defenders. He rushed for 3,258 career yards, a record that stood for 36 years and finally broken by Jason Spear in 1995.

Maple was the NCC rushing and scoring champion in ‘58 and ‘59 and led the Berries to 16 consecutive victories. The ‘58 team was ranked as high as sixth in the state rankings and the ‘59 team finished the season ranked third in the state, just behind mythical state champion South Bend Central. Maple was named first team all-state fullback in both his junior and senior seasons by United Press International, Associated Press and coaches’ association. Honoring a junior for first team was a very rare occurrence.

Just how good were the Berries? Consider this:

Eight on coach Roberts and Jim Hollibaugh’s 1959 squad made all-state: two first teamers, one second team, one third team and four honorable mention. No other team had more than two except South Bend Central. Maple capped his brilliant high school career by being named to two national high school All-American teams. A couple names us older people might remember were Paul Warfield and Dick Butkus. If there were an Indiana Mr. Football award back then, Maple would no doubt have finished top three in voting.

In track and field, sprinting for coach Fred Kinder, Maple qualified for the state 100-yard dash three out of four years. As a freshman he qualified for state running 10.3 seconds and was the fastest frosh in Indiana. As a sophomore he equaled Johnny Vernon’s school record of 10.1 seconds. In his junior season he broke Vernon’s record, running a 10.0 flat more than once. At the 1959 state track meet in Indianapolis, Maple blazed through the trial heats and finished seventh in the finals.

The famed 880-yard relay team medaled, finishing fifth in a race won by Elkhart. Maple led off and handed the baton to Ron Schwering, then Mike Jordan and Dave Hart anchored. Dave Hart won the 880-yard state championship that year, leading the Berries to a top 12 state team finish. As a senior, Maple made state again in the 100 and at the 1960 Logan Relays, before a crowd of 2,500 at LHS Stadium, Maple ran 9.9 to win the 100-yard dash. That record was equaled by Ron Collins in 1970 and broken by Fred Vester in 1972.

The 1:31.5 ran by Maple, Schwering, Jordan and Hart’s record setting half mile relay team at the 1959 Fort Wayne Regional against state champion Elkhart remains the fastest in Cass County history. Of course, it’s rarely challenged as in 1980 track teams began running the 400-meter relay.

I bet a Pioneer 2018 team of Jack Kiser, Addai Lewellen, Ezra Lewellen and Brenton Mersch or Danny Gregorich would have given that record a run. What a fantasy race that would be. Maple, Schwering and Jordan were in the same Berry backfield in ‘59. Kiser and the Lewellen twins were in the same backfield in 2017 and 2018. Logan’s Josh Manfred, Mitchell Ciotta and Oscar Grimaldo had some speed and may have given the record a run.

The closest challenge to the record came in the mid 1960s when Mike Wood (Elmer Wood’s son) teamed with the “Berry sprint triplets” Steve Maple, Dick Graham and George Reddy running 1:32.1 winning NCC and going undefeated until the Fort Wayne Regional.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a multiple-part series on the life and athletic career of Mike Maple, one of the greatest football players and track athletes to come from Logansport.

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