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Today's Tidbit... Football at the Kentucky School for the Blind
In the 1904-1912 era, the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) fielded varsity and junior varsity football teams, playing games with local sighted teams, including Louisville high school, independent, and athletic club teams.
Period newspaper articles describe several accommodations made for KSB's games. The sighted team had to run all offensive plays between the tackles. KSB was allowed to run sweeps, though they mostly ran the ball between the tackles. The sighted team also had to yell "pass" when they snapped the ball. (All laterals, handoffs, and other exchanges were called passes at the time.) The opponents yelled "kick" when they punted the ball.
Football extra-point attempts were free kicks at the time. When KSB attempted an extra point, two teammates repeatedly hit the goal posts with sticks while another stood between the uprights and yelled at the kicker. The noise helped the kicker orient himself, and KSB reportedly made half their extra point attempts.
It is unclear whether sighted teams could throw forward passes once that became legal, but KSB's 1909 team completed at least one forward pass for 10 yards.
The athletic director and coach, who also refereed their games, indicated the team operated primarily by sound when playing defense. Team members could hear the direction of the play, and when they sensed the direction they were being blocked, they tried moving in the opposite direction.
The KSB offense used direct handoffs rather than the tosses and long snaps common to the era. Most of their success came from a consistent ground game running up the middle. Some middle runs turned into breakaways, however, which presented another problem. On one breakaway run in 1905, the right guard, Speisberger, was all alone, heading for a touchdown but ran out of bounds after 35 yards only because he could not see where he was running. The game ended in a scoreless tie.
Although KSB won half or more of their games, they appear to have stopped playing after the 1912 season.
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