Since the late 1800s, Indiana high school football teams had been playing each other, often playing fewer than five games per year and many times skipping entire seasons. Pre-1920 “games” often featured high school teams playing semi-pro club teams, college teams and even intramural scrimmages. Various teams made state championship claims, but most were unfounded until organized leagues and verified games became commonplace beginning with the 1920 season. Bloomington High School did field some of the above mentioned teams between 1898 and 1908.
Panther football returned to gridiron in 1923 under the leadership of Ralph Esarey, also the basketball coach. The purple and white’s first game was Saturday October 10th versus Jasonville on Jordan field, located where the IU Memorial Union parking lot is today and was also the home field for the Hoosiers. The first Panther victory occurred a month later on Friday November 9th at Seymour (51-3) in an afternoon game.
Understandably the program started slowly but began picking up when Harold Mumby, the original architect of the highly successful wrestling program of the Panthers, became football coach in 1927. In only his 2nd season Mumby guided the 1928 Panthers to their first winning season, a 9-1 mark giving up only 26 points all year, still 2nd least points ever allowed by a purple and white defense. Bloomington High School was located at 2nd St. and College Ave., with the football field directly behind the classrooms near where Rally’s Hamburgers is now. In 1930 the new field was dedicated and named Mumby Field. The first night game in school history was played on Mumby field in 1938, and the mumbymen as they were called also brought Bloomington football it’s very first Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (SIAC) Championship in 1944.
Building on the 19 year foundation the Mumby teams had laid a new era began in 1947 when Fred Huff, Jr. the captain of the 1938 Panther team returned as coach, and Panther fortunes began to grow rapidly. Huff teams produced 19 winning seasons over the next 23 years and the first times that Bloomington would achieve state rankings in the top 20. The 1964 Panthers were Bloomington’s first undefeated team (10-0) finishing ranked 4th. The very next year Bloomington High School moved to its current location and the football field (named in 1993 Huff field) was dedicated in October 1965. Winning their last game in 1967, Huff’s Panthers started a winning streak of 60 games, that is STILL the longest winning streak in Indiana High School History! The 1968 purple and white squad finished the season undefeated and ranked #1 in the state for the first time, giving up a school record of only 19 points all year. Huff’s Panthers followed that up with another undefeated season in 1969 giving his teams 21 straight victories to close out his career with a 154-61-13 over 23 seasons. Huff was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 1975.
Tom Sells moved up from assistant to head coach in 1970 and won 39 straight, including a 10-0 mark in 1972 and #1 ranking during the very first year as the Bloomington SOUTH Panthers. The streak ended in the first game (3A Semi-State) of the first year of the playoffs after 9 victories in 1973. Sells was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Following 8 years of .500 football on the Southside, Coach Dave Enright took the helm in 1982 and guided the Panthers back to the Semi-state twice in 1983 and 85. His 1983 team set a then school record with 12 straight wins in a single season.
Coach Mo Moriarity burst onto the scene, leading the Panthers to 8 straight wins and a sign of things to come in 1987. Over the next 15 years the Bloomington South Panthers would win state championships in 1993 and 1998 and finish second in 1997 for the most successful era in storied history of the program. Moriarity guided the purple and white to 14 winning seasons and a 143-31 record for an astonishing .821 winning percentage, while winning 10 conference championsips, seven sectionals, six regionals and three semi states.
Over the next 11 seasons the Panthers have produced seven more winning seasons including back to back Conference Indiana Championships in 2005 and 2006. After 11 years, Mo Moriarity returns to the South sideline in 2013 to lead the Panthers onto the field in their 91st season. Before his retirement at the end of the 2019 season, Mo led teams that won six straight sectional titles and three more regional titles. Coach Moriarity posted a 305-101 (.751) record as a head coach, fifth all time in wins in the state and has already been inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame (2016).
Gabe Johnson begins his first year as the Head Coach of the Panthers in 2020.
Panther Football, has had 15 coaches in 90 years that have led over 1,000 young men onto the field of competition wearing purple and white, placing Bloomington South Football among the elite programs in the state, with four state championship teams, two state runner-ups and the longest winning streak in Indiana high school football history.
Myron "Mo" Moriarity