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 to progress when Harold Mumby, the original architect of the highly successful wrestling program of the Panthers, became football coach in 1927. In only his second season Mumby guided the 1928 Panthers to their first winning season, a 9-1 mark giving up only twenty-six points all year, still second least points ever allowed by a Panther 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., captain of the 1938 Panther team, returned as coach, and Panther fortunes began to grow in earnest. Huff teams produced nineteen winning seasons over the next twenty-three years, including the first occasions in which Bloomington would achieve state rankings in the top twenty. The 1964 Panthers were Bloomington’s first undefeated team (10-0) finishing ranked fourth. 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 sixty games, which is still (as of 2023) the longest winning streak in Indiana High School History. The 1968 purple and white squad finished the season undefeated and ranked number one in the state for the first time, giving up a school record of only nineteen points all year. Huff’s Panthers followed that up with another undefeated season in 1969 giving his teams twenty-one consecutive 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 thirty-nine straight, including a 10-0 mark in 1972 and a number one 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 nine victories in 1973. Sells was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Following eight 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 1985. His 1983 team set a then school record with twelve consecutive wins in a single season.
New head coach Mo Moriarity burst onto the scene in 1987, leading the Panthers to eight straight wins, a sign of the tremendous success awaiting the Panthers in the following decade and a half. Over the next fifteen seasons, the Bloomington South Panthers would win state championships in 1993 and 1998 and finish second in 1997, 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 eleven seasons the Panthers produced seven more winning seasons including back to back Conference Indiana Championships in 2005 and 2006. After eleven years coaching at Indiana University, Carmel High School, and Salem High School; Mo Moriarity returned to the South sideline in 2013, leading 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).
Longtime assistant and defensive coordinator Gabe Johnson was named Coach Moriarty's successor in the 2020 season. The 2021 and 2022 Panthers, finishing 8-3, and 9-2 respectively, each won sectional titles under Coach Johnson with the '22 Panthers returning a Conference Indiana title to Bloomington's south side for the first time since 2016.
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