Whenever I hear the Haffner name, I automatically think of the outstanding New Ross teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s. There were three Haffner boys . . . Dick, who graduated in 1956, Phil in 1961, and Ron in 1966 . . . all of them great athletes. The oldest boy, Dick, started every game at center from his freshman year on. During his four years of playing, with Glen Harper as coach, the Blue Jays compiled a regular season record of 65-16, winning their first Sectional Tourney in 1954 when Dick was a sophomore, and then winning both the County and Sectional in 1956 when he was a senior...his team going undefeated with a record of 21-0. New Ross went on to win the Regional Tourney and make the "Sweet Sixteen," and in that final game, Dick poured in 30 points. The team was eventually beaten by Gary Froebel in the semistate, but Dick stated that making the Sweet Sixteen was one of the great highlights of his basketball career.
Dick led his team in scoring and rebounding during his junior and senior years, and was voted as the most outstanding athlete of Montgomery County his senior year by the county coaches association. Yes, he was also good in track and baseball! College coaches took notice. Dick told me that Purdue basketball coach Ray Eddy wanted him to sign with Purdue, but there were already some great recruits at Purdue, including Waveland's own Bill Greve. Legendary coach Tony Hinkle convinced Dick to play ball for Butler. Dick said that Tony was a great coach, and he was a real taskmaster who made everyone work very hard. At that time, freshman could not play on the varsity. Dick was used as a sub his sophomore year, played regularly as a junior, and then started every game as a senior. During his junior year the Bulldogs finished with a record of 17-7, facing most of the Big Ten schools and many top-rated teams. They subsequently were invited to play in the National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden, where they beat Fordham and then lost to eventual NIT runner-up Bradley.
Some of Dick's fondest memories include playing against such greats as John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, Terry Dischinger, Walt Bellamy, and Montgomery County's own Charlie Bowerman and Bill Greve . . . just to name a few. After graduating from Butler, Dick taught school a few years at Manual, Lawrence Central, and Rockville before starting his own medical supply business in Noblesville.
Did New Ross ever make the Sweet Sixteen again? Yes, the Blue Jays won the Regional again in 1961 . . . and guess who was their center and leading scorer . . . yep, younger brother Phil Haffner. And I played against Dick's youngest brother, Ron, who was also tough as nails and was the Blue Jays leading scorer in 1965 and 1966. I also might mention that the Haffner family also included four good-looking girls, Christine, Carol . . . and twins Sharon and Karon, who were cheerleaders for New Ross . . . the Haffner family . . . Blue Jays one and all! But guess what, there is a Darlington connection. The matriarch of the Haffner family, Crystal Moffitt Haffner, graduated from Darlington in 1933, and Dick's coach, Glen Harper, graduated from Darlington in 1947. In 1971, Dick Haffner was selected as one of the all-time greatest basketball players from our county. Brothers Phil and Ron were also selected as honorable mention (more about them in a later article).

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history. He writes a general column that appears in The Paper on Fridays and a local sports column on Tuesdays.