It was probably October 1958.

The Portland Panthers were on a tear, on their way to what would prove to be the high school’s last undefeated season.

My brother Steve was captain of that football team, and I can still recite the names of many of his teammates.

I was in elementary school and most years I would have attended half a dozen football games with my dad.

That year, we went to all of them, not just the home games but the road games as well.

So did Frank Kenyon, the photographer for The Graphic. (The Commercial Review and The News and Sun were still under different ownership until the following spring.)

And while I tagged along with my father, Young Frank as he was often called, tagged along with his.

My dad would usually watch the game standing. He couldn’t bring himself to sit down on the bleachers. Instead, he’d find a spot, often near the end zone, and watch from there.

Frank — Big Frank — would roam the sidelines with a big Speed Graphic, an unwieldy piece of camera with an equally unwieldy flash attachment, complete with flashbulbs, the kind you now see in old movies.

Young Frank and I just hung out. We were friends and classmates at Judge Haynes Elementary School, and we were in Cub Scouts together. My mom was the Den Mother.

We’d sit in the grass along the sidelines, trying to stay out of the way, and occasionally look up at the scoreboard to see what was happening.

The season went along swimmingly, with that special glow that comes when a team is undefeated. There was a controversial game at Coldwater when the Panthers may or may not have been awarded an extra down because of an officiating error. But I have no memory of that.

Instead, I recall a game at Gas City.

They were known as a tough opponent. Not as tough as Coldwater, but in the same ranks as Royerton to be sure.

But for Young Frank and I none of that really mattered. We’d do our usual thing, goof around like grade school boys tend to do, and inevitably get bored.

That’s probably what led us to wander over to the opponent’s side of the field.

We were goofing around. We certainly weren’t looking for trouble.

But we found it.

Somehow someone identified us as Jay County interlopers. We weren’t from Gas City, and we didn’t belong there.

We especially didn’t belong there when the Panthers were soundly defeating the home team.

I’m not sure how it started, but it was clear we were targeted.

And when I, foolishly, said that my brother was on the field, I was the focus.

The usual bullying scenario took off. “Would you like a knuckle sandwich?” was always a popular line, delivered with a fist beneath my chin. It was a line I’d heard before, but not from someone who was that much bigger than I was.

In October 1958, I was 9. I would turn 10 in the second half of November.

So I was a little out-gunned when I suddenly found myself flat on my back with a junior high bully sitting on my chest, getting ready to lay out some serious punishment.

A few blows fell, then some nearby adult grabbed the bully and pulled him off.

Young Frank and I were warned to get back to the visitors’ side of the field, and we scooted.

There were tears on my part, but I think I kept my mouth shut.

By the time Frank and I were back on the right side of the field, I think — I would like to think — that I’d pulled myself together.

Did I tell my father? I don’t think so.

The best thing about the ride home in the dark was knowing that my brother’s team had won.

The bully had lost.