The history of high school sports in Dayton evolved from intramural football games dating back to Central High School. The school was known for its annual Thanksgiving Football Classic played between the Central students called the
Reds vs Blues. Central, built in 1796, was located at the corner of Fourth and Wilkinson Streets. It was the only high school in Dayton serving students in Grades 9-12, before Steele High School was constructed in 1892-93. When the high school students moved into the new Steele building in 1893, football was more of a student-run than administration-run operation and continued so for several years. During that period football games were played under rugby rules as football rules for scholastic sports had not been developed yet. In 1895 the Dayton Evening Herald reported an 8-6 Steele victory over Xenia in the first mention of the Steele team playing another high school team. By 1899 the Steele Lions played a six-game schedule and won five, tying Cincinnati Walnut Hills in one of two games with that school. In that same year, there was a 10-0 road win over Delaware High School, which had claimed the Southern Ohio Championship the year before.