In Wisconsin, probably no other decade saw so many changes in the game. I can think of at least seven-ten major events or rule changes that occurred. 1965-1966 timeframe seems to be a good starting point:
The first was the loosing of the substitution rules. There had been two-platoon rules and substitution changes for many years but in 1965 high school followed the NCAA’s lead and after limiting player changes when the clock had stopped in 1964, they, the NCAA, went with unlimited changes in 1965 and high schools followed suit.
Next, with the changes the AP and UPI All-State team lineups also changed. In the past there may have been a 33-45 player team then it was changed to 3-4 11-player squads…a first team, second team, etc. The honorable mention listings had showed ends, tackles, guards, etc. but no difference in offense or defense. In previous postings of their 11-player squads for the All-State Teams the two polls listed four “Backs”. They were not differentiating between positions. There might be a quarterback or two) and the same for a halfback, fullback or a tailback. Just listed as “Back” to the 11-player squads until 1965 when the teams had an official quarterback along with three running backs. In 1966 the two press organizations also broke the honorable mention lists down to add a difference between offensive and defensive linemen and added the linebacker and defensive back designations. They would then offer both a first and second offensive and defensive team and later in 1966 the UPI added a special mention for the Player of the Year and Coach of the Year.
1965 was the year that the Associated Press joined the United Press International in posting weekly football polls. The AP had the first poll during the 1947 season but didn’t follow up with another until 1965. The UPI began doing polls in 1958. They seldom agreed, as mentioned in my two previous blogs, but to start in 1965 the two both did a Large (Or Big or Big 10) school and a Small (Or Little or Little 10) school poll. They agreed on Oshkosh as the top large school. Go back and look at the posting of the polls in my blog: “Crazy Press Polls…Part 1” and you will see that they totally disagreed in the Small School polls.
Moving toward the end of the decade Ted Weaver of Milwaukee North Division earned second team All-State in the 1967 UPI posting as he became the first Wisconsin player to throw for 2,000 yards (2,018 yards). Weaver also became the first African American to earn either a first team or second team spot on an All-State team at the quarterback position.
Then, the big changes happened in 1969.
First, the state adopted the National Federation of State High School Association’s rule for moving an extra point run or pass reception to count for two-points instead of the one -point that had been the rule for many, many years.
Second, the WISAA (Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association) was created by a merger of the old Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (Catholic schools) and other private high schools. Overall, the WISAA would be in existence from 1928-2000.
Third, the WISAA instituted a playoff. This changed the football landscape in Wisconsin and also helped other surrounding states to begin offering playoffs. Votes were taken and four schools qualified for the first athletic association playoff. A five-member screening committee would select the schools based on a point system. Selection was based on team’s schedules and those of their opponents. Milwaukee Pius, Chippewa Falls McDonell, Prairie du Chien Campion and Manitowoc Roncalli were chosen to participate with the first title game being played at Lambeau Field. Madison Edgewood and Kenosha St. Joseph's just missed making the cut. Pius drew the most points from the committee with 28.5, followed by McDonell with 27.5, Roncalli and Campion both had 27 points followed by Edgewood and St. Josephs each with 26 points.
The WISAA even made provisions if there was a tie in the semi-finals. A winner would be determined on 1) Most penetrations of their opponents 20-yard line, 2) Most first downs, 3) Net yards of total offense and, if they tied in the other categories, 4) A coin toss. It was decided that the championship game ended in a tie, then the two teams would be declared co-champions. 5,255 fans showed up to watch the championship game on a cold and snowy Saturday afternoon at Lambeau as Roncalli beat McDonell 28-8. Playoff history in Wisconsin had been made. The WIAA and other states would watch the WISAA football playoffs for the next few years and then begin their own. The WIAA would start the public-school playoffs in 1975.
THE TOP TEAMS:
1961 (7-1-0) & 1962 (8-0-0) Whitefish Bay, ranked #2 in the UPI Small School poll in 1961 and then #2 in the Big School poll of 1962. 1961 Weyauwega (8-0-0), only earned honorable mention in the UPI poll but was undefeated, untied and unscored upon. 1963 Waukesha (8-0-0), ranked #2 in the UPI poll. 1966 Madison Edgewood (8-0-0), ranked #2 in the UPI poll. 1966 Durand (8-0-0), #1 Small School in both the UPI and AP polls. 1967 Madison LaFollette (8-0-0), ranked #1 in the UPI poll and #2 by the AP. 1968 Greenwood (10-0-0), ranked #1 Small School in both polls. 1969 Chilton (8-0-0), ranked #8 in the AP and #11 in the UPI polls as they went undefeated, untied and unscored upon.
THE TOP TEAMS
#11 1961-1963 Appleton Xavier
Led by all-time great Rocky Bleier who earned first team All-State on various teams…All-Catholic or on the UPI and AP squads. Coached by Gene “Torchy” Clark the Zephier’s would have a 31-game winning streak, while going 27-0 in the 1961-63 seasons. I included all three teams only because it was too hard to pick between them. Each season Xavier averaged over 33 points a game and allowed only just over four points each game with 14 shutouts in 27 games.
#9 (TIE) 1968 Oshkosh (8-0-0) and 1968 Madison East (8-0-1)
Oshkosh would finish #1 in both polls followed by Madison East in the #2 spot. All season long Madison La Follette was ranked #1 until the team lost in the season’s final game, 17-14, to Madison East. With that loss Oshkosh vaulted into the top spot but what was surprising was that the 12th ranked East squad jumped into the #2 spot in both polls La Follette had been ranked #1 in the UPI and #2 in the AP and was riding a 19-game win streak when they lost to East, a team that had voters reevaluate their thoughts of the squad’s overall performance. On the other hand, Oshkosh dominated the Fox River Valley Conference and each week the voting between them and La Follette was close.
#7 (TIE) 1965 Oshkosh (8-0-1) and 1965 Green Bay East (8-0-1)
All season Oshkosh was ranked #1 in both polls. Then another topsy turvy event happened. Green Bay East tied the Indians in the final season matchup. Oshkosh had cruised through the season until their matchup with East, a team that had also played well in the FRVC, just not as dominating. More about the two in the section dealing about “THE BEST GAME”.
#6 1960 Green Bay West (7-0-0)
With only seven games on their schedule, Green Bay West was still voted the top team in the state and earned high praise from many college coaches and newspapers who thought this was “the perfect team” because of the way they were coached and how precisely they performed. HOF coach John Biolo directed the team. On the first team All-Fox Valley team the entire backfield was honored, consisting of quarterback Jim Hennog who led the conference in rushing and scoring, halfback Allan Reichwald, halfback Ron Schafer and fullback Fran Hyska.
#5 1961 Eau Claire Memorial (8-0-0)
Eau Claire Memorial, ranked #1 in the UPI by a wide margin, was led by Scholastic Coach Magazine All-American quarterback Dick Hanson who was 99-59-8-1,216-12 passing and 66-610-9.4-7 rushing. He also returned two kickoffs for 169-yards and two touchdowns plus he intercepted three opponents passes. Along with scoring nine total touchdowns, Dick also kicked 18 extra pints. Against La Crosse Logan Hanson racked up 551 all-purpose yards. Considered one of the greatest athletes in school history. As a starting guard on the basketball team, he guided the Old Abe’s to the state finals before losing by a score of 93-80 to one of the state’s all-time best hoops squads, the 1962 great Milwaukee Lincoln (26-0) team. He led the team in scoring and assists. He also pitched and played shortstop on the 1961 and 1962 state baseball champions. He was the winning pitcher in the 1961 state title game against Oshkosh. An avid skier, Hanson placed fourth in the National Junior Ski Jumping Championships. The football team scored 236 points and only allowed 44 points. No team scored more than one touchdown against the team. Besides Hanson, Dick Arnold caught 23 passes for an incredible 664-yards and nine touchdowns (10 scores overall for second on the team with 60 points). This season would be Cy Bergs crowning coaching job. The school last had an undefeated season in 1933 when Dick Hanson’s father, Arnie, who played halfback, led the team to a 9-0-0 record and a tie with Delafield St. John’s for the mythical state title.
#4 1962 Wausau (8-0-0)
High school All-American running back Art Kuchl led the Lumberjacks with 127 carries for 1,140 yards, a 9.0 yards per carry average and scoring 163 points. As a team Wausau scored 337 points, the second most in the coach Win Brockmeyer era while giving up only 43 points and posting six shutouts. This was his first and only state title by a press poll after earning seven other acclaimed mythical titles.
#2 (TIE) 1964 Oshkosh (8-0-0) and 1964 Superior Central (9-0-0)
Had there only been one high school in Superior I have no doubt that that school would have produced one of the state’s all-time best squads. But Superior East opened in 1964 and the two schools split the city’s talent. Central would play seven Minnesota schools with Antigo and Wausau as their only instate opponents. East (7-1-0) played three Michigan schools and two Minnesota teams. They didn’t play any common opponents nor each other. Their only loss was to the #1 ranked Minnesota team, St. Paul Cretin. The two teams would have 19 of the 22-players named to the All-City team (there was a Catholic high school, Cathedral, in Superior at the time).
Central was coached by Marv Crowley and was led on the field by junior Bob Olson, a 6’3, 235 fullback/linebacker (the biggest player on the team) who led the team in rushing and scoring while making first team All-State in 1964 and 1965. The team scored 350 points and allowed only 52. Like Olson, Ed Paquette was an honorable mention All-American as well as earning All-State honors. Future Minnesota Viking Doug Sutherland garnered honorable mention All-State. Two players from East would earn All-State mention.
Coach Marv Crowley presenting an award to Bob Olson
So, if Superior was so good, why were they the #2 team in the state according to the polls in 1964? Because they played so many Minnesota schools, they weren’t in a conference like the Big Rivers which had Eau Claire, Wausau and La Crosse Central. Travel to those places would be a difficult process for a full season. They preferred Wisconsin schools travel to their field. So, now on to Oshkosh, the #1 team in the state.
Led by honorable mention All-American fullback Roger Lienhard with 145 carries for 780 yards and 13 touchdowns, the Titan marched through the FRVC scoring 253 points and allowing only 31 with five shutouts. This was coach Harold “Hal” Schumerth’s best team and the school’s first state title after earning four mythical titles between 1906 and 1912. 1964 would be the first of three poll titles during the 1960’s as the Titans dominated the polls in most seasons.
#1 1966 Neenah (8-0-0)
Expectations for coach Ben Meixl’s Rockets were high coming into the season as they had 28 seniors returning, almost all letterwinners from 1965. Their opening game, a 19-13 win over Monona Grove was their only close affair as they would average 43.6 points a game in the next seven efforts while allowing only 2.8 points on defense. Gary Loose was sought by many colleges to play quarterback for their team. Loose directed the attack as he passed 93 times with 41 completions, only four interceptions and gaining 822 yards and tossing 11 touchdowns. Loose would earn first team All-State honors, high school All-America honors and go on to play in Madison for the Badgers.
Chuck Wismer led the running attack gaining 728 yards on 80 carries while scoring 14 touchdowns. Guard Jim Fetters and linebacker Bob Pierce were also All-Staters. Junior Dan Jankowski caught 13 passes for 196 yards and four touchdowns while kicking 31 extra points. He made All-Conference both as an offensive and a defensive end in 1966 and then first team All-State and honorable mention All-America in 1967. This was truly a team blessed with talent as they dominated the Mid-Eastern Conference. They had been ranked #7 in the first UPI poll of the season and then climbed to #3 in the second poll and then, in week four they were in the top spot to stay.
Now with several Special Notes.
First: About Superior. It’s true that Superior is the largest city in that corner of the state. Travel to and from other Wisconsin schools was difficult back in those days without a wide, well paved road like there is today and the distances were great. And yet, teams in the Big Rivers Conference (Wausau, Marinette, Menominee (MI), Eau Claire and La Crosse Logan and La Crosse Central) had just as far to get to a game and they made it work. Superior played games down in the St. Paul and Minneapolis areas many years. I’m just not sure the real reason they didn’t play many Wisconsin schools. Look at the distance from that city to Wausau and look at an old road map. Those two schools often played each other during the 1950’s and 1960’s but not in 1964.
Second: A mention about some conferences but pertaining mainly to Oshkosh in this time frame.
The FRVC had eight members in 1960. Besides Oshkosh there was Green Bay East, Green Bay West, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Appleton, plus Sheboygan North and South. Seven conference games plus a game or two, usually one of a non-conference squad with Oshkosh playing a team from Madison. By 1969 the conference had grown to 12-teams (Sort of like what I had mentioned in a blog last year about the Milwaukee City Conference) as the added Green Bay Preble, Neenah, Green Bay Southwest, Appleton East and West (Appleton HS was no longer as the school split into two locations). The schools played only an eight-game round-robin conference schedule each season. Split into two divisions of six teams each with three cross-over games. This would change in the 1970’s.
Next up, the Top Game of the Decade, The top Coach and the Top Players