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Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs at Milwaukee Marquette, November 1. 1985 and November 13, 1985

There were some questionable comments and actions after the first game in 1984.  These comments and actions all led up to even more events leading up to the second game

Playing football in November can be a dicey affair in dealing with the weather in Wisconsin.  It’s like, as Forest Gump, said in referring to a box of chocolates, in this case the weather, you never know what you will get.  Both in the 1984 and 1985 football seasons some teams like Milwaukee Marquette seldom played in good weather or on a dry field.  Coach Bob Hyland of Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs was quoted as saying, after a November 1, 1984 15-6 win over Milwaukee Marquette, “I think that it’s nice out.  It’s a beautiful night to play football.”  He was smiling as his team overcame the elements and won.  The game was played in Fond du Lac at Fruth Field, in what is better known as the “Freezer Contest”.   With the falling temperatures and gusting winds bringing the wind chill factor down to near zero and both teams playing on a soggy field that had endured an intermittent rain for much of the week the field began to freeze.  A picture in the Fond du Lac Reporter newspaper the day before showed the field and the tag line questioned if the field would be in shape for the game. Instead of playing in slosh, the freezing ground allowed players to get firmer footing as the game progressed. Somehow the lighter Springs team was able to totally dominate their opponent in yardage, 210 to 79, despite committing 13 penalties for 112 yards vs. the Hilltoppers having only 3 for 12 yards.

 All this is a setup for the rematch of sorts for the 1985 game between two very good teams and great coaches.

Both coaches had known each other for years.  Bob Hyland took over at Springs in 1971 and Dick Basham had headed Marquette since 1972.  Coincidentally, Hyland had grown up outside of Wisconsin Rapids and had attended Assumption High School there before going off to college.  Springs would be the only place he has coached at.  Basham became the head coach at Assumption in 1970 and stayed for two years before moving to Milwaukee and taking the head coach spot at Marquette. His 1970 team went 2-7 but he turned things around with an 8-1 record in 1971.

These two teams have only played each other in football three times.  In 1975 Marquette destroyed St. Mary’s 28-6 in the playoffs, ending the Ledgers dreams of an undefeated and the WISAA state title.  Instead, the title went to the Hilltoppers.  Even though Hyland had expressed respect for his Milwaukee opponent he thought that his team now had a good chance of winning going into the 1984 match.  Even Pius coach Ron Wied had predicted that Springs would be the winner.  Pius had given Marquette their only loss on the season in conference play.

The newspapers, both those from Milwaukee and Fond du Lac, played it up as Hyland wanting revenge against Basham for 1975 when they met in November 1984 and to a degree there was some motivation there.  Springs didn’t want Marquette to run over them in 1984 like they had in 1975. Running back Steve Guhl ran for 204 yards on only 16 carries as he scored all four of his team’s touchdowns.  But now in 1984, psychology of sorts was employed to give Marquette an advantage, or so they thought.  Could this be a battle between the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s?

The members of the WISAA football selection committee had a set of rules to determine which team, whether they played at their own field, their opponent’s field or a neutral site, who would be the home team.  First the teams involved in the playoffs would be determined by a point system.  Then, using the points system would then match up the first-round games.  That would then determine where the games would be played. Sometime after 1975 the WISAA decided the home team would be determined each year by alphabetical order.  That order would flip each year. As it turned out in 1975, before the alphabetical process the game was set by WISAA before a crowd of over 8,000 fans at the neutral site of UW-Oshkosh Titan stadium and Marquette was determined by WISAA to be the home team.  By 1984 the home team process was in action and Marquette was again the home team as alphabetically it was there year.  The game had been scheduled to be played at their home field, Hart Park in Wauwatosa.  However, the heavy rains made that field unplayable so the game was switched to Fruth Field in Fon du Lac which was supposed to be “dryer”.  So, with the switch in stadiums Marquette was the home team.  When the change of locations was made, according to Bob Hyland and other Springs officials, Marquette coach Dick Basham said he was fine with being on the visitor side of the field.  But then he reneged about a day before the game.  As any fan knows that if you are the visitor the number of seats on that side of the field is usually much smaller than the home side.  Marquette had a larger fan following so Basham wanted whatever advantage he could get.

This change didn’t make Hyland and his team happy. According to the Fond du lac Reporter newspaper the theory was that Basham made the change really to upset Hyland to make him lose site of the primary objective, which of course, was to win the game.  Basham instead used the change to motivate and fire up his team.  It worked. 

Marquette did score first in the 15-6 contest as Bill Axt recovered a blocked Springs punt in the end zone with 6:28 left in the first quarter.  The extra point was missed.  In the second quarter on a third-and 16 on Marquette’s five-yard line Springs Keven Grunwald blocked a quick kick by Axt.  The ball bounced off his chest and through the back of the end zone for a safety.  Four minutes later the Ledgers Dave Casalena ran one-yard for a touchdown.  The two-point conversion pass failed and the half would end with Springs ahead, 8-6.  Casalena would score again in the third period, again on a one-yard run.  Tony Berenz would kick the extra point and that’s how the game would end with the Ledgers winning 15-6. 

After the switching of the seating positions, there were lots of words on the field and in the press.  Reportedly, according to a November 12, 1985 newspaper story in the FdL Reporter, when Basham and Hyland met after the game, Basham accused the Ledgers playing “overly-aggressive” (But not in those words) football.  He didn’t think that was the way the game should be played and in particular he accused Springs of using “harsh tactics” directed at the ankle of his all-state punter, Bill Axt   Bill Cary in his FdL Reporter byline, “Carried Away”, reported several other things.  After Marquette’s defeat Cary got a very nasty letter from coach Basham’s son.  The words used were full of explicates and indicated that Cary was not one of his favorite people.  The writer, use to such comments said he replied: “Stand in line.”  The story didn’t end there so now the blog is about two games from the 1980’s. 

Moving on to 1985, besides Carey’s November 12th article, there were other stories in the Fond du Lac Reporter leading up to the matchup that may have fueled the so called “feud:

After the Hilltoppers eliminated Waukesha Memorial, 24-7 on November 9, 1985, Basham indicated to a Milwaukee Journal reporter that he planned to extract his pound of flesh when Marquette played Springs next.  In a dispatch sent to Bill Cary that said leading up to the game, Basham was fuming: “Bill: here is my roster and starting lineups.  I’m sure you will think of something to write.  Don’t bother to call- Dick Basham, football coach at Marquette High School.”

Carey followed up his postgame comments from the 1984 game with a large article on Sunday, November 4. 1984. This is probably what precipitated Basham’s terse note to Carey in 1985 as well as Cary’s again mentioning the letter that Basham’s son wrote after the 1984 loss.  I would love to copy and post Cary’s story but it might be too long for this blog.  If you have you should read both stories. To say that the article was from a Springs viewpoint would be correct but Carey tried to keep it balanced. 

However, Hyland tried to use some physiology of his own.  This was the year that even though WISAA picked Hart Park to be the site of the game, Springs was the designated home team.  What did Hyland do?  He chose to have his team sit on the visitor’s side.  As Hyland said to reporters: “We will be on the visitor’s side.  We have not changed our philosophy (A dig at Marquette for 1984) that the home team is the host school.  Alphabetically, it is our turn, but Hart Park is Marquette’s home field.”  So, the Ledgers would don their white road jerseys. Tom Kohl, assistant sports editor for The Reporter, stated that Ledgers didn’t have be so generous but that was Hyland’s and the school’s philosophy (Another dig at the Hilltoppers).  Another set of comments from Hyland was directed at Basham.  He said that in the years he had been at Springs he had never been accused of dirty play.  He taught his team to hit and hit hard but legally.  Never the less Hyland said he didn’t have any hard feelings, “there’s no feud on our part.”

 As I said earlier, look out for November weather. It had rained a little the day before the game but now Hart Park received over one half of an inch the day of the contest.  The temperature was in the 40’s but the field was soggy.  So soggy that the lighter sized Ledgers couldn’t get any traction.  For some reason the heavier Hilltoppers were able to get traction of their own somehow outgained them 249 yards to 98.  Springs only tried four passes but lost two yards.  Marquette’s Dave Novotny tried 19 passes and completed only seven while tossing two interceptions.  After three scoreless quarters Novotney was able to hit speedy Mike Waddick, who had split wide to the right down the sideline streaked have a fairly dry patch of turf and hauled in a pass for a 61-yard score.  When they came up to the line Hyland thought this would be the “the play” and he was correct.  Waddick simply blew by his defender.  Carl Wengelwski kicked the extra point and that was it. 

Earlier in the second quarter Novotney had first been sacked by Pat Crowley and then on the next play he broke out of the pocket and was leveled by the Ledgers Mike Riggs.  Novotney was left writhing on the field for a couple of minutes before being helped off the field.  He, of course, would come back in later.  Wengelwski did miss two field goals with one being blocked but the game would end as a 7-0 win for the Hilltoppers.   

Springs would end up with a 10-2 record while Marquette would beat Green Bay Premontre 21-7 to go undefeated with a 12-0 record.  Marquette would have some great WISAA championship battles with fellow Catholic Conference foe, Waukesha Catholic Memorial in 1994 and 1996.  Springs would, as well, meet up with Memorial in 1989-91 for the title.  These would all be great battles.

Eau Claire Memorial at Chippewa Falls, November 11, 1932:

Often times what determines the outcome of a game is the weather, a factor that determines how the fates of a contest.  Such was the case of the Armistice Day game in Chippewa Falls between the home team Cardinals and the Old Abes of Eau Claire Memorial.  The game was for the unofficial championship of the top schools of the Northwest.  Earlier, in October, the two teams played at the Eau Claire Teachers College field and Memorial came out on top, 7-0 on a dry field.  A first quarter touchdown run by Whit Rork.  A drop-lick for the extra point by junior quarterback Arnie Hanson (See a previous blog on his son, Dick, for more details on Arnie) was good and the teams then battled to a deadlock for the rest of the game.

1932 was a good season for Memorial as they won the next four games.  They opened against Stevens Point, winning 12-0, then played Falls next.  Then they followed up with wins against La Crosse Central (9-6), Menomonie (19-0) and Ladysmith (13-0). The team didn’t score much, only 63 points total in the six games the Abes played, but it was their defense that kept them undefeated.  Arnie Hanson, who played halfback as a senior in 1933, was the team’s top defender as he intercepted six passes and was a solid tackler.  Only one receiver caught a touchdown against him as most teams didn’t pass that often unless they were behind in the score.  Memorial’s coach Ade Olson’s team featured a punishing ground game that had won five straight games leading to the second match up of the year against Chippewa Falls.  They were looking for an unbeaten season.

The Cardinals were 5-2 having lost the season opener against Hastings (MN) 6-7.  They beat Rice Lake 13-0 before losing to Memorial 0-7.  Falls followed up with wins over Bloomer (44-12), Menomonie (8-0), Eau Claire St. Patrick’s (46-7) and La Crosse Central (12-0).  Coach Carleton Roel had been pointing to the season finale to gain revenge.  Talking a perfect season away from their rivals would make the Cardinal season a happy one. 

The game was on a Friday.  Three days earlier Franklin D. Roosevelt had won the presidential election, the first of four.  Drinking fans, the alcohol type, were hoping that Prohibition would end soon but the city added extra police to keep the crowd in line.  In Madison the next day, Saturday, the Badgers would surprise Minnesota in a 20-13 victory, paced by halfback Walter (Mickey) McGuire’s opening kickoff return of an 85-yard touchdown. The stage was set for the 2pm start.  The problem was the weather. 

On Thursday the temperature plunged and then a mild blizzard hit overnight leaving a bit more than a half of an inch of snow on the field of the Fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls.  The temperature didn’t get much above freezing and there was a blustery wind to meet the brave fans.

Falls had a good running game mixed with some passing as needed. I had mentioned that Memorial had a bruising ground game but they had no passing game.  In fact they had NOT thrown a pass in their first five games but as the EC Leader-Telegram and The CF Herald-Telegram both had stories early in the week stating that the Abes were working on developing a passing attack.

The two teams battled to a scoreless first quarter although Chippewa dominated.  In the second Eau Claire got a break when on fourth down the center for Falls snapped the ball over the punters head and it was recovered by the Abes on the 13-yard line.  Three rushing plays gained eight yards so they called on Whit Rork, with Arnie Hanson holding, to kick a field goal. It was good and EC led 3-0.  After the kickoff the Cardinals could only gain four yards so they decided to throw a long pass.  As it sailed down the field it appeared that Hanson would intercept.  He went into the air to make the pick but the ball bounced out of his hands and into the hand of Colonial (Yes, that was his name) Larson who raced to the endzone.  The extra point was missed and the score would remain 6-3 going into the halftime break.  During the second half Memorial would go to the air 11 times with only two completions in a desperate attempt to score but they could not but neither could Chippewa so the game ended 6-3.  The biting wind and the frozen filed made life for both teams.  As I mentioned in an earlier blog Eau Claire Memorial would dominate the rivalry for many years.


How Ladysmith got its name:

Some background: Ladysmith was founded in 1885 with the name Flambeau Falls but was renamed to Corbett, then Warner in 1891. On July 1, 1900, the name was formally changed to Ladysmith, named after the bride of Charles R. Smith, head of the Menasha Wooden Ware Company. Since the 1920’s the city has had a fairly steady population of between 3,100- 3,900+ residents. Of the teams in the Heart of the North Conference, Ladysmith had the second largest school attendance to Rice Lake (Around 6,000 city population). The other members in the HON had city population of between 1,800-2,800.


John Brodie took over the Lumberjack program in 1963 and directed the team to a 5-3-0 record. Bill Mestelle

(Tom’s brother) was a sophomore running back who was destined for stardom. Bill had made the varsity as a freshman and got some experience but now he was a starter. The team opened witohn Brodie took over the Lumberjack program in 1963 and directed the team to a 5-3-0 rh a win against Chippewa falls McDonell, a team that they seemed to open against from about 1955 through 1967. They followed things with three losses and then four consecutive wins. Bill earned first steam All-Conference and led the league in scoring as he had 65 points and rushed for 449 yards on the season.

Things looked bright for the 1964 year and Mestelle and his teammates didn’t disappoint. Besides Mestelle there were all-conference players like linemen Ed Haasl, Ed Krenzelok, John Jirak and Craig Redwine, a defensive end as well as runni9ng back. All were also honorable mention All-Northwest with Redwine earning honorable mention All-State. Others who strongly contributed were Jim Schweke, Mark Bauer, Paul Morgan, Dave Garnatz, Frank Poquette and Don Dennis.

What made Bill Mestelle so special was his speed and his ability to elude opponents. In the season opener a 32-14 win over Chippewa Falls McDonell, Mestelle showed his rushing and receiving talent as he scored on touchdown runs of 1, 21, 70,1 and 44 yards. He caught four passes for 54 yards and converted on two extra points. That’s ALL of his teams 32 points as he carried the ball 17 times for a 16.7 average, 284 yards. He had been good as a sophomore but now, a year later, he had gotten much better. The state now knew about him as his effort was highlighted around Wisconsin in many newspapers.

A few weeks later he helped destroy Bloomer by rushing 14 times for 134 yards and four rushing touchdowns plus two extra points (26 total points in the game). Craig Redwine strongly contributed with 111 rushing yards and a score. The Chippewa Falls Herald-Telegram newspaper must have thought Tom Mestelle was still playing for Ladysmith as they reported that Tom and Craig Redwine paced the team. After the hurt Bill had put on McDonell they shouldn’t have made that mistake. Against Spooner Mestelle racked up five touchdowns and two extra points (32 total points) as he caught TD passes of 55,53 and 29 yards while scoring from 25 and 12 yards out on the ground.

Against Chetek Mestelle scored four touchdowns, all in the first half and only played in the second when he was sent out to kick extra points of which he converted on nine of 11 attempts in the game. Bill broke the conference scoring record that Tom had set in 1962 in the Chetek game. It took Tom seven games to score 108 points bur Bill did it in five as his total in conference play was now 110. That night’s scoring gave him a total of 33 points in the game, even though the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram story said 35.

The following week was a different story as the Lumberjacks eked out a 14-13 win over Cumberland. The Beavers stopped the Lumberjack running game for the most part, but the play of quarterback Frank Poquette was key. Mestelle hauled in a 40-yard pass from Poquette with 1:30 left in the game to help avoid the upset. He then converted the extra point for the win. The Lumberjacks led at the end of the first half 7-6 on an 80-yard Poquette return of an interception and Mistelle’s extra point kick. Up next was the season final showdown with Rice Lake and Bill and his teammates didn’t disappoint the fans. They outgained the Warriors 359 yards to 214 as Mestelle closed out the season with three touchdowns…44 and 32 from scrimmage and took a 54-yard reception from Poquette along with converting three extra points.

Bill Mestelle ended his magical junior season with a state leading 174 points on 25 touchdowns and 24 extra points. He was named to the Leader-Telegram All-Northwest team, the UPI and AP first team All-State teams and honorable mention All-American on the Scholastic Coach listings. He was becoming a most sought player by colleges, and much was expected of him going into 1965. Besides the 174 points on the season, he rushed 98 times for 968 yards and caught 31 passes for 482 as well as picking off three opponents passes.

1965 rolled around and Kick-off Magazine, a national pre-season publication that named Mestelle as one of the top 100 backs in the country. The school and the press nicknamed him “Missel Mestelle” and he was ready to please the Lumberjack fans.

Bill Mestelle was hurt in the sixth game with a shoulder injury that kept him out of parts of three games, but he still gained 850 yards on 113 attempts, caught seven passes for 128 yards, scored 12 touchdowns and kicked 13 extra points. He punted for a 35.1-yard average, led the team in kick-0ff and punt returns plus he had a team leading 175 defensive points. He again earned All-Northwest, first team All-State and well as honorable mention All-America.

The “Missel” taking off for a long touchdown…1965 Ladysmith yearbook.

The team went 6-2 as Mestelle had opponents keying on him as the Lumberjacks lost the opener to Chippewa falls McDonell, 20-7. Bill ran for 123 yards and the seven points the team scored but the Macks were able to contain him from scoring like he did in 1964. His high scoring was again held in check as Rice Lake was beaten 19-7 as he ran for 161 yards and a touchdown and an extra point. Game three was his breakout for the season as he ran for 182 yards, scored four touchdowns and was 3-4 kicking extra points. He also intercepted two passes in the 27-0 shutout of Hayward.

The team lost to the eventual Heart of the North conference champion Barron, 19-12. I found no newspaper report for the game. They beat Bloomer the next week 20-13 as Mestelle rushed for 180 yards and scored three touchdowns and two extra points. Spooner was a very tough opponent as the Lumberjacks were held to a 6-0 win, but it was the “Missel” who led the way with 127 yards on 16 carries and a 15-yard touchdown run. In this game Mestelle only played the first half as he hurt his right shoulder and this would keep him out of the next game, a 21-0 win over Chetek. Football is a team sport and his backup, Bruce Stewart stepped in and he was fabulous, rushing for 225 yards and three scores. Bill didn’t play much the next week, a 33-13 victory over Cumberland but he was able to haul in a touchdown pass and kick three extra points. For his career four-year Bill rushed for 2,273 yards, caught passes for over 500 yards and scored 324 points. Maybe not a lot by todays stats but very impressive for the era. Going 6-2-0 was quite an accomplishment for the team and all the players could be proud.

It’s interesting to note that Ladysmith failed to get any statewide recognition in the state press polls for their undefeated seasons of 1961 and 1962, not even honorable mention. But they were ranked in the final polls as the #6 team in 1964. The strong streak of winning seasons, from 1958-65 (50-14 record for the period) ended in 1966 when the team went 1-7, 1-6 in conference play. The school would have some more good seasons after 1966 but the stretch of such a strong success was never again matched.

In 2019 the football Ladysmith became part of the Lakeland and the other former members, Barron, Bloomer, Chetek, Cumberland and Spooner remain in the HON. Many years ago, Rice Lake moved to the Big Rivers and now is part of the Middle Border Conference as of 2022. When it comes to other sports, like basketball, Ladysmith is back in the Heart of the North.

Thanks to the Ladysmith Public Library and to Kristi Flohr of the Ladysmith High School library for taking the time to send me yearbook information on the school's history.

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