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 Nerwspapers.com 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.