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When I wrote my book I created the list of mythical state championship teams. The list was based on research that allowed me to crown a champion for every year, sometime there was a tie, from 1897-1969/1975. (I say 1969/1975 because those were the years that the playoffs began.) Well, after looking at thousands of sports pages from a huge number of newspapers, scanning yearbooks by the dozen’s and reading a lot of online stories, I think I’ve come up with the best players for each year. Specifically, the best back and the best lineman. From the 1945 through the 1965 season I took the best information available from the AP and UPI all-state teams as well as the yearly Scholastic Coach all-America lists. 1945 was the year that the AP started its all-state team’s and 1951 is the first year for Scholastic Coach magazines All-America lists.

When Cliff Christl, now the historian for the Green Bay Backers but back in 1993 he worked for the Milwaukee Journal, gathered a number of coaches and sports writers from around the state to come up with the TEAM of the CENTURY they were able to delve deep into the past. Now, 28 years later many of those contributors to the voting for the team are gone. But the list is a another guide to honoring those great players. I’m sure a few will disagree with a name or two, just like my mythical champion list but that’s ok. I like a little controversy.

At first the list was just going to be about The Best Player. In these early years an offensive back might play the defensive line or linebacker as well. So I had to split the list into both the best back and the best lineman. There were seasons like 1945 where an end may have been the best lineman being picked over an interior player. That year two ends were standouts on both sides of the ball. Tom Biernermann of Kenosha and Stu Locklin of Appleton were tough blockers and tacklers. Instead, I chose center Robert “Red” Wilson because he was named to the second team All-Century team and the two ends were named to the honorable mention list, but it was a tough decision based on all that I read about the three.

There were years I couldn’t make a” Sophie’s Choice”. I just did my best in picking. The reason for ending the list in 1965 is because the UPI, the AP, the Milwaukee Journal, the WFCA and others started naming a player of the year in 1966. So, here it is. Look it over. I hope you enjoy reading all the great names.


1945 Lisle Blackbourn, Jr. Milwaukee Washington Back

1945 Robert "Red" Wilson Milwaukee Washington Line

1946 Bob Petruska Lake Mills Back

1946 Ken Huxhold Kenosha Line

1947 Roland Strehlow Wausau Back

1947 Bob Kennedy Rhinelander Line

1947 Pat O'Donahue Eau Claire St. Patrick Line

1948 Harland Carl Greenwood Back

1948 Dave Suminski Ashland Line

1949 Harland Carl Greenwood Back

1949 Don Penza Racine St. Catherine's Line

1950 Alan Ameche Kenosha Back

1950 Jim Temp La Crosse Aquinas Line

1951 Willie Brzeski Arcadia Back

1951 Frank Heiss Menasha Line

1952 Lee Hermsen Green Bay West Back

1952 James Yorton Kenosha Line

1953 Ron Le Mieux Green Bay East Back

1953 Dick Maierie Green Bay West Line

1954 John Cornell Algoma Back

1954 Lowell Jenkins Racine Horlick Line

1955 Eddie Hart Kenosha Back

1955 George Blommel Racine St. Catherine's Line

1956 Tom Bonofiglio Kenosha Back

1956 John Gotta Kenosha Line

1957 Jim Bakken Madison West Back

1957 Tom Downham Marinette Line

1958 Don Van Bibber Superior Central Back

1958 Paul Yutka Kenosha St. Joseph's Back

1958 Pat Richter Madison East Line

1959 Carl Silverski Shorewood Back

1959 Lou Holland Union Grove Back

1959 Jerry Thomey Kenosha Line

1960 Rich Reichart Stevens Point Back

1960 Ralph Farmer Madison West Line

1961 Dick Hanson Eau Claire Memorial Back

1961 Larry Brown Stoughton Line

1962 Robert "Rocky" Bleier Appleton Xavier Back

1962 Tom Jankowski Whitefish Bay Back

1962 Tom Omholt Wausau Line

1963 Robert "Rocky" Bleier Appleton Xavier Back

1963 Walter Paluinski Beloit Line

1964 Roger Lienhard Oshkosh Back

1964 Pat Harrington Green Bay East Line

1965 Bob Olson Superior Central Back

1965 Bobby Koch Marshfield Columbus Back

1965 Don Murphy La Crosse Aquinas Line

As I said, many years were tough to decide on a POY. Take 1949 for the top back. There was Jim Feest, a running back from Racine St. Catherine’s, the 8-0-0 state Catholic champion team (Tied for first with 9-0-0 La Crosse Aquinas). Feest’s teammate, quarterback Jim Haluska, was a star in his own right A great passer who directed the Angels attack. Next was Neal Worden from Milwaukee Pulaski. A powerful fullback, Worden led the Milwaukee City Conference in scoring and rushing. Quarterback Jim Strem from state champion Marinette was the top field general of the northeast. So why did I choose Jim Feest? To me he just stood out a bit more than the others but it was close. Remember, I’m picking players for their high school efforts and not for college or professional feats. I should also mention that besides Jim Feest and Jim Haluska, both of whom earned honorable mention to the All-Century team, end Don Penza was named to the second team list. That must have been a truly great squad. 1954 was another tough decision as end Jim Ewing of Beloit, tackle Lowell Jenkins of Racine Horlick and center Dick Teteak of Oshkosh all earned Scholastic Coach Magazine first team All-America honors. I chose Jenkins for his overall play but the choice was hard.

A multi-season POY is Robert “Rocky” Bleier of Appleton Xavier who earned honors in 1962 and 1963. I’m still working on a list of players who played from 1900-1944. It is hard to come up with some names but I should have a partial list soon. Some special notes about my choices. The first year, 1945, had both the back and the lineman of the year. The aforementioned “Red” Wilson and Lisle Blackbourn, Jr. both of Milwaukee Washington. On the list for 1956 are Tom Bonofiglio, an All-America quarterback who is my back of the year and lineman John Gotta, who also was an All-American. The 1953 0-0 season ending tie between Green Bay East and Green Bay West must have been a real battle. Tailback Ron Le Mieux led East to a 6-1-1 season that year and Dick Maierle was a standout on both sides of the line for West, a team that posted a 7-0-1 mark. Both also earned first team All-America honors. Several players who have made the early list (1900-1944) have a relationship to this one. Arnie Hanson was the POY as a back for Eau Claire in 1933, playing as a halfback. In 1961 his son Dick earned High School All-America honors as the quarterback for Eau Claire Memorial. Two players that were surprisingly not related, in 1932 Eddie Jankowski was my choice as POY as a back while he played for Milwaukee Riverside. In 1962, fullback Tom Jankowski tied for the POY spot as a back with Rocky Bleier. The two schools are just a few miles apart and Eddie coached football at Whitefish Bay but multiple newspaper stories from the time indicated they were actually unrelated.

The Blackshirts would go 7-0-1 in 1964 as they tied South Milwaukee for the conference title. 1965 brought an indifferent record of 4-3-1. In 1966 they would lose to South Milwaukee but again tie for the conference title as the team posted a 7-1-0 record. In 1968 Hollub directed the team to a 7-0-1 record as the team tied West Milwaukee 7-7 and earned the conference championship. Waukesha would go 6-2-0 in 1969 and finish second in the Suburban. The following year Waukesha earned a 7-1-0 season record in 1970 and a ranking of #5 in the press polls. 1970 would begin the schools four year run (1970-73) as Suburban Conference champs. 1971 saw the “Shirts” lose the final game of the season, 21-14 to Wauwatosa East but their 7-1-0 record earned them a tie along with three other teams for the conference crown. Cudahy was the team that beat Waukesha in 1972 but really the Blackshirts beat themselves in a 8-6 loss to the Packers as they fumbled 11-times (Losing four) and quashing all but one drive. The team tied Whitefish Bay for the conference crown as they posted a 8-1 record. Even with the good record, fumbles, besides the huge amount in the Cudahy game, hurt the team throughout the year. This was the schools ninth conference title under Hollub in 18 seasons and their 19th overall Suburban Conference title. The team had a great tight end and three starting backfield juniors who looked forward to 1973.

Coach Hollub believed his 1973 team would go 6-3 even with the returning lettermen as he worried that the line might not come together. The 1973 team had many stars, none greater than John Anderson who could do it all on the field. Anderson was not only an all-state end but a super linebacker and kicker. He earned County Player of the Year honors. An all-round athlete, Anderson also earned all-county honors in basketball and tennis. He would go on to star for the University of Michigan and the Green Bay Packers as a linebacker. Many of the linemen had been back-ups the previous year and when the season opened with a close 7-0 win over Cudahy things looked like it might be tough going for the team. But, besides John Anderson, offensive tackle/defensive lineman Mark Parson and defensive end Kurt Holm earned All-Suburban honors. Running back Dean Hilmer, quarterback Steve Schoepke and guard Rick Close earned spots on the All-County team. With this much talent it is hard to believe that the team finished 8-1, losing to South Milwaukee 54-35 and tying them for the conference title. Waukesha would end up ranked #6 in the AP poll and co-champion South Milwaukee (Also 8-1) moved up to the #9 spot. The week before the South Milwaukee game Waukesha was ranked #2 in the polls, close on the heels of Antigo, which would be named #1 in the two polls for the second consecutive year.

While not as dominate as the Blackshirts, the “Red Rockets” of South Milwaukee had plowed through the conference with only one hiccup, a 22-20 loss to Wauwatosa East. The shocking loss to South Milwaukee was hard for the team to absorb. In the previous 16 games they had given up only 52 points. They were coming off a huge win against Shorewood, 76-0. In the 54-35 loss halfback Kevin Kuchevar for the Red Rockets had a 70-yard punt return, two touchdown runs of 68 and 65 plus a 63-yard interception return. He gained nearly 200-yards rushing. Back Jim Lofy had an 82-yard kickoff return. Waukesha couldn’t score without South Milwaukee getting big plays soon afterwards. The Blackshirts didn’t have any fumbles and only the one interception but were outgained 330-173 on the ground. They didn’t have the big plays that South Milwaukee was able to come up with. The team was just outplayed. On the morning after the defeat, coach Hollub had his players on the practice field at 8am to work out the mistakes from the previous night. It was a grueling two hour practice but the team corrected their mistakes. They closed the season a few days later with a 21-0 shutout, their sixth of the season, against West Allis Hale.

As a team they forced 41 turnovers while committing 24. Individual efforts were many but none as strong as that performed by John Anderson. As a tight end he caught 33 passes for 416 yards. He scored nine touchdowns, kicked 45 of 48 extra points and four of eight field goals for 111 total points. On defense he led the team with 49 solo and 86 total tackles along with three fumble recoveries, two blocked kicks and intercepted four passes from his middle linebacker position. He punted for a 45.1 average and his kickoffs boomed to a 49.5 average. He even completed his only pass attempt for a first down on a fake punt. In 1993 he was voted by the press and coaches in a statewide poll to the Milwaukee Journals Team of the Century as a first team end, first team linebacker and an honorable spot as a kicker.

Other stat leaders were Dean Hilmer who led the team on the ground with 842 yards on 148 carries. He caught 10 passes for 186 yards and added 404 yards on punt and kickoff returns. He was second on the team in scoring with 12 touchdowns (72 points). As mentioned before, Steve Schoepke directed the offense as he threw more passes, 128, and completed more balls, 70, for, more yards, 922, than any other Waukesha player up to that time. He also tossed 12 touchdowns, also a school record, and he only had nine interceptions. Schoepke also rushed 51 times for 275 yards and seven touchdowns. Fullback Mark Malinowski chipped in with 598 yards on 101 tries and nine scores.

1974 brought new changes to the football scene in Waukesha. The city was expanding and the athletic program faced a similar situation to what Wausau had faced. In that area there had been just the local public high school for many years but with a population growth spurt in the area a Catholic high school (Newman) was created in 1951 and then in 1970 the school district split into three public high schools…Wausau East, Wausau West and DC Everest. There had only been one public high school in Waukesha but during the 1920s through the late 1940s there was Waukesha Technical School, a facility for boy’s who had trouble with the law. The two schools didn’t play each other and there were very few newspaper stories about that school’s athletic program. In 1949 Catholic Memorial opened and syphoned off some of the players that would have attended Waukesha High. Now, a second public high school, Waukesha North opened in 1974 as the school district split. A third public high school, Waukesha West would open in 1993. Waukesha High School became Waukesha South and remained the Blackshirts. In their first meeting with North in 1974, they won 30-16 and went on to post a 5-4 record. The 1975 season would be Ken Hollub’s second to last as head coach. The year didn’t start well as the team was 0-4 at the beginning but the Blackshirts went on a five game win streak and finished 5-4 for a middle of the pack standing in the conference. Their final victory over Wauwatosa West helped the second year Waukesha North program (With a 7-2 record) to tie for the conference title along with three other teams, just as South had done in 1971.

1976 was a repeat of the two previous seasons as South again went 5-4. In April of 1977 South appointed Hollub as the athletic director and while he wanted to keep coaching the school administrators didn’t want the AD splitting time with a single team. At age 49 he stepped down as the head coach and he remained in the AD position until 1988. The head coaching job went to former star, Ted Bear. Ken Hollub’s career as head coach was now complete but it was capped off a few years later by his being named to the WFCA Coaches Hall of Fame in 1982. In 22 years at Waukesha HS and then South he posted a career 133-41-8 record including, in a 17 year stretch, a mark of 112-21-6 with 10 outright or shared Suburban Conference championships. The football stadium at Waukesha South was named after “coach”. He passed at age 88 in February of 2016.

After the 1942 season ended, Waukesha had a series of coaches who did a fair job but couldn’t quite compete with the accomplishments of Lee Saubert and Clifford Goerke. In 1950 a talented coach appeared in Waukesha by the name of Vince Gavre. Born in Port Edwards, Wisconsin Gavre attended Madison and was the Badgers quarterback from 1936-38. He was drafted by the Packers but chose to take a teaching and coaching position at Merrill. After serving as a captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II he returned to Madison as an assistant for the 1947 season before taking the head coach’s position at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado for the 1948 and 1949 seasons where he posted an 11-7-0 record. He returned to Wisconsin with his family and became a teacher and the football coach at Waukesha High School. 1950, his first season at Waukesha, was a disaster as the Blackshirts posted a 1-7-1 record. He turned the program around the next year with a 7-0-0 record and the Suburban Conference title. The polio epidemic of this period caused a cancellation of the West Allis Central game. A close 19-18 victory over Whitefish Bay was the key to the season’s success as the team scored 138 points and allowed only 44. The 1951 season was followed by a 3-4-2 record in 1952, 5-3-0 season in 1953 and finally a 3-5-0 posting in 1954. His family came first to Gavre so he decided to step down to make way for a new coach. It seems that Waukesha is a great place for former head coaches to stay and teach. Like Saubert and Goerke, Vince Gavre stuck around for 21 more years as a well-respected teacher of American problems, sociology and economics.

The new man on the scene as the school’s football coach and physical education instructor was Ken Hollub. Born and raised in Oshkosh, Ken chose to attend the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. He served in the military and was an assistant coach at La Crosse from 1952-54. He and his family moved to Waukesha where he taught physical education with Lee Saubert and coached football for 22 years. Over the years he also coached swimming, track and wrestling. Ken Hollub believed in the ground game and for many years passing wasn’t often in his playbook.

Taking over from Gavre in 1955, Hollub matched Waukesha’s record from the previous year with a 3-5-0 season. 1956 was even worse as the team‘s record was 2-5-1. These were two of the three losing seasons that Hollub had. The other was a 3-4-1 record posted in 1967. Things began to roll in 1957 as he posted a 7-1-0 record and a tie for the Suburban title. The 1958 and 1959 brought undefeated 8-0-0 and 7-0-1 records (A 12-12 tie with South Milwaukee) respectively. In 1960 the team again “slipped” to 7-0-1 (A 7-7 tie, again, with South Milwaukee). Very good records for those four seasons of 1957-60 as they posted a 29-1-2 record in that stretch. Now, if you have read Ken Hollub’s profile on the WFCA Hall of Fame page it states: “His teams from 1957 through 1960 were undefeated” but they did lose in game five of the 1957 season 20-0 to Whitefish Bay. During the four season run Waukesha was ranked in the UPI prep poll as high as #2 in 1958 and #9 in 1959 while finishing ranked #10 in 1960.

With three players named to all-state teams the 1958 squad dominated the Suburban Conference as they went 8-0-0. The #2 ranked Blackshirts finished a close second in the final UPI team poll to Superior Central. Fullback John Loden gained over 1,000 yards and averaged 7.5 yards per carry as he was the best back in the conference. Loden was on the UPI 1st team and earned a 3rd team spot on the AP team all-state squads. He led the Blackshirts in scoring and was a strong defender. John Pichette (A future Waukesha athletic Director) was the top lineman in the Suburban and earned a first team placement on the AP team. The AP citation stated that he was the best lineman in the Suburban Conference as he cleared the way for the “Black Knights” backs. Evidently the "Black Knights” name was a misprint. Dennis “Rawhide” Williams earned honorable mention at the end spot for the two “all” teams.

South Milwaukee, Cudahy and Shorewood were predicted to contend for the conference title but they were dispatched. One of the highlights on the season was the 71-0 homecoming win over Greendale (A newer member to the conference). The 71 points was a school record. Kicker Johnny Fuchs led the Suburban with 25 extra points and a field goal. Besides Loden, Pichette and Williams, guard Jerry Ruetten earned 1st team all-conference placement and center Paul Senn was named to the second team. The 1958 season was the first undefeated, untied team for Waukesha since 1951.

Coach Hollub had a good 5-3-0 year in 1961 but jumped up to 7-1-0 in 1962 before 1963 rolled around. The “Shirts” again went 8-0-0 and again were ranked at the end of the season #2 in the UPI poll, behind undefeated Wausau. In fact, that Wausau team (9-0-0) was profiled in my book and #3 Stoughton (9-0-0) was profiled here back on February 8. While the 1963 Waukesha team wasn’t a super high scoring team, posting about 150 points less than Wausau and Stoughton, they had a strong defense. Waukesha allowed only 40 points on the year and didn’t allow more than seven points in a single game.

In the opener they started slowly but picked up the pace in the second half with two scores to overpower South Milwaukee 26-6. In game two they sort of shot themselves in the foot as they totaled 170 yards in penalties but the Blackshirts were able to gain just over 280 yards and scored an18-7 win against West Allis Central. Ted Bear scored three times in the first half of game three, a 39-0 win over Wauwatosa East. The Wauwatosa school district added a second high school in 1960 and an additional school was added to the Suburban Conference. The West Milwaukee Mustangs were up next and it wasn’t close as Waukesha crushed them 40-7. They trimmed the Shorewood Greyhounds 13-0, allowing only 92 yards. Fullback Dave Michler scored his fifth touchdown of the season and keyed the ground control attack. Quarterback Ken Oaks didn’t throw often but he tossed several key passes throughout the year and Michler was on the receiving end of some of those completions.

Following the Shorewood win there was a close game, a 12-7 win over Wauwatosa West. A late fourth quarter score by Waukesha and an interception by Ted Bear on the game’s final play turned a near defeat into victory. The homecoming game against West Allis Hale was one of the season high points as the Blackshirts played ball control for most of the game by outgaining Hale by over 130-yards on the ground. The final victory was an 18-6 win over Cudahy to clinch the conference crown.

Five players were named to the Waukesha Freeman All-County Team. Halfback Ted Bear gained 344 yards and scored four times on the ground in only 41 carries. He also caught eight passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Though the team didn’t pass a lot Ken Oaks was the team's MVP as he completed 29 of 78 attempts for 418 yards and seven touchdowns. On the ground he carried 76 times for 261 yards and six touchdowns. Fullback Dave Mickler had 97 rushing attempts for a team leading 478 yards and five scores. He also caught six passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns. End Chuck Verlow was a superb blocker who caught only eight passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns but was also a good defender. Against West Milwaukee Verlow intercepted his only pass and returned it 67-yards for a touchdown. Guard Cliff Goerke (son of the former coach) was named to the team as a first team guard. Linemen Bill Cox and Jim Kranpitz were members of the honorable mention squad.

So, if you add up the rushing and passing yards you will see that, as I said earlier, this wasn’t a high scoring or offense team but they prevailed against tough Suburban Conference opponents. This would be Ken Hollub’s last undefeated, untied team but he would coach other strong squads.