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Great football battles within the Wisconsin Valley Conference were common. Not just some blowouts but I mean, close games that often turned on a dime. Some of those close battles were between D.C. Everest and Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln. The events pitted two Hall of Fame coaches, Wayne Steffenhagen of Everest and Ken Biegel of Rapids. Year in and year out the two fought for the conference title and a chance to go to the playoffs. Sometimes they did and sometimes not but for the most part the 1990s were classic, close battles between the two schools.


Oct. 5, 1990…Wisconsin Rapids was leading 20-3 early in the second half, but D.C. Everest cut the lead to 20-15. With 9:31 left in the fourth quarter the Evergreens mounted a drive. They drove down to the Red Raiders 11-yard line with less than two minutes left but a fourth down pass was batted down and Rapids hung on for the win. The Raiders would post an 8-2 record on the year to tie for the conference title but lose in the first round of the D1 playoffs.


Oct. 4, 1991…Trailing 7-6 with 2:07 left in the game, Wisconsin Rapids started on their own 20-yard line and mounted a great drive down to the Everest one. Then, sophomore Brian Siegmann kicked a field goal with :05 left in the game for a 9-7 Raider win. The two teams would end up tied for the conference title but both lost in the first round of the playoffs.


Oct. 2,1992…Leading 14-10 at half-time. the D.C. Everest Evergreens roared to five third quarter touchdowns and won 49-16. Antigo won the conference title but neither Everest or Rapids made the playoffs.


Sept. 24, 1993…D.C. Everest won 21-16 as they held on for a road victory. Ken Biegel decided not to punt on fourth-and-two on their own 20-yard line. Brian Siegmann was now the team quarterback and he lost seven-yards on the play. Evergreen back Jason Hurd ran for the 13-yard touchdown on the next play as Everest surged ahead, 20-9. The Raiders would score a touchdown but their comeback fell short. Neither team advanced to the playoffs as Stevens Point won the WVC title.


Sept. 23, 1994…Just as in 1991, Lincoln beat D.C. Everest with a last second field goal. Shad Williams kicked a 37-yard field goal with one second left on the clock. The Red Raiders swept through the rest of the conference schedule to win the WVC title. After the game Ken Biegel predicted that they would meet again that season and they did.


Oct. 30. 1994…Sure enough, six weeks later in the second round of the playoffs the 10-0 Wisconsin Rapids faced 9-1 D.C. Everest. This time the Evergreens bulled their way to take the victory. The Red Raiders were down 32-7 at halftime but made it close, 45-37 with 50-seconds left. Evergreen defensive back Tim Strehlow intercepted a pass by Lincoln’s Mike Hamilton on a second and two play from the five-yard-line. Strehlow returned the ball 100-yards for the clinching touchdown. The final score was 53-37. Wayne Steffenhagen directed Everest to the state semifinals.


Sept. 15, 1995…This game helped Schofield to win the first of four consecutive Valley titles. A late fourth quarter touchdown got Wisconsin Rapids within a score. Lincoln was able to get the ball back and they drove to the Everest 26-yard line. A mix-up in the backfield resulted in a fumble with the Evergreens recovering to clinch the win, 27-20. Under the old playoff system and even with a 7-2 record, Rapids failed to make the playoffs and Everest would lose in the first round.


Sept. 20, 1996…The Evergreens led 35-0 after three quarters and coasted to a 35-12 win. They would advance to the state championship game, losing to Hartland Arrowhead. Lincoln had their only losing season of the 90s in an injury plagued year.


Sept. 5, 1997…This season involved a third team in the mix. That team being Marshfield. In week 2 Wisconsin Rapids played D.C. Everest and the Evergreens pulled out a 37-30 win. There were seven lead changes in the game with Everest down 30-29 with 28 seconds left in the game when halfback Lance Gast tossed a 49-yard option pass to Curt Kazba in the end zone for the win. Where Marshfield comes in is as follows: Three weeks after the Red Raiders lost to the Evergreens, they eked out a 3-0 win over Marshfield. The following week Marshfield lost 24-13 to Everest. As the regular season ended D.C. Everest finished #1 with a 8-1 record (Their only loss was a week 3 non-conference loss to Menominee, MI) and Wisconsin Rapids finished 8-1 and #2 in the Valley. Marshfield ended up #3 in the conference and a 7-2 record. The conference was strong.


The playoffs began and all three trams won their opening round games. In Level 2 Marshfield faced Schofield D.C. Everest and was leading 22-19 with 2:17 left to go in the game when the Marshfield Tigers mounted an 85-yard, 14-play drive to score with six seconds to go. Level 3 pitted the Red Raiders against Marshfield. The Tigers pulled the win out on a game winning touchdown pass with 27 seconds remaining in the game and a 26-21 victory. Marshfield would win their next two games and end the season with a 12-2 record as they beat an undefeated Oak Creek 21-14 for the Division 1 title. Few teams have come back from a two-loss season to win a title. The Valley was super tough in 1997.


Sept. 6, 1998…The biggest game ever played in the Wisconsin Valley Conference history. Nine conference records were set or tied. Among the records was the 1,311 yards the two teams gained. The Evergreens had three separate leads of 20-points or more in the game but they couldn’t hold back the Red Raiders until the final whistle in the Everest 70-63 win. Evergreen wide receiver Derek Abney caught 10 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Jesse Spatz carried the ball 30 times for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Lincoln running back Nathan Dahl gained 447 yards rushing, receiving and returning kicks while scoring seven times. Coach Biegel again, as in 1994, predicted after the game that they would meet again and they would.


Nov. 13, 1998…The two teams met in a Level 4 game and it was a 24-21 victory for Everest. Rapids took a 3-0 lead then gave up two first half touchdowns before they could get a score of their own. The raiders got close in the third quarter but that was it. The Evergreen’s were now 13-0 and they advanced to the state finals where Everest beat Oak Creek 14-12.


Aug. 27, 1999…The two teams met in the season opener and it was all Schofield D.C. Everest, a 24-7 win. The Evergreens led throughout the game and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that The Red Raiders were to cross the goal line. The two teams finished with a 6-2 conference record and they tied with Stevens Point for second place. The two also lost in the first round of the playoffs. Just a note, Marshfield finished in first place and was 13-0 until they lost in the state finals to undefeated (14-0) Homestead.


The 1990s was a decade of exciting games between the two schools. This was a great time in the Wisconsin Valley Conference and the two teams played classic games year in and year out against each other. 1999 was Ken Biegels last season coaching. He posted a career record of 214-95-4 in 35 years of coaching with one state runner-up and seven conference titles. Wayne Steffenhagen continued on until 2010 and retired with a 278-80-0 record and state titles in 1981, 1983, 1989 and 1998 with a runner-up place in 1996 in his 34 seasons as the head coach at D.C. Everest. Wayne recently passed away this past February.

A Newspaper Rant


About 100-years ago most newspapers began to dedicate more news space for high school football. As I’ve mentioned before, the coverage was gradual with some game stats, box scores, season stats, some career stats, player profiles and expanded team stories. Looking back at older newspapers before 2012 the local teams got plenty of coverage in the papers. Because of the downturn in readership newspapers have moved more and more of their content to the internet. The size of the newspaper dwindled as more and more advertising went online so the newspaper companies streamlined their services.


Take a look at the Wisconsin newspapers acquired by Gannet. If you look at the Saturday editions of the Fond du Lac Reporter, the Stevens Point Journal or the Green Bay Press Gazette you will find almost the same content. A story about the upcoming Packer game and a feature on that day’s Wisconsin Badger game. Nowhere in the sports page will you find a story on the local football games from Friday night. To get that you have to go online and maybe it would be a short story with very little box score info.


Do I blame the newspapers for not recording history in print? Since the first newspaper was printed in 1609 in Germany and the Low Countries, people have relied on the newspaper for news, advertising, society and woman’s interest as well as sports. Now, much of that has gone away from these papers. For many people to find an obituary or a sports story you have to go online. When I was a young boy, living in southwestern Michigan my family didn’t get just one newspaper on a daily basis. We had three!! The local Niles paper as well as the South Bend Tribune and the Chicago Tribune. I got the Niles Daily Star and the South Bend newspapers when I attended St. John’s Military Academy and later, Arizona State. Moving back to Wisconsin I narrowed things down to the Milwaukee Journal. The point is that until five years ago, I received on my doorstep a daily paper. So, am I part of the problem for the downturn in readership? How about my three children who are now college graduates and never once looked at the Journal when they lived in my home? That seems to be the same thing for many families. The internet became their source for news. To them it just seemed easier because they can get the latest information now and not later. The problem I have is that for prep football information gathering moving forward it is/will be hard to get older information without that paper. Without having a good archive it is hard to get the older facts that I and others need. Newspapers.com has provided a great source of news gathering during the pandemic. Since last March I’ve only been able to visit two libraries to look at microfilm and I had to drive 70-80 miles one way to view the papers. Thank goodness for Newspapers.com. However, not all newspapers are part of that file. I just wish that the Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Sentinel and the old community newspapers were part of the Newspapers.com program.


Record Setting Games


As you may know there are thousands of games played each year and most of the time a record isn’t set in those games. While doing some research I ran across three games that stood out for setting records in a single game. These are all from the 1990s. The first was the 1995 Division 5 championship game between Darlington and Hurley, a 63-6 win for Darlington who set ten Division 5 records, eight of which are still listed as #1 in those categories:


TEAM RECORDS INDIVIDUAL RECORDS

Most points in a game…63 Most touchdowns…Doug McGowan…5

Most points by two teams…69 Longest punt return…by McGowan…82 yards

Largest margin…57 Most points in a game…by McGowan…30

Most total yards…406

Most yards rushing…387

Most touchdowns…9


The next game was the 1998 shoot-out between D.C. Everest and Wisconsin Rapids which was a thriller. Everest won 70-63 as there were nine Wisconsin Valley Conference records set or tied on September 4. All appear to still be current conference records. I have a future story concerning this game.


TEAM RECORDS

Most points scored by two teams…133

Most points by two teams in a half…70…D.C. Everest 41, Wis. Rapids 29 (First Half)

Most first downs by two teams…56

Most points by a losing team…Wis. Rapids…63

Most net yards gained…by Wis. Rapids…660

Most net yards gained by two teams…1,311


INDIVIDUAL RECORDS

Most points…Nathan Dahl…44

Most touchdowns…Nathan Dahl…7

Most touchdown receptions (Tied)…Derek Abney…3


Next up is the 1999 Division 6 state title game, a 54-6 win by Owen-Withee over Mineral Point. O-W posted 13 divisional records with nine still leading in a stats category set during the romp. They were:


TEAM RECORDS

Most points in a game…54

Most touchdowns by one team…8

Most points by two teams…60

Most points in a half…41

Most points in a quarter…21

Fewest rushing yards allowed…0 (Zero)

Largest margin of victory…48


INDIVIDUAL RECORDS

Most touchdowns by one player (Tied)…by Jeff Tolzmann…4

Most conversions kicked…by Jason Laube…7

Longest punt…by Jeff Tolzmann…72 yards

Best punting average by Jeff Tolzmann…44.8 (Tolzmann had a 29.2 average coming into the game) on four punts

Longest kickoff return…Jeff Tolzmann…80 yards

Longest punt return…Jeff Tolzmann…22 yards (Not super long but still a record)


I point these records out because they are remarkable individual and team performances and even though they took place 20+ years ago they need to be recognized. It is remarkable that 24 of the 32 records have stood the test of time.

2011 was a very down year for Cadott football. In the spring of that year, coach Pat Rothbauer was replaced, after 13 seasons and a 61-67 record. The team would post a 2-7 season total under new coach Perry Myran. 2012 was even worse. With a lot of players from the previous season having graduated, low participation and injuries, the Cadott Hornets cancelled the season after starting the year 0-2. Cadott began the season with only 16 players, they were now down to only 14 healthy players on September 5…five seniors, two juniors, six sophomores and one freshman. Coach Myran and athletic director James Sekel felt they couldn’t risk putting the players in harm’s way. Cadott has not had a winning season since 2004 and since the start of 2008 they have posted a 18-51 record. However, 1999 was a different story.


Pat Rothbauer became the head coach in 1998 and directed the team to a first-year record of 6-5 and making the playoffs for the first time since 1988. The Hornets started the year with a scrimmage against Flambeau which was led by quarterback Jim Leonhard who was a future all-state player, walk-on and all-American defensive back at Wisconsin, NFL player and current defensive coordinator for the Badgers. Leonhard ran roughshod in the scrimmage and even though the Hornets thought they had a good season ahead they had some questions to clear up. The official season began with a 37-12 win over Amery. Amery returned the opening kick-off for a touchdown, one of the few times Cadott would trail this season.


After earning a 4-0 record the Hornets faced two very strong teams. First up was Osseo-Fairchild and Cadott eked out a 21-12 victory, pulling it out in the fourth-quarter. The next week they faced unbeaten Neilsville. In a summer league 7-on-7 passing league, against schools much bigger than Cadott or Neilsville the two had met in the championship. Quarterback/defensive back Luke Rykel, who had earned second team All-Chippewa County as a junior in 1998 by passing for 858 yards and nine scores, showed he was a very capable leader in the tournament. Now, several months later they faced each other for real and in sloppy conditions the Hornets prevailed 20-8 to take control of the Large Cloverbelt Conference and it would stay that way for the remainder of the regular season. Rykel was a very good defensive back. Against Mosinee he was assigned to cover All-State receiver Kyle Heckendorf and held him to three catches for 31 yards. It should be pointed out that Rykel sat out the fourth quarter with Cadott up 42-0 and Heckendorf caught three passes for 132 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in the 49-22 win.


Running back John Peterlik was coming into his own as a senior. He was picking up key yardage on the ground and by catching passes. In game after game Peterlik gained 100-plus yards and seemed to score at will. A very speedy runner who, once he hit the corner, was gone. John would go on to share All-Northwest Player of the Year honors and honorable mention all-state. In the 42-0 shutout of Auburndale Peterlik gained 176 yards on just 8 carries and scored on runs of 70, 50 and 9 yards. Against Mosinee he rushed for 164 yards on just 10 carries and 2 scores on the ground and 1 td receiving. In the 42-0 win over Altoona, he scored 5 times on the ground. As a defensive back and a kick returner he was excellent, scoring on punt returns and interceptions.


The playoffs started and trailing 7-6 the Hornets scored on their last six possessions and cruised to a 49-13 Level 1 win over Bloomer. Next up was Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau as Peterlik carried 23 timers for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Cadott romped to a 52-20 win. Level 3 was a 32-7 win over Maple Northwesternand the Hornets gained 400 yards in total offense and allowed only 170. 11-1 Pestigo would be the Hornets next victim, a 40-0 blowout. After getting a lot of ribbing from his teammates for not scoring against Northwestern, John Peterlick made up for it in the Level 4 win. While rushing for 129 yards in 14 carries but being kept from crossing the goal line the week before, John picked up 76 yards on 16 attempts and caught four passes for 70 yards and he was able to score three times. The team was now going to Madison to play Lancaster for the D4 title. Throughout the playoffs the Hornets had to play on the road despite being the #1 team in the region because they didn’t have a fence around their school field so they became 'road warriors'. The overall school athletics that fall were very strong. Beside the football team, the girls volleyball team made it to state and the cross country teams were very strong. The fans traveled very well to the away football games and to some it seemed like it was as if all the regular home fans followed them wherever they played.


In Madison they faced the Flying Arrows from Lancaster. John Hoch was building a dynasty down in the southwest part of the state. The Arrows won the D4 and D5 state titles in 1993, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2014 with runner-up spots in 2011 and 2012 as well as 1999. The two team’s lineups couldn’t have been more different. Cadott had eight two-way players while Lancaster had not a single one. For the Hornets it was a matter of pride to be in the game, to be out on the field and not on the sidelines. Cadott had been able to avoid an injury all season which could have cost two spots that needed to be covered.


The Flying Arrows took a 6-0 lead but with 56-seconds left in the first half Luke Rykal tossed a 70-yard touchdown to his brother, junior Nathan Rykal. The extra point kick failed and the two teams went into the locker room tied at the half. Lancaster had held the Hornets twice on downs after Cadott had driven inside the Flying Arrows' 10-yard line. The touchdown pass was the start of 27-straight points for Cadott as they went on to win 34-21. Lancaster put on a serious comeback but the rally was too late. The Hornets turned the game around in the second half as Peterlik started things off with a 22-yard touchdown run followed by an 82-yard td reception from Luke Rykal. Luke stayed hot, as he completed a 54-yard pass to his brother Nathan. All of a sudden, Cadott was up 27-6. Lancaster would score 15 points in the fourth quarter but Peterlik sealed the game with a 40-yard touchdown run. Peterlik gained 121 yards on 14 carries, Luke Rykel was only three for nine passing but all three went for touchdowns along with 206 yards. With the game over Cadott took home the gold trophy.

On the season there were many honors for the Hornets. John Peterlik earned All Northwest Co-Player of the Year as accorded by the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, All-Chippewa County and honorable All-State on the AP team. He gained 1,644 yards on only 164 carries, a 10.0 average, as well as catching a team leading 28 passes for 507 yards and seven td’s. On the season he had 35 total touchdowns and 226 points. Luke Rykel was a master quarterback earning second team All-Northwest and first team All-Chippewa County. He completed 73 of 134 passes for 1,540 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Sophomore Curt Bergsham played fullback and gained 958 yards on 159 attempts and 12 td;s. Nathan Rykel hauled in 23 passes for 685 yards and 10 touchdowns. Other stars were linebacker/offensive guard Brent Crank and defensive end/offensive guard Lyle Jankee who also made All County.


On October 18, 2019 the school and the former team members of the 1999 D4 championship team celebrated the 20-year anniversary of their victory in Madison. It was a grand time and a reminder of when the football program was at its heights. Maybe things are on the upturn. 2020 proved to be a good year as they posted a 5-5 season.