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Between 1985 through 1999 Northwest Wisconsin football teams dominated the WIAA Division 6 state title game. Other than in 1995 and 1997 when Hilbert won the titles schools from the Northwest took home the top trophy.

From 1972-76 Spring Valley had a great win streak of 43 games which was the second longest in state history up to that time. The Cardinals also won the Division 5 title in 1978. They were known as the 1970s small-school capitol of Wisconsin. After coach Bob Thomas left in 1986 to become an assistant at UW-Stout the program had its ups and downs. Coach Duane Jourdeans took over the program in 1998 and the team went 7-4, losing to Glenwood City 39-30 in the second round of the Division 5 playoffs. Spring Valley had also finished in second place to Glenwood City in the Small Dunn-St. Croix Conference. Tom Sauve, as a freshman, played wide receiver for Spring Valley. He scored a crucial touchdown in the Glenwood City game on a 45-yard reception to get his team closer to victory, but ultimately fell short even as the Spring Valley Cardinals scored 18 fourth-quarter points. They just ran out of time. The next season in 1999 produced a disappointing 3-5 record. This motivated the 2000 team to make a fresh start.

As 2000 rolled around many of the players were ashamed of the 1999 team’s performance and they dedicated themselves to the weight room. They worked on both strength and developing speed. It was a fresh start for the team. Josh Gokey was one of the players who wanted to wipe away the memories of the past season. Standing at 6’, 175-pounds, Gokey was intent on making his senior season the best he could especially now that he was one of the team captains. Gokey ran for 711 yards in 1999 while 6’2, 180-pound junior Tom Sauve, who had been switched to the quarterback spot, tossed for 536 yards. The team, as a whole, did not have many 200-pound plus players but they were for the most part tall and quick and that made the difference against larger opponents. When the coaches in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference voted in the summer as to who they thought would finish on top for the up-coming season, Glenwood City was picked as the #1 team followed by Elk Mound in the second spot with Spring Valley rated in the third position. In the August 24, 2000 edition of the Eau Claire Leader Telegram writers Ron Buckli and Kirk Holmes picked Boyceville to beat Spring Valley in the season opener. The Cardinals had a lot to prove to the rest of the conference and the writers up north. They became a team on a mission.

The season started well with a 26-13 “upset” win over Boyceville. As the defense held down the opponents touted passing attack of Dewey Mariette to Jesse Schmidt. Gokey led the way with 222 yards on 38 carries and two touchdowns with a two-point run. Sauve had a miserable night as he was only three of seven for 28 yards and two picks. Things would get better as the season progressed.

There were many good performances by the stars of the Spring Valley team. Among them were:

Against Colfax, Gokey had another good game, rushing 19 times for 165 yards and two scores and a two-point conversion.

In the first Elk Mound game Spring Valley scored 28 unanswered points to win 41-13 as the passing combination of Tom Sauve to tight end Troy Timm came into its own. Sauve passed 14 times with 11 completions, 220 yards and five touchdown passes. He also caught an interception that he returned 40-yards. Timm caught four passes for 89 yards and three touchdowns. You would have thought gaining 402 yards and holding Elk Mound to 13 points and 219 yards would make coach Jourdeans happy but he wasn’t satisfied and strove to make the team better.

The team was focused against Elmwood as the defense held them to 71 total yards and they rolled up 419 yards in the 40-0 win. Gokey was again very good, rushing for 184 yards on 20 attempts, scoring one touchdown and a two-point run.

With the Glenwood City win Spring Valley moved into the #2 spot in the AP Small School poll. It should be noted that once the WIAA started the playoff system in 1976 the polls only served as a guide for fans and others to get a feel for who might make the playoffs and did not “crown” a mythical champion.

In the 40-0 shutout of Plum City. Gokey and Sauve were great. Gokey picked up 106 yards on the ground with two scores as well as catching a touchdown pass. Sauve passed for 160 yards, three touchdowns as well as returning a missed field goal 91-yards. Timm caught two passes and turned both into td’s. The following week the Cardinals cruised to a 49-12 victory over Pepin. Tom Sauve had a big game, throwing 19 passes for 16 completions, one interception, 251 yards and four more touchdowns. Gokey gained 160 yards on 13 carries and two scores on the ground and one through the air.

In the second Elk Mound game Sauve completed seven passes in 11 attempts for 146 yards and three touchdowns and rushing only three times for 74. He had a 64-yard td run to start the games scoring. He also returned an interception33-yards for a touchdown. Gokey rushed for 92 yards on nine attempts and caught two passes for 100 yards. He didn’t score a touchdown but his play set up most of the other scores.

The second Elmwood win and regular season ending game led Spring Valley to the #1 spot in the final AP poll but somehow the WIAA ranked them #2 in the region for the playoff berths. The Cardinals opened the playoffs with a 69-0 crushing pf Clayton. Junior receiver Casey Kannel scored on a 53-yard pass play, a 67-yard run and tossed 31-yard td. Sauve was five of seven for 113 yards and two touchdowns plus rushing six times for 76 yards and three touchdowns. Josh Gokey chipped in with 110 yards on six carries and one rushing touchdown plus scoring on a 67-yard interception.

For the Level 3 it was a match-up between two unbeaten teams as Spring Valley went to play Prairie Farm and the Cards came out as a 35-16 winner. It was another dominating performance as It wasn’t until the last 2 ½ minutes of the fourth quarter that Prairie farm was able to score. Suave went 6-9-1-134-4 passing and Gokey ran 19-185 and a 90-yard score with only 3 ¼ minutes into the game. Kannel was on the short and the long end of catching two passes as he hauled in a one-yard touchdown in the second period and a 61-yard reception in the third quarter.

With their next win, a shutout over Necedah, the Cardinals had swept through 13 games and a date on Thursday, November 16 at 10AM in Camp Randall Stadium against 13-0 Highland, another team on a mission.

Tyler Laufenberg passed away in the spring after suffering a lifelong battle with heart and lung diseases. As a 13- year-old, Tyler was a friend, manager and long-time fan of Highland football and the team dedicated the season to Tyler’s memory. The team also played on a new football field during the season, named Tyler Field after the young boy. Because of WIAA requirements they wouldn’t have been able to host a playoff game so they were blessed with replacing the 50-year-old stadium with the new facility. On the Friday before the title game, a 12-6 win over Black Hawk was very emotional for the team. The victory came on what would have been Tyler’s 14th birthday.

The battle began and even though Spring Valley would gain 299 yards in total offense they turned the ball over seven times, five on interceptions. They still were able to pull the victory out in a 8-0 win. Yes, the high scoring offense was nearly shut out but they did that to the Highland Cardinals. Highland was held to a total of 35 yards…41yards on the ground and -6 yards passing. The key to the game was an interception by Sauve on a halfback option that Highland coach Joel Oleson said was a bad call on his part. That play would help set up Sauve’s 31st touchdown pass of the season as he hit Troy Timm with a 57-yard pass for the only score of the game in the second period. Seven times Spring Valley had the ball inside the Highland 20-yard line but they came up empty. It was the defense that came to the rescue as they took the title.

For the year Junior quarterback Tom Sauve passed 166 times with 95 completions with 14 interceptions, 1,788 yards and 31 touchdowns. He picked up 601 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He was named to the first team all-conference and his passing yards led the Northwest. Senior running back Josh Gokey rushed 262 times for 1,886 yards, tops in the Northwest, with a total of 22 touchdowns and 154 points. Gokey earned first team all-conference. Senior tight End Troy Timm another first team all-conference member caught 32 passes for 672 yards and 12 scores. Junior receiver Casey Kannel caught 17 passes for 480 yards and nine td’s while making all-conference second team as a defensive back. Junior defensive lineman Cyrus Anderson led the team with 145 tackles and 26 sacks. Junior linebacker Tyler Turner made first team all-conference and junior offensive linemen Travis Miller and Ben Rudesill along with senior kicker/punter Jon Gokey (twin brother of Josh) were named to the second team. Seven other spots on the honorable mention list had Cardinals names on it.

Before the season started the members of the Spring Valley football team made a pledge and put it on paper. Most signed it. Their mission for the season was two things: Win the Small Dunn-St. Croix Conference title and to win the state title.

Mission accomplished.

I was asked the above question a few months ago by a reporter. It took me a few moments to think of the answer but I had to name three games.

When I was a freshman at Arizona State in 1970 I drove with three friends to Tucson, about 110 miles, to see Mesa Westwood play the best team EVER in Arizona high school history, Tucson High School. Tucson won 39-34. Maybe I will write about that game someday but of course this blog, right now, is about Wisconsin high school football. Another great game was the 2015 D1 championship between Kimberly and Hartland Arrowhead. Kimberly won 49-42. That game will be a future story.

I briefly mentioned the third game in my book but there is so much more to say that I couldn't fit in. In 2006, Franklin played Brookfield Central in the D2 Championship Game. I saw more of Franklin's games that season than any other team in any other season. I had a personal interest in the team. My nephew, Eric Kossoris played for Franklin as an end and linebacker. I saw him play nine times out of the 17 games I attended that year. I was working for Max Preps.com back then so I was seeing a lot of games each year.

Lee Severson, Brookfield’s star defensive back, kicked off with the ball going to Eric Kossoris on the 10 who returned to the 25. On first down Franklin’s Honorable Mention an All-State quarterback Rob Evans tossed an 11-yard pass to Geoff Stuhr. On the next play Evans dropped back and hit Kossoris for a D2 championship game record tying 65-yard touchdown. Brandon Helt kicked the extra point and Franklin was up 7-0 with 33-seconds gone in the game.

The two teams then traded possessions via interceptions when Brookfield started an 8-play/73-yard scoring drive with Drew Herma rushing from 20-yards out for the touchdown. Severson kicked the point after and the game was tied 7-7 with six minutes left in the first quarter.

Franklin went nowhere on the next possession when Evans was again intercepted by Severson and returned eight yards. With the ball on the Franklin 22. It took Brookfield four plays to score again as Herma again took it over the goal. Severson again kicked the extra point as Brookfield took the lead 14-7. Ryan Lawrence returned the kickoff to the Franklin 21 where they started a 10-play/79-yard drive highlighted by several key Evans passes. The team drove to the one-yard line where Evans took it over for the score. Helt’s kick was good and the game was tied 14-14. The game was moving quickly and there was a big buzz in the crowd.

Less than a minute into the second quarter, first year Franklin coach, Jesse Miller, called for an onside kick and Franklin recovered on the Brookfield 43. The Sabers made a short drive and had to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Helt to go up by 3. Severson returned the ensuing kickoff 29-yards to the Brookfield 34. Eight plays later, on a fourth and four play, Brookfield quarterback Mike Bogard was sacked by Kossoris and Franklin took over on the 45. Evans went to work quickly on the next play as he hit Lawrence with a perfect strike for 55-yards and a touchdown. The extra point was blocked but Franklin held the lead 23-14 and it stayed that way as the first half ended.

Franklin kicked off to start the second half and the two teams traded possessions until Franklin started a nine-play/ 80-yard drive keyed by Rob Evans with 24-yard passes to Kossoris and the final 22-yards to Nate Soddy. Evans tried a two-point extra point run but was stopped short. Franklin tried again with an onside kick but this time Brookfield recovered. On a fourth and seven play, Brookfield gained four yards and Franklin took over. Evans took a breather and backup quarterback Jared Ciche came in with two minutes, one second left in the third quarter. Under pressure on first down Ciche's pass was intercepted and the ball was returned 12-yards for a touchdown and Lancers were now down 29-21 after Severson’s extra point kick.

Again after trading possessions several times, Brookfield tied things up with 6:16 left in the fourth quarter on two remarkable plays. On first down Mike Bogard hit tight end Rob Korslin who blew by two defenders, ran down the sidelines, in front of the Franklin crowd, toward the south endzone and scored 81-yards later. It was a new D2 record. Going for the two-point conversion Bogard rolled right and was about to be sacked by the Sabers Mike Norman. Spun around, with his back to the end zone, Bogard tossed the ball over his shoulder and Korslin picked the pass out of a crowd for the two-point conversion and the game was tied. You had to see this amazing turn of events. The toss and catch were simply wild to see. I, as well as the other Franklin fans and the team, were stunned. In the next six minutes Franklin would have the ball three times and Brookfield two times with both failing to score. The Lancers would miss on a 48-yard field goal attempt on their second possession. The game ended in regulation tied 29-29.

Franklin lost the coin toss and Brookfield chose to play defense. With the ball on the Lancers 10-yard line Evans threw an incomplete pass on first and goal. He ran on second down for three yards. With it being third and seven, Evans passed to Geoff Stuhr for the touchdown. Heldt kicked the extra point and Franklin was up 36-29. With the ball in their hands, Brookfield tried a pass on first and goal but it went incomplete. On the next play Herma was given the ball and the Franklin defensive backfield converged on him. Herma was hit hard by defensive back John Zaganczyk. As Herma fumbled, defensive back Joey Cook batted the ball away from him and defensive back D.J. Nogalski recovered for Franklin and the game was over. To say that the Saber fans exploded with loud cheering would be an understatement.

For the game Evans was 17 of 34 with 2 interceptions, 264 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 14 times for 115 yards and 1 score. The 379 total offensive yards were a championship record as were his four touchdown passes. Stuhr caught 6 passes for 57 yards and a score. Lawrence hauled in 4 balls for 65 yards and a touchdown. Nate Soddy caught 3 passes for 41 yards and one touchdown. Kossoris caught 2 passes and gained 89 yards and a touchdown as well as having 8 tackles plus a sack and a tackle for loss. Zaganczyk had 10 tackles and an interception while Cook totaled 9 stops and the forced fumble.

Franklin had a lot of stars and the All-Southeast Conference First Team was full of Sabers:

  • Rob Evans…quarterback…Honorable Mention All-State and Conference Player-of-the-Year

  • Jerad Buck…Offensive Line…Honorable Mention All-State

  • Eric Kossoris…Receiver and Linebacker (The only player to make the first team both ways

  • Jeff Comp…Offensive Line

  • Ryan Lawrence…Running Back

  • Geoff Stuhr…Receiver

  • Andy Cabrel…Defensive Line

  • Matt Pearson…Linebacker

  • D.J.Nogalski…Defensive Back

On the second team:

  • Andrew Maikke…Offensive Line

  • Ryan Smars…Defensive Line

  • Joey Cook…Defensive Back

This was a great team and there is more on them in my book!

Both Franklin and Brookfield played a terrific and exciting game. You had to be there to believe it.

When the 1962 season ended, Stoughton’s record was 6-2-0. The defense had posted four shutouts, allowing only 28 points and giving up 124.8 yards a game. On offense they rushed for 1,366 yards and passed for 682 yards for a 256.0 yards per game average. The JV team posted a 5-1-0. Things looked bright for the Vikings in 1963 despite losing some key members on the defense. They ended up in second place in the Badger Conference.

Coach Gil Krueger welcomed back several 1962 starters, a cadre of the former JV members and a key senior who had never played high school football. A lot was expected with the addition of 6’5 end Dan Moeser, a three-year starter on the basketball team. Quarterback Luther “Lute” Selbo had been the starter the previous season when he completed 36 of 72 passes for the 682 team passing yards. With Moeser, Selbo now had a reliable receiving threat who was not only tall but he had speed and the ability to leap high or out-reach defenders for passes.

The Vikings opened the season at home with a 34-0 win over non-conference foe Watertown. Selbo triggered the offense and was 9 of 18 for 162 yards and a 34-yard touchdown while running for one. Moeser caught all three passes that were thrown to him for 45 yards. The defense and special teams played a big hand in the win. Reggie Nelson returned a punt 44 yards for a score and he was one of nine players who carried the ball in the game. The next week Stoughton only gained 106 yards on the ground in their 33-6 win over Monroe but Nelson and Selbo were the stars. Nelson scored on a 75-yard kickoff return, a one-yard run and a 35-yard pass. Selbo was 9 of 15 for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

Game three was a showdown with rival Monona Grove, the 1962 Badger Conference champion at Monona and the Stoughton teams only conference loss. Stoughton trailed 14-12 at halftime in a defensive battle but the throwing of Selbo to Moeser was the difference as the Vikings ended up winning 25-14. Selbo was 10 of 16 for 155 yards and three touchdowns and Moeser hauled in six passes for 110 yards and two scores. The next week was a 45-6 homecoming win over the new addition to the Badger Conference, Sun Prairie. It was again the Selbo, Moeser and Nelson show. “Lute” opened up more eyes as he continued to be accurate in his throwing by going 14 of 24 for 233 yards, four touchdowns and a conversion pass. Moser caught two touchdowns as did Nelson who also had a td run.

Coach Krueger was using more substitutions on both sides of the ball. In the first four games the team had allowed nearly as many points as the previous year in eight games but the offense had scored nearly as many points as well. As they leveled Middleton 51-13 Krueger used 32 players and again Selbo was the big star throwing 14 passes for eight completions, 203 yards and another four scores. Bob Moe returned an interception 42 yards for a fourth quarter touchdown as well as scoring the final touchdown, a 45-yard pass from Selbo. With the win Stoughton moved up to the number three spot in the AP poll. Their sixth win was a 27-6 victory over Fort Atkinson and although Selbo was 12 of 21 he only gained 119 yards and a touchdown with that score, a 22-yard reception going to Dan Moeser. They followed up with 39-6 blowout of Edgerton as Selbo completed 10 of 18 for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Reggie Nelson, the conference’s leading scorer, ran for two touchdowns and caught a td pass. Game eight was a high scoring win for Stoughton as they beat Jefferson 46-26. Luther Selbo earned the AP State Player of the Week as he completed nine passes in 15 attempts for a season high 255 yards and had four td passes. Dan Moeser caught two touchdown passes plus an extra point and halfback Keith Fuller also caught two scores. The Madison Capitol Times had a banner at the top of the game story after the 46-26 win saying “Stoughton Grabs Title Tie”. The team was 7-0-0 in conference play and Monona Grove was 6-1-0, each with a game to be played.

Maybe the paper thought Monona still had a chance of tying for the title if Stoughton lost but what chance did Wisconsin High School (part of the UW-Madison student teaching program) have with a 1-5-2 record going into the finale. Monona would beat Jefferson 42-12 to end in second place but Stoughton would trounce Wisconsin High 38-7. This would be the schools final football game as the university would close its doors at the end of the school year. Coach Krueger said “These kids make me look good” and against Wis. High they looked very good. Again, Selbo had a great game despite having some passes dropped, eight in all, as he was 15 of 30 for 252 yards and another four touchdown passes. Moeser hauled in four passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. It was quite a night for Keith Fuller. He ran for 40 yards on six carries and one score but was also on the receiving end of seven Selbo passes for 79 yards. The Vikings would end the season with a 28-1-0 four-year conference record and a perfect 9-0-0 1963 season.

The honors for the team came fast. Luther Selbo was named to the AP First Team All-State squad. Records were sparse then and so it wasn’t until many years later that it was discovered that he had set several state records. He ended the season with 99 completions in 166 attempts, gaining 1,807 yards and 24 touchdowns. The completions, yards and touchdowns were all single season records. They would only last two seasons when broken in 1965 by Lomira’s Steve Sterr. There was a lot of competition for the first team honors. Racine St. Catherine’s Dan Koenings put up a fine season by tossing 197 passes with 95 completions, 13 interceptions, 1,643 yards and 18 touchdowns but ended up on the AP second team. Gary Bandor, made the third team. A previous blog gives you much details on his season and life.

Reggie Nelson led the conference and team in scoring as he also led the team in rushing. He carried 66 times for 441 yards and 15 touchdowns. Chuck Sundby was second on the team, rushing for 273 yards on 50 carries and one touchdown. Kurt Fuller was third in rushing, 57 carries for 241 yards and 10 total touchdowns along with 14 receptions for 158 yards. Both Nelson and Fuller made first team all-conference. Dan Moeser led the team in receptions with 30 catches for 582 yards and an outstanding 11 touchdowns.

The team earned a third-place spot on the final UPI poll, behind #1 Wausau and #2 Waukesha. These were the only big school teams in the poll.

“Lute” Selbo moved on after graduation to North Central College (Naperville, IL) where he set numerous records and earned NAIA All-America honors. He played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. He returned to school for graduate work at Winona State and then spent 34 years at various Wisconsin schools (Weston, Hudson and West Salem) as a teacher, coach and administrator. His last standing record at North Central College, pass completions in a game, was eclipsed in 2018, one week after he died.

Coach Krueger had an interesting and varied coaching career. After graduating from Milwaukee West Division High School, he attended Marquette University where he played football and basketball. After playing a year of pro football for the Los Angeles Rams, he moved back to Wisconsin and started teaching and coaching in 1954, a career that lasted until 1987:

  • Grantsburg Head basketball coach 1954-55

  • Stoughton Head football coach 1956-63

  • North Central College Assistant football coach 1964-65

  • Manchester College Head football coach 1966-68

  • UW-Platteville Head football coach 1969-73

  • Northern Michigan Head football coach 1974-77

  • New Mexico State Head football coach 1978-82

  • New Jersey Generals (Pro football) Assistant football coach 1983

  • UW-Superior Head football coach 1984-87

As the coach at Stoughton, he posted a 52-11-1 record. As a college head-coach he posted an overall 104-114-4 record and won the 1975 NCAA Division II title with a 13-1 record while being named College Coach of the Year. Krieger was named by the AP as the 1963 State Coach of the Year and was named to the WFCA Hall of Fame for his high school and college duties. He passed away in 2016.

Dan Moeser not only earned first team all-state in his only season of playing football but he also was named to Coach and Athlete Magazine as an All-American. He followed this up by scoring 461 points on the basketball team and was named to the AP First Team All-State squad. As mentioned in an earlier blog he was one of only nine athletes to ever earn First Team AP All-State in both sports in the same school year. He went on to attend Tulane where he played varsity basketball for three years and averaged 12.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and then followed with a law degree from UW. In 1979 he won the first of six six-year terms as a Dane County Circuit Judge. He retired from the court in 2011.

This was truly one of the “Great Teams” of the 1960s.