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For a state that introduced the passing game to the country in 1906, all be it through the University of St. Louis (with several Wisconsin ties), Wisconsin has been more of a running state throughout the sport's history and still trails other state's in use of the passing attack. In my book, I documented the first forward pass in the game's history when St. Louis University beat Carroll College (now University) in Waukesha on a Saturday in early September, 1906. The Billikens set the sport on its head the first season the pass was allowed. A few weeks later they played Lawrence College (now University) in Appleton followed by an early high school season opener against Delafield St. John's. The first high school pass, at least in Wisconsin, may have been thrown by an unnamed player from St. John's. For that, we will never know for certain. Even though the forward pass started here it wasn't something embraced by many schools. The tradition of run first seemed to be ingrained in the state coaching philosophy until at least the 1980s, thanks to Gerry Uchytil and his Chippewa Falls McDonell "Flying Circus" came along and coaches began to take more notice of how the pass could be used more effectively.

Other states utilized the forward pass to a greater degree earlier than the Badger state. In California, the first 2,000+ passer was Dick Horn from Santa Monica in 1947 with 2,117 yards in 12 games. It took until 1962 for a player from Texas, Randy McCollum of Barbers Hill, to toss for 2,531 yards, also in 12 games. Wisconsin saw Lomira's Steve Sterr pass for 2,245 yards in just 9 games in 1965 but he was by far the exception. Most players needed playoff games to forge over the 2,000 and 3,000 yard marks.

In 1968, Joe Ferguson of Shreveport Woodlawn, Louisiana tossed for 3,290 yards. The next year as a junior, Pat Haden of La Puente Bishop Amat, California tossed for 3,008 yards and then 3,273 as a senior in 1970. In 1974 Wally Woodham of Tallahassee Leon, Florida passed for a state record 3,560 yards. The next season his backup moved into the starter spot and Jimmy Jordan threw for a national record of 4,098 yards. Now, the genie was out of the bottle. It wouldn't be until 1984 that a Wisconsin player gained 3,000+ yards. IN a recent story on MaxPreps.com, you can see how far behind the curve Wisconsin was. The web site has created their own National Football Record Book listed at MaxPreps National High School Football Record Book - MaxPreps

Kevin Askeland is the author and I looked at his career passing leader list. It is a list of 427 quarterbacks who have thrown for 4,000 yards in a season. Expanding to 3,000+ yards would involve a list of nearly 2,000-2,500 names. Josh Weiss of Cedar Grove-Belgium is listed on the 254 spot and is the only Wisconsin player. The list has 92 players from Texas, 73 from California and 33 from Arkansas (15 from one school, Little Rock Pulaski Academy). The Mid-West lags behind as Ohio has 18 names and is followed by Illinois with 6, Indiana and Michigan each with 1 and none from Iowa or Minnesota.

Wisconsin started with the passing game in baby steps. It is often used by teams only as a way to attempt to catch up when they are trailing an opponent. But some teams use it to great effect as a key to moving their game. Players like Chippewa Falls Gus Dorias and Green Bay West's Arnie Herber showed how effective a passing game could be but the main focus of even these teams was the running attack. After a strong 6-1-0 season that featured a strong running game, Racine St. Catherine's, Coach Eddie Race modified his offense to use the arum of his quarterback, Jim Haluska. That man became the first known Wisconsin player to throw for 1,000 yards or more in a season. In fact, I can't, at this time, find any confirmed season passing yardage totals of any state quarterback prior to Haluska's 1949. Thus, he heads my single season passing list with 1,031 yards, a figure that is equaled by Russel Roeber of Medford in 1953.

Francis "Shorty" Young of Sauk City tossed for a new season record, 1,312 in 1956. Luther Silbo of Stoughton in 1963 operated a multi-faceted attack, much like the 1949 St. Catherine's but using the pass as a main weapon. Silbo passed for a then, unheard of, 1,807 yards, about 201 per game. 1965 rolled around and now Steve Sterr and his Lomira teammates were set to take the game to new heights. Sterr would set the bar high at 2,245 yards with an average of 249.4 yards per game. As I highlighted in my February 1, 2021 blog on Sterr he set many records that year. Below is his 1965 season game-by-game stats:

He certainly had a great season. Sixteen years later, Dave Geissler of Chippewa Falls McDonell surpassed the record with 2,507 yards in nine games. Not only were the total yards tops but his season attempts (385) and completions (231) were also records. Continuing the McDonell streak, Todd Harrings threw for 3,156 in a 10 game season. He set season passing records for his 488 attempts. His individual game records were 74 attempts (as well as tossing the pigskin 65 and 54 times in other games). Harrings also tied Steve Sterr with seven touchdown passes in one game. David Huffcutt followed in 1986 with 3,244 yards in 512 attempts and 267 completions but it took him 12 games. The final member of the McDonell foursome to set the record was David Gardow, a sophomore who led the team to a 9-3-1 season as he passed 504 times with 265 completions, 24 interceptions and 34 touchdowns to go with his 3,519 yards. Gardow ended his career in 1989 with 9,046 career passing yards and 83 touchdowns on 1,302 attempts, 711 completions and 48 interceptions. All state records at the time.

It was 16 years later in 2013 when Appleton Xavier's Matt Ferris passed for 3,949 yards. I was at his last game that season, hoping to see him surpass 4,000 yards but it was not to be. He was injured and missed much of the first half, however he still passed for 202 yards in a 44-20 loss to Greendale in the level 4 playoff game. IN the previous two games, Ferris passed for 718 yards so I think if he had played the entire game, he would have made it to 4,000.

Finally, in 2016, Josh Weiss came along and led Cedar Grove-Belgium to the state finals and I had the privilege of watching him toss the ball 51 times, with 36 completions, 383 yards and five touchdowns. It was a wonderful performance in a losing cause as his team dropped the game to Amherst, 38-35 on a 26-yard field goal with nine seconds left to go in the game. Weiss ended with 4,231 yards on the season and currently holds the single season record.

One final note, though it actually deals with the single season rushing record. In the MaxPreps record book, Adrian Davis ranks 63rd out of 285 players who have gained 3,000 yards or more in a season. One other player of note with Wisconsin ties is Max McGee, of White Oak, Texas who, in 1949, gained 3,048 yards. The former Packer end was the second high school player in history to gain 3,000 yards in a season and now ranks #230 on the list.

After reviewing Hillsboro's Dick Barbour's record setting 1970, I was reviewing the progression of the state single season rushing record. In doing so, I had to dig back into my files for game-by-game stats on the two star running backs of 1992, Owen-Withe's Nathan Harms and Elk Mound's Jake Morris. The two would both run for more than Steve Hougum's previous record of 2,616 yards, set in 1986, and it was a great fight for the state rushing record. Would Morris hold the record only to see Harms take it away from him? The season was a see-saw battle.

The big question that I needed to answer by digging back through game-by-game stats was not if Nathan Harms had broken Hougum's record but who broke it first, Harms or Morris. In my last post, I listed the progression of the state single season rushing record. Until Hougum, all of those people had set the record in just 8-9 games of regular season play without the advantage of the playoffs.

When the 1992 season started, Jake Morris was a marked man. He had led the state in rushing as a junior, gained 2,593 yards as a two-year starter and his freshman season as a sub. He had also scored 38 touchdowns. At 5'11", 200 pounds he was a speedster who had great moves as he negotiated the open field. Nathan Harms, standing 6'0" and weighing 185 pounds was more of a power back with good speed. Harms had totaled only 423 yards and scored 7 touchdowns in previous seasons.

Westby's Steve Hougum had broken the season yardage total set in 1970 by Barbour in 12 games. The WIAA had expanded the playoffs and it wouldn't be until the next season, 1987, that there would be more teams added to each division and the champions would play 13 games. It was in the playoffs that Hougum really excelled. Having 1,801 yards in the nine-game regular season, he tore through his playoff opponents. In the opening round he took the opening kickoff back 81-yards to put his team ahead but it was a battle even after Westby led 21-0 going into the second quarter. Dodgeville stormed back and it was 28-28 a the end of three quarters and it remained that way through regulation. Westby's Heath Meyer, a 1400+ rusher on the season for the Norsemen scored the deciding touchdown in overtime for a 34-28 win. Hougum added 154 yards to his total to put him at 1,955.

Next up was Beloit Turner and they fell 28-17 as Hougum passed Barbour for the single season rushing record by gaining 297 yards on 34 carries. This game him 2,252 yards in one season, 16 more than the old season record but in 11 games. The state title pitted Westby against Stanley-Boyd and Hougum set a state title record for all divisions by running for an incredible 362 yards. He only scored one touchdown, that was on the first play of the game as he ran 75 yards to the goal line. The game total gave him a season of 295 carries for 2,616 yards and 26 touchdowns. He had 2,116 yards and 29 touchdowns as a junior to become the first Wisconsin player to gain 2,000+ yards twice. He was all-state as a junior and the AP Player of the Year for 1986.

In 1992, the lead between Harms and Morris changed hands many times during the season. In the end, they both topped Steve Hougum's 1986 season total but fell short of beating Dick Barbour's per game average as each player led their team to the state championship with Owen-Withee beating Hilbert in the D6 game (16-14) while Elk Mound fell for the third time in four seasons in the D5 title matchup to Edgar (14-7). The Mounders lost in 1989 to Hilbert and to Darlington in 1990. In a four season stretch with Jake Morris on the team, Elk Mound went 12-1, 12-1, 10-1 and 12-1 for a four season total of 46-4. Great by any standard.

Morris took an early lead after two games and stayed close until he overtook Harms again in game seven. Nathan Harms had a 301 yard game in week nine and was pressing Morris hard. Then came game eleven and he surged ahead for good. Jake had 2,600 yards after game twelve but that was less than Hougum's 2,616 1986 total. Meanwhile, Nathan surged to 2,698 yards in twelve games as he surpassed the former record holder. Neither had a breakout game in the state finals like Hougum but they played well. So, did Morris hold the season record even for just one day? No. Harms and the Owen-Withee Blackhawks played the day before Moris had a chance to show his stuff in the finals. Despite out gaining Harms in the title game, Morris would have had to have a 240 yard game to beat Harms. He was denied that by Edgars great defense that bent a little but overall held him in check, at least more than most of Elk Mound's opponents could.

It should have been easy collecting stats as both players were listed each week in the Eau Clair Leader-Telegram but it turns out that their stats listed in the weekly area leader list were often wrong, even going into the playoffs. I've mentioned before that some stats were incorrectly reported in newspapers because of simple adding errors. This seemed to come up quite often for these two players, especially Harms. The final totals for each player are correct but the game totals varied during the season in the paper because after looking at game film the totals might change and it might not have been reported to the newspaper.

In fact, to this day, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram insists that Nathan Harms gained 2,799 yards. Back in 2010 I ran across the school's football website and saw they had Harms with 2,820 which is what I had pieced together back in 1995. Coach Laube confirmed the total in an email that he sent to me and I forwarded to the newspaper but got no response. So I have the coach's and school's official total here and in the record book. Having access to computerized stats reporting that was available as early as 2006 by both MaxPreps.com and WisSports.net has made it easier for coaches and stats people to enter and correct team and individual player's totals. Its done on an honor system that teams aren't padding stats information and it seems to work. Until 2006 the online programs that other websites had perfected were not widely used.

Both players would set other state records in their fantastic 1992 seasons.

Nathan Harms

  • 2,820 yards on 342 carries and 37 touchdowns (Plus a safety).

  • 22 2-point conversion runs, a record that stood until 2019.

  • Record of 268 points on the season was ranked then as the third best season total.

Jake Morris

  • Scored 49 touchdowns and 1 2-point run for 296 points (A state single season record at the time.)

  • Scored seven touchdowns in a single game against Prescott and again against Blair-Taylor. The only player to score seven touchdowns twice in the same season.

  • Returned seven of the eight punts kicked to him in 1992 for 449 yards (55.8 average) and a state record seven touchdowns in a season.

  • Returned 10 total punts for touchdowns in his career.

  • His career 5,447 rushing yards and his career 530 points were state records.

Great performances by both and they had success after high school. Nathan Harms attended UW-Stevens Point where he earned 1st team All-WSUC honors as a senior in 1996. He earned a teaching degree and lives in Waupaca with his family, according to his former coach, Terry Laube. Nathan is also an assistant football coach for Waupaca High School (Thanks for the heads up Terry).

Jake Morris's career took him to North Dakota State University where he had an interesting football career. He redshirted as a freshman and went on to earn all-conference honors the next season. He tore his ACL as a junior and was told he would never play again but he spent the year getting into great shape and in 1996 he returned to the field and set school records by rushing for 1,865 yards and earning Little All-America honors. He ended up gaining3,843 career yards. Jake then had a two-day tryout with the Packers but was cut. Two weeks later his agent called him with an offer from the Detroit Lions that listed three weeks. He returned to Fargo and got his degree in pharmacy.

1992 was a great year for the two running backs. Jake Morris was named State Player of the Year and Nathan Harms joined him on the first team squad. But what about their coaches?

I mentioned Terry Laube of the Owen-Withee Blackhawks. He's still there after winning the 1992, 1999 and the 2014 state titles and he has posted a 192-135 career record. He still coaches and has outside business interests. Terry is a member of the WFCA Hall of Fame. Likewise, Elk Mounds coach Dan Pederson put in some long years at the school. He is also part of the WFCA Hall of Fame having posted a 261-128 career record at the school. He was recently named to the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

There you have it. The race for the state rushing record and season title for 1992. But there is one more aspect to the record. In 1998, Luke Hagel of Random Lake nearly broke the single season rushing mark. You see, he had 2,652 yards and scored 301 points on the season, in 12 games. As a junior he had 2,139 yards and scored a single season total of 317 points, also in 12 games. His team played a total of 13 games in 1998 as they made it to the state title game. he was hurt and didn't play game number eight against Oostburg. What if he had the same rushing and scoring totals as he obtained as a junior against Oostburg, a game where he gained 219 yards and put up 35 points on five touchdowns and five extra point kicks? Those totals would certainly have been within reach as his team scored a 32-3 win without him. If you added those 1997 game stats to his 1998 totals he MIGHT have had 2,871 yards along with 336 points. He would have been at the top of the single game rushing list until Adrian Davis came along in 2001.

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Dick Barbour is one of many people profiled in my book but in covering over a hundred years of players, coaches and teams there are many great people that deserve additional recognition. This is the first in what will likely be several posts where I expand on the profiles in my book.

From the book:

“First team all-state and the first Wisconsin player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Barbour had a dream senior season as he rushed for 2,238 yards on 236 carries, a 9.5 average per carry and in nine games averaged 248.7 yards. He scored 29 times. In one three game stretch, Dick gained 1,032 yards, 332 against Wonewoc, 367 against New Lisbon and 333 against Brockwood.”

I remembered reading a story about Barbour in the Milwaukee Journal while I was attending Arizona State University. The school library newspaper section was filled with papers from around the country and I was surprised to find not only the Journal but the Waukesha Freeman. The library kept papers for 90 days before tossing them so I asked and was surprised to obtain that edition so I could cut out and save the story. I still have it today. When I returned to Wisconsin, I spent many hours at the State Historical Society in Madison looking up players and teams. I was hooked on record keeping. Working on a microfilm reader it was hard to pin down exact stats for some players. Dick Barbour was a huge challenge.

So I decided to explore more about Dick's senior season online through newspapers dot com and I ran into a lot of the same statistical misinformation about him that I encountered back in 1974-75 at the historical society. No one newspaper, the Madison Capitol Times, the Wisconsin State Journal or the La Crosse Tribune got many of the game stats correct or reported the correct totals. One thing for sure was that he ran for 2,236 yards to become the state's first player to rush for 2,000 yards or more in a single season. He did score 29 touchdowns and ran for eight two-point conversions for a total of 190 points on the year. But the game-by-game stats were a nightmare to figure out. First look at his full season game stats:

All his scoring plays were on runs with 11 plays of over 40 yards. He was listed as a fullback in most stories but other stories said he was the deep back in the I-formation. That was his position as a junior and a sophomore. He didn't play much defense his senior year even though he was all-conference as a junior and earned honorable mention as a sophomore. Those seasons he played both linebacker and defensive back. As a senior he was always on the kick-off team, hanging back to see if a player was breaking through and he would run up to haul the returner down. Barbour had 10.3 speed in the 100 yard dash and could out-run just about anyone. Standing 5'8", 180 as a senior he wasn't imposing but he sure could play. His coach was Tom Anders, just out of college and had played football at La Crosse State (Now UW-La Crosse). He felt that even though Hillsboro was a small school playing in the All-Scenic Central Conference that if Barbour were at a Big 8 or Big Rivers Conference school, he would have gained about 1,500-1,700 yards in much tougher competition.

Coach Anders was from New Lisbon and it was against that school that Barbour scored an "accidental" touchdown. With Hillsboro leading 46-6 in the fourth quarter and after sitting out much of the second half, Dick was sent in with the ball on the HIllsboro 10 yard line. The 'B' team was having trouble moving and holding onto the ball as they had fumbled three times in other series of play. Barbour was supposed to just run the ball out far enough to give the 'B' team some breathing room but on his first carry he broke through and at the 50 he was all alone as he ran by Anders and his teammates urging him on towards a 90 yard touchdown.

Dick Barbour would earn State Back of the Week honors or special mention multiple times during the season and that is where his game stats get mixed up. The AP would write one set of stats and the UPI another total. Either the rushing yardage or the number of carries would differ from the Saturday game stories. Sometime when I forgot his totals back in the 1970s I had to piece together his carries total as some were not mentioned in one paper or another but a later story would have his running total so I would take that and subtract what I had found. In the end the stats worked out as they matched both the UPI and AP and the La Crosse Tribune's All-Coulee Region Teams. By the way, Barbour averaged 9.5 yards per carry and even though the Tribune had the right amount of carries and yards they reported a 9.9 average. Hand calculators had just come out in 1969 or 1970 and I remember my college math teacher insisting on using a slide ruler for tests! Talk about being behind the times.

Dick was the All-Coulee Player of the Year, the UPI Player of the Year and earned second team All-State on the AP press poll. As a junior he rushed for 818 yards and scored 13 touchdowns and 3 extra points while earning all-conference and honorable mention all-state in the AP and UPI polls. Wisconsin State Journal sports writer, Don Lindstrom, called him another Jim Bertelson and hoped the Badgers would sign Dick to a scholarship and not let him get away like they did the great runner from Hudson who went on to play ball for the Texas Longhorns and later in the NFL.

His 184 points in conference play (190 points overall) fell just short of beating 1968 North Crawford star Tom Knoble's 192 point conference scoring record. 1970 was still a great year for Barbour and he ended his career with 4,110 yards on 475 carries, a 8.7 per carry average, 53 touchdowns, and 11 2-pt conversion runs for a total of 340 points. he had a state record 248.44 yards per game average and his three consecutive 300+ yard games were a state record until 2001 when Kenosha St. Joseph's Adrian Davis tied it and then, later in 2916, South Milwaukee's Jake SImuncak also posted three in a row. Barbour's season average is for only 9 games but nobody has matched it even playing more games.

Dick went to Wisconsin State La Crosse for a while but quit the football team. I don't know if he completed college or went into the service but I do know that from a profile in the La Crosse paper in 2005 he was a land developer and real estate agent in the La Crosse area.

The progression of the state single season rushing record is as follows:

Bob Petruska - Lake Mills - 1946 1,401 yards (the most I could find up to that season)

Jim Baier - Elmwood - 1961 1,630 yards

Bobby Koch - Marshfield Columbus - 1965 1,698

Dick Barbour - Hillsboro - 1970 2,236

Steve Hougum - Westby - 1986 2,616

Nathan Harms - Owen-Withee - 1992 2,820 (Jake Morris of Elk Mound rushed for 2,767 yards the

same year)

Adrian Davis - Kenosha St. Joseph's - 2001 3,422 yards in 14 games (2,238 in 9 games)

Dick Barbour not only set the record but did so by 538 yards. It wouldn't be until playoffs began to extend the season further that his record would fall.