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After an average 4-4-0 season in 1966, Oconomowoc changed head coaches as the former coach, Ralph Lonergan, had moved on to a college job in Illinois. Moving up from an assistant's position, Ed Rux took over the helm of the Conney program. After losing five All-Little Ten conference players even Rux was wondering how the team would do. The “Purple Reign” (Another nick name for the team) would surprise even themselves with an impressive 8-0-0 record.

In 1966 the team was good in the sense that they had talent but it took a change in head coaching to change the 1967 team from thinking modestly and gaining confidence. Rux had two assistants, Gale Douglas and Dave Thomas and together they instilled pride and the confidence that the team had been lacking. As sports editor Mark Hutchinson of the Waukesha Freeman and the Oconomowoc Enterprise said in a 2013 story, many players still wondered then what would have happened if the team had made the WIAA playoffs. Those playoffs were still eight years away and the requirements to be one of the four teams chosen to play in the first three divisional games was quite stringent but those members of the 1967 team were confident they could have been state champions.

The coaches had worked the team hard and the players came through. Rux told a writer for the Freeman that the team may have had 11 letterman back but depth was a problem. They had average speed in the backfield and good, average speed on the line. Some of his players lacked size like returning letterman Larry Manne who was only 135 pounds. He may have been undersized but he was a hitter. Returning all-conference linebacker Jerry Flach was returning as was 245 pound two-way tackle Bill Tweeden. Rux picked West Bend to win the southern division of the Little Ten Conference and Watertown to be the No. 2 team with Oconomowoc in the middle of the pack.

The season opener was against Milwaukee Don Bosco, a traditional Catholic Conference title contender. For several years Don Bosco had been the season opening game for the Racoons. While Bosco was not a huge school they more than held their own against the bigger Catholic schools, Marquette, Pius, Racine St. Catherine’s and Messmer. Don Bosco would merge with Pio Nono in 1972 to form St. Thomas More High School. Oconomowoc had never beaten Don Bosco although in recent seasons they had played to 7-7 and 13-13 ties This game was just as close and after a Bob Cicenas 18-yard run in the first quarter. It took an extra point by Roger Jaeger to earn the squad their first win. This was a confidence builder to say the least for the team. As stated, the team lacked depth and only 13-players for Oconomowoc made it onto the field of play, but play hard they did. Not only was Jaeger’s foot the difference in the scoring, so was his line play as the 210 pound tackle spent much of his time on defense in the Don Bosco backfield where he tossed the opposing quarterback three times for big losses. Jim Zatrow also harassed their opponent by having nine solo tackles and four assists, stopping Bosco several times on key plays. The Dons were considered to be contenders for their conference title and would be the Catholic Conference champs as they posted an overall 7-1-0 season record and a 6-0-0 total in conference play. But, the Coons showed their fans who was better and the victory got the team off to a great start.

Even though the Coons had been outgained 139-171 the team was alive and waited for the next weeks opponent, Kettle Moraine. A 1-7-0 team in 1966, the Lasers were to graduate their first senior class in 1968. Coach Norm Bronson told the Freeman that his team would be an “awful lot better” squad in 1967 than in the previous season. Well, they were awful when they faced Oconomowoc, losing 42-0 as seven Cooney players scored six points in the game. The offense got into gear as they outgained Kettle Moraine 336 yards to 48. The defense held the Lasers to a -3 yards on the ground. KM had five first downs in the game and only one of those was in the second half. Roger Jaeger kicked the extra point after each Cooney touchdown. The game was so out of control after the third period coach Rux played his reserves the whole fourth quarter and those players gained more yards than the first team. Oconomowoc had only 25 yards in penalties to 105 for Kettle Moraine. Three quarterbacks were used in the game by the Racoons. Senior Rich Snyder started the game but junior Dan Shaw and sophomore Tom Luby filled in. Luby, in fact, scored the lone fourth quarter touchdown as he bulled his way to the endzone from 26-yards out. The Lasers would finish with a 3-5-0 record. Not awful and better than 1966.

Next up was Waupun and while they had dreams of an upset, the Racoons turned them back 21-0 for their second shutout. Bob Cicenas was the star on offense as he picked up 179 yards on 19 carries and two scores. Jim Zastrow was again the star on defense as he had seven solo and six assisted tackles plus an interception. The first three games were non-conference games and Oconomowoc was tuning up to play conference foe West Bend. Again, the defense did a superb job in stopping their opponent as the Racoons costed to a 24-0 win. Roger Jaeger played very well on the line and was proving himself to be the best blocker in the county. He also kicked three extra points and a field goal from 24-yards out after just missing on a 38 yarder earlier in the game Oconomowoc was in such command that the reserves played much of the second half. On defense, back Steve Bertram had 10 total tackles and two interceptions.

Homecoming against Homestead, a team that would finish in the middle of the pack in the Braveland (Yes, they were in the Braveland back then) Conference was on the horizon. The Highlanders would fall 28-9. Oconomowoc led 28-2 until Homestead finally crossed the goal line in the fourth quarter. Cicenas had 121 yards on 19 carries to lead the offense. Jaeger pitched in with four extra points and a blocked kick that was recovered by Jim Younger which led to a touchdown. The Cooney offense outgained the Highlanders 298 to 144.

The final three conference games were coming up and the team had great expectations. They could feel the wins coming. And win they did as they started off by beating Beaver Dam, 21-6. The usual stars shone bright that game led by Bob Cicenas who picked up 141 yards on 27 carries, two touchdowns, 27 yards on two pass receptions while contributing 10 tackles on defense. He also had punts of 42, 44 and 53 yards in his three attempts. Cicenas wasn’t the whole show. Jim Younger had 19 total tackles and stopped a Beaver player from scoring as he took the guy down on the one yard line. Roger Jaeger was one of several linemen who opened holes for Cicenas as well as continuing his streak of 17 extra-point kicks on the season without a miss. While the Racoons held the edge in total yards, 314-171, they could have had more as two third down touchdown runs, one a 39-yard run by the quarterback Rich Snyder. Offensive end/linebacker Jerry Flach had his best game since the season opener against Don Bosco and Jim Zastrow was praised by coach Rux for his play as well.

You wouldn’t expect that a team with 140 yards in penalties would level an opponent as Oconomowoc did in their 37-6 trouncing of Watertown. They had the large amount of penalty yards but the offense regrouped time and time again and crushed the Goslings as they gained 507 total yards, including 428 yards on the ground. Bob Cisenas again had a great game, picking up 207 yards on 17 carries. He scored once on an 82-yard run. But Bob shared the offensive limelight with Fred Smith who totaled 118 yards on eight carries. He finished with touchdown runs of 44,11 and 38. Smith had missed a lot of time because of injuries but now he was back and healthy. Roger Jaeger made all five extra points and stood out on defense as he tackled the Watertown quarterback for a safety. Up next was Hartford, an undefeated conference foe with a good offense and an equally strong defense.

Oconomowoc destroyed the Hartford Orioles in a great showdown, 14-0. Hartford had the conferenced leading scorer in fullback Dick West who would rush 22 times for 92 yards but not cross the goal line. In fact, Hartford gained only 87 yards on the ground as quarterback Tom Dillon ran and threw for his life. Dillon, who had over 400 yards rushing coming into the game was constantly tossed for a loss but also completed only two passes in 15 attempts with three interceptions. Bob Cisenas gained 113 yards and scored the two Cooney touchdowns. He batted down several passes, sacked Dillon twice and used his foot to punt the Orioles deep into a hole. Oconomowoc gained 224 total yards and had only 45 yards in penalties. Jaeger helped open holes and converted two conversions to make it 27 on the season without a miss. Jim Younger, Jim Zastrow, Tim Murray and Bill Tweeden also did their job on the line. Fred Smith gained enough yards to keep the pressure off Cisenas and returned a punt 42 yards to set up the second score of the game.

The Hartford game ended the season but the team and player honors were just starting to roll in. First, the team was named to the AP press final poll as the #10 ranked squad. Roger Jaeger earned All-Waukesha County as an offensive guard and as a defensive end. Other all-county players were offensive tackle Bill Tweeden, running back Bob Cinenas and defensive lineman Jim Younger. Jim Zastrow, running back Fred Smith and defensive back Steve Bertram earned special mention on the county team with end Jerry Flach earning honorable mention. When the all-conference team was announced Jaeger, Cinenas, Tweeden, Younger, Zastrow, Smith and Bertram all made the squad.

The AP all-state team was presented the last week of November and Jaeger made the first team as a defensive end and second team as an offensive guard. Bob Cinenas was listed in an honorable mention spot. About a week later in December the UPI named their all-state team and Roger Jaeger again was listed on the first team as an offensive guard and Steve Bertram was placed on the second ream as a defensive back. Jaeger who besides making 27 of 27 extra points and a field goal had a blocked kick, a safety and 56 overall tackles. He would go on to play for UW-Madison first as a linebacker then later moved to the guard spot before ending as a tackle. He was also the teams kicker for all three varsity seasons. He went on to coach at Luther College in Decorah, IA for 30+ years. He was recently honored by the school as he was inducted in to their hall of fame. Bob Cinenas gained 950 yards in 145 carries with 10 touchdowns. He attended Georgia Tech but transferred to UW-Milwaukee. He later served as head football coach at Kettle Moraine.

The main person behind all the success was coach Ed Rux, who opened his head coaching career with a bang and would become a WFCA Hall of Famer. For the next 23 seasons Rux directed the Racoon’s to a 207-93-2 record. After his long career at Oconomowoc, where the Racoons played their games in Amory Field, it was renovated and renamed in 2014 the Ed Rux Stadium. An honor well overdue for him. His 1967 team has been long remembered in the Lake Country and those former players still wonder how far they might have gone if there had been football playoffs. Quite far, I think.

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.