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I owe a lot to Mike Firkus. His records sort of helped put my record keeping on the map. More about my record keeping later.

In 2000 I read about a sophomore from tiny Hilbert who had run for 2,058 yards on 242 carries and scored 29 touchdowns. He became the first sophomore to run for 2,000 yards and this would be one of several “firsts” for him. At the end of the 1999 season after posting a 4-5 record, the teams coach, Mark Jonas, was replaced by the school’s athletic director, Mile Moreau. Coach Moreau had been the previous head coach for 19 years when he stepped down to have Jonas take over for six seasons. Jonas had posted an overall record of 47-22 with state titles in 1994 and 1996 but the school thought they needed a change at the top. Moreau had been no slouch as he directed Hilbert to the 1989 Division 5 title and had compiled a 146-42 record.

For his work in 2000 Firkus was named to an honorable mention spot on the AP All-State team. He had a big game against Marshall in a Division 5 Level 2 win as he gained 331 yards and scored 3 touchdowns. He led the team to an 11-2 record. The next week after trouncing Marshall, Mike ripped off 191 yards against Pardeeville. He was also named to the Post-Crescent’s All-Area team. Each week the newspaper listed the Honor Roll of prep stars for the week. It would have 12-15 names on it and covered different sports. Mike was listed at least seven times that season and prior to the team’s final game, he was the overall player of the week. Listed as being 6’0, 180 he was a powerful force in the Hilbert Wolves offense. He also had breakaway speed as he showed against Mishicot when he reeled off an impressive 89-yard touchdown run. Against Reedsville he ran 14 times for 270 yards with td runs of 53 and 71 yards. The team would lose in the semi-finals to eventual champion Osseo-Fairchild, 21-14.

Next up was 2001 and Mike Firkus was again leading the team and this time it would be all the way to the state title game. In the Division 6 level 3 game against Black Hawk Mike rushed for a play 77-yard run on the third play of the game and finished with 268 yards four touchdowns. The team would lose to Spring Valley 34-3 in the finals as Firkus rushed 25 time for only 81 yards and was shut out from the goal line. He again made first team All-Area and again earned honorable mention All-State on the AP squad after rushing for 2,078 yards on 206 carries and 35 touchdowns. At the time the 2,078 earned Mike Firkus the only player to gain 2,000 yards in a season as a junior.

Running back Matt Deeley held the Hilbert career record of 4,842 yards on 872 carries and 68 touchdowns, set in the 1992-94 seasons. Matt was, at the time, #20 on my career rushing list. It was posted on Wisconsin High, my first major on-line posting. Going into his senior season in 2002, Mike Firkus had his sights on making the state championship game. He had gained 4,134 yards and scored 64 touchdowns. I’m sure he thought a bit about breaking the school record but it was Madison he thought of. But the records came. In the third game, a 35-0 over Valders, Mike passed Deeley in career touchdowns. Two weeks later, in a 61-0 crushing of Howards Grove he passed Deeley’s career record.

In the 1995-98 seasons Luke Hagel of Random Lake climbed to the top of the carrier rushing mountain. He carried 883 times for 6,495 yards and a state record 112 touchdowns. Firkus would have to go a long way to match that. Was he up to the task? Teams were keying on him more than ever and he was having to carry the ball more often. But he was up to the task. The yards began adding up as the team was winning. In the D-6 semi-final against Thorp, played in the Dells, he gained 212 yards to pull ahead of Hagel with 6,607 yards.

The team would post a 12-2 record and lose a heat breaker to Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs 16-14. The team had a last-minute chance to win on a 50-yard field goal but the snap was bad and a scramble with the ball leading to a pass went incomplete. The win was the first WIAA championship for Springs coach Bob Hyland. Firkus gained 100 yards on 25 carries but again was shut out of the endzone. The team was 36-5 in his three seasons and as coach Moreau said “We’ve played 41 games in the last three years, you can only 42. What else can you ask of these kids? They left their heart out on the field. That’s all you can ask.” Moreau would coach three more seasons and retire only to come back and coach for three years at Kaukauna. His overall record would be 215-59 and earn a spot in the WFCA Hall-of-Fame. Firkus would again earn All-Area, being named as the Player-of-the Year. He followed up these honors with being named to the AP first team All-State squad.

Mike Firkus would end his career with 808 carries, 6,707 yards, an 8.3 yards per carry average and 94 touchdowns. The record would last for 16 seasons when Bryce Huettner of Iola-Scandinavia would pass Firkus up with a total of 6,870 yards. The record would only last one season when in 2019 Tyler Tenner of Racine Lutheran would pass Huettner with a total of 6,932. Below is a chart for 12 all-time career rushers and a breakdown of the top-5 leader’s season-by-season.

I presented the records so you could compare the play of Mike Firkus against others. Westby’s Steve Hougum, as noted in my blog about the 1992 rushing race for the single season rushing record, was the first player to gain 2,000 or more yards in a season. Here are the other significant rushing firsts.

  • Only player to gain 400+ yards in a single game twice…Jim Baier, Elmwood…401 yards in 1961 and 400 yards in 1962

  • First player to gain 2,000 yards or more…Dick Barbour, Hillsboro…1970…2,238 yards

  • First player to gain 4,000 or more yards in a season…Jim Baier, Elmwood…1959-62…4,644. It is also noted that the second player to gain 4,000 yards was ken Helland, Boyceville…1959-1962…4,039 yards.

  • First player to gain 2,000 or more yards in a season as a sophomore…Mike Firkus, Hillbert…2000…2,058 yards

  • First player to gain 2,000 or more yards as a sophomore and a junior…Mike Firkus, Hilbert…2000 and 2001…2,058 and 2,078 yards.

  • Only player to gain 2,000 or more yards in three consecutive seasons…Mike Firkus, Hilbert…2000-2002…2,058, 2,078 and 2,577 yards.

  • First player to gain 5,000 or more yards in a career…Steve Hougum, Westby…1984-86…5,192 yards

  • First player to gain 6,000 or more yards in a career…Luke Hagel, Random Lake…1998-98…6,495 yards

  • Most Games in a Career: 100-yards or more…Mike Firkus, Hilbert…2000-2002…34

There are other possible firsts to mention but as you can see, Mike Firkus ranks right up there with the top backs produced in Wisconsin. Most of the above mentioned, like Firkus, came from small towns, small schools but they had great talent. Few ever played college football. Mike Firkus, by all accounts, did not.

Now, on to my link with Mike Firkus which is sort of a personal history. It’s sort of long so stay with me, please.

In 1994 I responded to a request from the Milwaukee Journal sportswriter Cliff Chrystl who asked for anyone to submit any record that they knew about. Some people responded. I sent 48-pages of various stats to Cliff and he called me within a few days to ask how I came about my records. A few days later Cliff called and asked if he could send a photographer to my house and follow-up on our conversation. I don’t remember the photographer's name but he asked me to show my stats on my dining room table and then asked me to stand behind the pile of pages of information. In the August 28 Sunday edition for the Journal my story was presented along with a list of records that had been known, several I had confirmed and one new record that I had added. That record was the 551-yards passing in a single game set by Lomira’s Steve Steer in 1965.

The next day, Monday, I got a phone request from Jim Austin of The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune asking where one of the Rapids players placed on my list of single game rushing. Jim had seen the story about me in the state edition of the August 28 Journal. Brian Dupuis had rushed for 310 yards and scored three times in a 27-0 win over Wausau East on Friday night, August 26. Dupuis had broken a school record set in 1951 of 293 yards gained by Russ Stimac. He was still short of the Valley Conference single game rushing record of 321 yards by Stevens Point’s Rick Reichardt in 1960. A story in the paper on Thursday, September 1 resulted with my list of players with 300-yards or more. It was only a list of 34 names. That was the total I had found up to that time. At the top of the list was Jim Baier of Elmwood who in 1961 gained 401 yards in a game as a junior. Missing from the list was his second 400 -yard game set in 1962. By the way he was the first player to gain 400-yards in a single game and may be the only one to do so twice.

I continued to gather stats and began to do lists of weekly leaders from around the state and then sending those lists off via e-mail to about 25 newspapers and to a new website called Wisconsin High which is now part of the Rivals.com system. I had asked the WIAA if they would be interested in taking me on full time as a state record keeper for all sports but they declined saying that wasn’t their mission but that of the individual sports organizations. I pointed out that states like New York, Ohio, Indiana Illinois, Arkansas and New Mexico (hat’s all I could find at the time that were state associations that kept their own records) all had people working for their state group and several were sponsored by outside companies that supported the state organizations. It was a no-win battle. I would have to go it alone.

I would work my day job and cruise the web information and the Milwaukee Public Library for weekly information. Then, I got my biggest break thanks to Mike Firkus of Hilbert and the Appleton Post-Crescent. My name had been mentioned in several of the Post-Crescent stories about Mike Firkus and how I supplied the paper with information. At this time the Post-Crescent contacted me to confirm career stat leaders. I sent them information and the word began to spread that I kept records and requests for information came flooding in. In 2004 I contributed stats to WisSports for a season preview yearbook that was being produced. At the same time the Appleton paper asked me for records and I am proud to say they filled an entire Thursday, August 26 sports page with my single game, season and career leaders in passing, rushing, receiving and scoring. In the top center or the page above the list of career rushing leaders was a picture of Mike Firkus. Somehow the story landed in other areas of the state and I became the go-to guy for records. I don’t mean to toot my own horn but think about it. If I hadn’t collected stats, maybe someone else would have been the stats geek. I just got to the forefront ahead of others. I was lucky. I haven’t gotten rich doing my hobby but I love doing it. And, I love it when others send me information to add or correct the records. It isn’t just my record book. It’s everybody’s. And everyone wants some recognition in life. Players would learn that they had set a school or conference record but did Steve Hougum, Luke Hagel or Jim Baier know that they had set state records at the time? No. But Mike Firkus did know. Others...players, coaches, parents, newspapers, other web sites and parents have looked to see if their name is in the records. Keep looking. And if you know where Mike Firkus is, let me know.

I’ve been receiving reports on new additions to the state record book. With the regular season completed and the playoffs beginning I thought I would do an update on the new additions to the record book. In no particular order they are:

Armond Wempner, OLB, Fond du Lac…tied with two others for Most Sacks in a Game…5 vs. Oshkosh West.

Ben Wesoloski, QB, Wittenberg-Birnamwood…multiple records vs. Nekoosa, a 79-8 win:

Most Touchdowns Responsible in a Game…11 (9 by passing and 2 by rushing

Most Touchdown Passes in a Game…9 (18-29-0-522 yards)

Kaden Schmidt, WR, Wittenberg-Birnamwood…caught 11 passes from Ben Wesoloski for 301 yards and a single game record of 7 touchdown receptions. His 301 yards ranks #11 on the list of Single Game Receiving Yards.

Bryce Dixon, WR, Menominee Indian…Bryce hauled in 8 passes for 288 yards and 3 scores against Cadot.

Maddox Allen, QB, Cumberland…Best Season Pass Completion %: 80.54…Just found that he set it last fall (2020)…completed 149 of 185 attempts.

Maddox Allen is the only player to have made the list twice in the category of Best Completion % In A Game (Min. 10 Attempts). Both games, in the fall of 2020 and this season were against Chetek-Weyerhaeuser…11 of 11 in 2020 and 16-16 in 2021. He nearly made it a third time as a sophomore, again against Chetek-Weyerhaeuser when he was 14 of 15 for 260 yards and 4 scores. As a freshman, seeing only limited playing time he was 2-2 against C/W. For his career against C/W he is 43 of 44 passing.

Maddox Allen also enters the record book for the Fewest Interceptions Thrown In a Season (Min. 175 Attempts) with only one in his 185 attempts in the fall of 2020. By the way, he is moving up the career passing yards list as he has 6,000+ going into the playoffs. With a 73.9 completion percentage this season he has a career average of 73.6, best all-time for a minimum 500 career attempts.

Elandis Peete, RB, Wauwatosa West…tied 6 others with Most 2-point Conversion Runs in A Game with four conversion runs. He did it THREE times in the teams first four games this season.

Trevor Garski, QB, Mosinee…Best Completion % In A Game…100%...17-17-0-316-6…#2 on the list in a 47-7 win against Hayward.

Trey Colts, RB, Cambridge…#7 on the Most Yards Rushing In A Game with a 20-carry, 444-yard, 6 td game against Dodgeland…a 53-7 win.

Trey Colts, Brysen Cashen,RB, of Stevens Point Pacelli and Alijdh Maner-Parr, RB, of Hartland Arrowhead have been added to the Single Game Scoring list after scoring 7 td’s in a game.

Jonah Jensen, QB, Brookfield Academy…#10 on the Most Yards Rushing By A Quarterback In A Single Game with a 20 carry, 350-yard, 6 td in a 49-42 performance vs Catholic Central.

Robby Michael, QB, Kohler/Sheboygan Lutheran/Christian…Passed for 7 touchdowns (Tied for 8th place overall) in a 59-0 win over Sheboygan Falls. Michael completed 26 of 30 passes for 431 yards in the contest.

Kohler/Sheboygan Lutheran/Christian…This may be a first time a team has had TWO-career 2,000-yard receivers on the same team, both as seniors. Currently, after the first play-off game, WR Colin Girdaukas has 183 receptions for 3,298 yards and 47 touchdowns. Meanwhile, WR Casey Verhagen has hauled in 139 passes, good for 2,198 yards and 24 scores. More on the three…Michael, Girdaukas and Verhagen…and their season and career stats later at the end of the season.

Cole Toennies, DB, Middleton…Cole has moved into a tie for fourth place on the Most Punt Returns For Touchdowns in a Season with 4 runbacks this year and could add to that as his team enters the Level 1 round of the play-offs.

Aahlijah Jones of South Milwaukee and Collin Conzemius of La Crosse Aquinas both have four kick-off returns for touchdowns this season to tie with 8 other players for first place in the Most Kick-Off’s Returned For Touchdowns in a season. Sadly, Aahlijah’s season is complete but Collin has at least one more game as his Aquinas team enters the Level 2 play-offs undefeated. Max Janson of Glenwood City has three returns as his team also heads into the Level 2 play-offs.

Elliott Lowney, WR, Shawano finished his career with 150 catches for 2,875 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Sam Gabler, DL, of Greendale Martin Luther, has posted 34 tackles for loss so far this season which places him in fourth place for a season sack total.

That is as far as I can see for 11-player stats. A number of players will be added to the career leader lists as the rest of the season plays out.

Now onto 8-Player records.

Wyatt Jensen, RB, Luck…Wyatt rushed for 430 yards on 19 carries and 8 touchdowns in a 63-57 win over Shell Lake. He also scored twice on two-point conversions for a total of 52 points, third highest in state history. His 430 yards ranks sixth

Wyatt Jensen leads the state with 18 two-point conversions, followed by Athens RB Caleb Borchardt with 17.

Chris Brockman, RB, Bruce…Brockman rushed for 278 yards on 29 carries for 8 touchdowns in a 76-52 win over Alma Center Lincoln. Chris also hauled in two touchdown receptions for a state, All-Classes, record 10 touchdowns. His 60-points is an 8-Player record.

Dan Tinker, QB, Bruce…Tinker followed Brockman into the end zone as he ran for 7 two-point conversions. This is also an All-Class single game record. He also passed for 2 conversions.

Jace Paul, QB, Alma Center Lincoln…Jace didn’t pass for the most yards in a game but he did tie for 7th place in Single Game Touchdown Passes when he threw for 6 against Bruce.

Danny Griffith, QB, Saint Mary Catholic/Valley Christian… Griffith has been extremely hot the past three weeks as he passed for 6 td’s against North Crawford and Elkhart Lake Glenbeulah…tied for 8th place on the Single Game Touchdown Passes but he went one better as he tossed 7 td’s against Oakfield, good for a tie with three others for 4th place. His 12-14 passing against Oakfield was a 85.7%, a tie for second place on the Best Completion % In A Game.

Will Watrin, DB, South Shore…returned an All-Class state record of 7 kick-off returns for touchdowns.

A number of defensive stand-outs are moving up the lists Single Season and Career records lists in tackles, sacks, tackles for loss and sacks. There will also be some players under the heading of extra point kicking moving into the record books. Here is an example:

Hunter Cronauer, DE, Wabeno/Lena … currently has 15.5 sacks, tied for 2nd place on the single season sack list and 35 tackles for loss.

Now for a special note about a line I had in my blog from last week (Oct. 18, 2021), “The Passing Parade”. In the story I named Joe Ferguson of Shreveport Woodlawn (LA) as the first high school quarterback to throw for 3,000 (3,290) yards in a season back in 1968. Well, Kevin Askeland of MaxPreps has come across an earlier record setter. Although not officially recognized in the Virginia State records book, Horace Gatewood of Smithfield Westside (VA) completed 165 of 232 passes for 3,496 yards and 41 touchdowns the year before Joe Ferguson, in 1967. Gatewood’s team played in the Virginia Interscholastic Association which was a group of all-black schools, segregated from the VHSL. Horace Gatewood led his team to a 9-1 record as his team scored 501 points. The teams only loss was a forfeit for using two ineligible players in the season opener. Thanks to Kevin for finding the record. There are a lot of records from segregated schools that need to be uncovered and added to the “Official” record books.

Anybody out there ever watch the movie “Remember the Titans” with Denzel Washington? Well, his real-life character, Herman Boone, came to T.C. Williams HS in Alexandria, Virginia after successfully coaching at E. J. Hayes H.S. in Williamston, North Carolina. Hayes was another all-black school. His 1966 team went undefeated and was named by Scholastic Coach Magazine as the top offensive team in the country. It would be cool (At least I think so) to confirm all of their records, but that would be another story and hard to verify. Most of those segregated schools were closed and information in the local papers and their yearbooks were sparse. More later on all the new state record book additions. Thanks.

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.