No year received more attention in my book, The Great Teams, than 1942 with 6 different teams being profiled. Wausau was in the midst of their 46-game winning streak. Coached by the great Win Brockmeyer who directed his Cardinals to a 7-0-0 record, a team that was not only undefeated and untied but unscored upon. They were considered the top public school in the state. Another prominent program was Delafield St. John’s Military Academy directed by Edison Lerch who posted his third mythical state title (Tied with Wausau) with a 8-0-0 record as the Lancers also won the National Military Prep Championship trophy while scoring 217 points and giving up only 47 points.
In my book I also profiled the Milwaukee Washington Purgolders, coached by Hall of Famer Lisle Blackbourn who had a 8-0-0 record as they scored 326 points while allowing only 25 while having five shutouts. Milwaukee Marquette was the top Catholic high school in the state with a 9-0-0 record and coached by Robert Cummins for only that one year. The Junior Hilltoppers scored 212 points on the season with allowing only 20 points and they had five shutouts. The Northeast was represented by the Green Bay West Wildcats. Not a high scoring team, the Cats only scored 112 points but allowed only 25 points during their 7-0-0 season. Lars Thune was the coach at West. The best small school in the state was the Blanchardville Eagles, coached by Francis Sheehan, that soared to a 9-0-0 record while scoring 278 points and allowing only 26 points with seven shutouts.
These teams were coached by a group of top coaches. Win Brockmeyer was voted in 1993 to have been the state’s all-time best coach in the Milwaukee Journal poll. Along with Brockmeyer, Lisle Blackbourn and Francis “Fran” Sheean are in the WFCA Hall of Fame. Edison Lerch has been overlooked, for some reason. 10 years are required to be part of the HOF and Lerch coached 11 seasons before World War II took him away from coaching football. Lars Thune was on his way to a HOF career when he had to step down after only seven seasons due to poor health. 1942 appears to be the only season of record for Marquette’s Robert Cummins. He, like other young teachers/coaches, went off to war and fate had other plans. Many failed to return to their old professions after returning home.
There were two other teams that I failed to include in my book and they both came from the Suburban Conference. This brings the total number of undefeated teams in 1942 to no less than eight schools. The Shorewood Greyhounds had a 8-0-0 record but only scored 118 points. Coach William “Whitey” Ketelaar’s defense, like Green Bay West’s, was super as they allowed only 19 points with six shutouts. The Suburban Conference added a new team that year, West Allis Hale, and some schools had to drop long term rivals for that year to include the new school in the conference schedule. Since the conference was formed in 1924, Shorewood and Waukesha had always met but not in 1942. Why all the members of the conference didn’t all play each other is a mystery. Besides Shorewood and Waukesha the other teams were: Cudahy, South Milwaukee, West Allis, West Allis Hale, Wauwatosa, West Milwaukee and Whitefish Bay. With nine teams in the conference some schools played only an eight game season and others a nine game season but they all scheduled just six conference opponents and two non-conference opponents. If they had each dropped a non-conference opponent they could have scheduled a complete conference schedule for a nine game season.
In 1945 the Suburban teams did switch to a conference only schedule. The old, longstanding early season non-conference games went away. At the time most schools in the state only scheduled eight games and continued to do so on into the 1960s. The move to an eight game season may have had a lot to do with the war and the economics of acquiring enough gas for transporting the teams as rationing was taking place so that may have been a factor. So, eight games was maybe the accepted scheduling limit.
Another note about Waukesha’s rival Shorewood. This was not the school of the 1980s and 90s that set the state record with a 63-game losing streak or the current co-op team of Shorewood and Messmer that has struggled on the gridiron as of late. The 1940s were very good to Shorewood as the school often dominated the Suburban Conference and once posted a 39-game unbeaten streak (A 37-0-2 stretch) from 1940-1944 along with several football conference championships after that. You may hear more about the Greyhounds glory days sometime in a future blog.
Coach Clifford Goerke and his Waukesha Blackshirts were coming off a 5-2-1, 1941 season. That one tie was against Suburban Conference champion Shorewood. There were a number of returning lettermen for the new year and expectations were high. Coach Goerke got the team primed for the conference battles with three weeks of drills followed by matchups with two Milwaukee City Conference foes, Pulaski and Boy’s Tech. Those two teams didn’t play each other in the season but posted identical 1-7-0 records, 1-5-0 in conference play. Evidently not tough competition for Waukesha. The City Conference was composed of 11 schools and they played a six-game rotating schedule plus two non-conference games, usually against teams from the Suburban Conference. They were no match for the Blackshirts who rolled over them by identical 33-0 scores.
Now, on to conference play and the new school, Nathan Hale was first up. The game followed the same score as the first two, a 33-0 win for Waukesha. As usual, Wauwatosa was a difficult opponent and the 19-0 win proved to be the teams closest scoring game.
Next up was Whitefish Bay and the easiest victory of the year, 38-0. The next week Bay would lose only 6-0 to Shorewood. The win over the Blue Devils by Waukesha earned the team their fifth consecutive shutout. Another would be the next week as the West Milwaukee Mustangs went down to defeat, 26-0. The yearly homecoming game was sort of a disappointment as West Allis became the first team to score on the Blackshirts. But, it was still a 27-7 win and now a traditionally tough opponent was to be faced for the final game. Waukesha finished off South Milwaukee with ease in a 33-3 victory.
The usual lineup had:
Ends Ged Gosa and Ralph Greb
Tackles Bob Robertson and Ray Plehn
Guards Tom Sinkovits and Joe Tenke
Center Louis Bucci
Quarterback Len Meola or Charles Joy
Halfbacks Bill Beitz and Fred Patrinos
Fullback Al Hanke
Hanke mad first team all-Suburban and was the conference’s leading scorer. Joe Tenke made first team at the guard position along with end Ged Gosa who often ran end-around plays that picked up key yardage. Bill Beitz made the second team all-conference team as a halfback. The players mentioned above were part of what Goerke called his “Iron-Man” team as he seldom substituted. It wasn’t until the next season that the rules changed and it became easier to substitute a player. Len Meola was the offensive quarterback but was substituted for on defense by Charles Joy.
As with St. John's Edison Lerch, Shorewood's William "Whitey" Ketelaar and Marquette's Robert Cummins, the military came calling for Clifford Goerke. This would be his last season as coach as he entered the Navy in 1943. As a teacher at Waukesha he instructed students in accouting. He started to teach again upon being discharged in January of 1946. Soon after he returned he was appointed vice-principal of the high school and shortly thereafter became the school's principal. He stayed in that position until he retired in the early 1970s.