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After the 1950 football season ended, the “Bear” came calling.

The Clintonville “Truckers” finished 7-1-0 on the 1950 season and won the Northwoods Conference title. They were led by Don Jirschele who earned 3rd team Associated Press All-State after scoring 17 touchdowns and kicking six extra points for 108 points. In a 60-0 win over New London, Don scored seven times on runs of 41, 40, 29, 14 and 2 yards as well as returning two interceptions for scores of 100 and 87 yards each. He was named All-Conference football both as a junior in 1949 and then again, the next season. Jirschele had very good speed with power from his halfback spot, but he suffered several minor injuries in his career that sent him on the bench during games occasionally. He had a twisted ankle several times and even a more serious broken nose. The head gear before the 1960’s and the invention of additional padding in the helmet as well as the introduction of the facemask was, well really only protecting the ears.

Don started as a sophomore not only in football but also on the basketball and track teams. He played baseball during the summer and was a star there as well. He had a brother, Dick, who was an early star for Clintonville who then played football in the 1940’s at Central State College (Now University) in Wilberforce, Ohio. Dick was also a multi-sport star in high school. Other than the touchdowns recorded there were scant other records to refer to.

So, the “Bear” came calling. Don Jirschele answered. Paul “Bear” Bryant was coaching at Kentucky and was just turning that program around utilizing a good running game with passing by All-American Babe Parilli. This was before he moved on to Texas A%M and then to Alabama. Jirschele played two seasons for the “Bear” before being inducted into the Army. He served two years in the military service and then in 1955 he signed a contract to try out with the Green Bay Packers, but a broken ankle prevented him pro pursuing a pro career. He returned to Clintonville and became a very important individual on the local sports scene. For year he coached the Clintonville A’s baseball team (BABA…Badger Armature Baseball Association) and even had the local baseball field named in his honor. He spent time as an assistant to his former coach, Tony Ellis with the football team. Clintonville is a small town, but Don was known far and wide not just for sports but for community affairs. He organized the local 4th of July activities for several years. He also worked hard to develop all sports in the community, not just for boys but also for girls. Don passed at age 87 in 2020.

Don’s life was also one of tragedy. Three of his four sons developed muscular-dystrophy and they died in their 40’s. Don and his wife also had several daughters and thankfully the disease didn’t touch them.

Don Jirschele…Sept. 21, 1949…Appleton Post-Cresent

Despite the disease of the three boys, Jim, Doug and Pete, they were there more often than not io cheer their brother Mikes efforts. Doug was his brother Mile’s best friend. With Mike there was pride in his athletic accomplishments and there were many.

As a young boy Mike Jirschele excelled in most sports. Back when the NFL sponsored the Punt, Pass and Kick contests Mike earned a trip to New Orleans to compete with other kids his age. The PP&K was initially a contest for boys that began in 1961 and broken into several age groups. Later, girls were included but the program ended in 2017 as the NFL decided to go toward a team approach for encouraging the sport rather than individual competition. Some states still have their own PP&K programs. And while mike was very good at football, he loved the baseball diamond. In high school he stared in football, basketball and baseball but when summer break hit, he played for the local BABA team against many older players, and he excelled.

As a sophomore in 1974 Mike started on the gridiron at quarterback and defensive back, like his father Don had done. The team posted a 7-2 record and improved the next season to 8-1, losing the season opener to conference champion Marinette. Mike earned All-Conference at both positions (If they named a kicker or punter to the teams, Mike would have earned those spots) as well as first team All-State U.P.I. (Second team on the A.P. team) as a quarterback. His team ran the wishbone and Mike was the primary runner, even from the quarterback position. He had 166 carries for 1,368 yards and scored 19 touchdowns, kicked 25 extra points and two field goals (One was a conference record 46-yader) for 145 points. His passing stats were modest with 71 attempts, 31 completions, only three interceptions for 428 yards and six scores. In the 10-team conference he nearly outdistanced the #2 rusher who had 767 yards by a 2-1 margin and his closest scoring opponent on the conference lists had 67 points. Against Seymour he tied his dads school scoring record with 42 points on six touchdowns, four extra-point kicks and a 2-point conversion run.

Mike started as a guard on the varsity basketball team as a sophomore (A 9-9 season) and would end up as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,101 points. As a junior he set sectional playoff scoring records as he led the team to a 20-5 record and just lost to St. Francis in the Class B title game 68-66. He scored 28 points in the title game with 16 of them coming in the fourth period to take the lead several times and then to keep the Truckers close. In that fourth period he also created three turnovers, hauled down four rebounds and, standing 5’10, he out jumped 6’5 Dave Dorlack on a jump ball. With three seconds to play in the game, down by two points, St. Francis dropped back and allowed the inbound pass to go to Jirschele who quickly took several steps and then let the ball go towards the basket as time expired. Unlike Beloit’s Lamont Weavers last second, 55-foot shot to win the 1969 title, his half-court shot missed. The St. Francis fans exploded with joy. Mike fell o his knees and lay face down on the court for about five seconds when his coach, Carl Bruggint, came over and asked if he was ok. Mike looked up and simply said “Yep.” There were no tears, just an acceptance that he and his team had done their best. He impressed many at the state tournament for his overall play. He would earn third team All-State by the UPI that season as well as first team All-Bay Conference.

A state-wide legend was growing.

Baseball season started soon, and the Truckers were a middle of the road team, but Mie was hitting well and playing shortstop. In one game he was involved in a triple play, catching a line shot, stepping on second for the next out and then tossing the ball to first to complete the play. Unfortunately, he also made an error in the game that led to his team losing. He hit several homers that year and was named to the All-Bay team…a triple feat after winning first team spots in football and basketball. Then it was on to summer ball where he again excelled and major league scouts were beginning to take notice.

More on Mile Jirschele and Family of Stars next time.


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