DARLINGTON: THEN AND NOW

THIS IS AN UPDATED BLOG DONE AT 7:14PM, August 4, 2022


First, getting back to the blogs on the 1917 football title:

When I was doing research for the blog, I saw a two-line snippet in the La Crosse Tribune that mentioned several teams in the hunt for the state title. The snippet mentioned that undefeated Darlington, with a 5-0-0 record wasn’t being considered to be in the hunt as they didn’t play tough enough competition (An opinion by the sportswriter, J.E. “Jack” Dahlgren”). At the time I didn’t have access to the Darlington records but to be complete on contenders, I present it here:



Again, yearbooks are wanting for some school records and newspaper stories were sometimes sparse. . The season totals for the Darlington opponents and the second Mineral Point score are not available. However, meticulous research by current Darlington football coach Travis Winkers and assistant coach Lee Black. I was looking to see how tough the Galena, Mineral Point and Monroe teams were for 1917 but found nothing.


Second, now, a brief rundown on the great school’s program

A while back, while looking for some information I ran across a story on the “changing of the guard”, the retirement of the then Darlington coach, Scott Zywicki and the hiring of Travis Winkers. The story stated that there had only been seven coaches ever at Darlington (including Winkers). I knew that they had the second-best (Or is it third best? See the final section for clarification on this…well sort of a clarification) winning total of any Wisconsin high school football team (Just below top dog Milwaukee Marquette High School). Some schools change coaches every few years trying to find the right fit, but I found the story to be incredible for their only having seven coaches. So, I reached out to Travis and he set the record straight.


In an e-mail Travis sent me the breakdown of the school record. Winkers is the seventh coach since 1926. Only seven coaches in the last 86 seasons and just over 600 wins between them Three have gone on to be inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame…W.W. Martens, Doug McArthur and Scott Zywicki. I set up a phone interview with Coach Winkers to talk about a lot of things but mainly Darlington. We talked in May, and he was very forthcoming about his previous position at Markesan as well as the Darlington tradition.


The program started in 1894 and between then and 1925 the school posted an 88-39-12 record over the first 27 years. In 1926 W.W. Martens took over and spent 42-years as a teacher at Darlington, 35-years as the head coach. A graduate from Platteville High School and Platteville State Teachers College (Now UW-Platteville), “Wadzy” set the gold standard for excellence. In that time his teams won 11 conference titles and eight undefeated teams as he posted a great 183-61-14 record. Besides teaching Industrial Arts, he spent time scouting for several UW-Madison football coaches…Harry Stuhldreher and Ivy Williamson. When he retired, he was elected to the school board of education. The school football field is dedicated to him.

Coach Martens

Here are the records for all of the coaches:


Travis and I discussed the offense at Darlington. When I put together my football record book, I added a category for teams that had three rushers gain 1,000 or more yards in a single season. Of the 10 Wisconsin teams that have accomplished this feat, Darlington has had five of those seasons…1995, 1996, 2013, 2014 and 2015. I can only find three other schools in the entire country that have had three 1,000+yard rushers in a season more than one time. Under coach Doug McArthur they began to use the wing-T offense. Always a running team, Darlington, under McArthur worked hard with his teams and they powered through the opposition in his 13 years at the school. During that time period the Red Birds won four state titles…1987, 1990, 1991 and 1995 as well as finishing second in 1992, 1994 and 1996. His tenure at the school started slowly, going 0-9 his first season in 1984, followed by 2-7 in 1985 and then 5-4 in 1986. The Red Birds hit their stride in the next 10 seasons going a fabulous 110-17. Born the same year that W.W. Martens stepped down from his coaching spot, McArthur had attended Watertown HS and then moved on to UW-Platteville where he won three letters in football and four in tennis. Before he came to Darlington in 1984 at age 22, he spent a short time at Schullsburg and at Wahlert HS in Dubuque IA. He was only 37 years old when he stepped down to take a job in the private sector. He later returned after additional college studies and became the principal at Darlington from 2009-2015. While at the school he also coached wrestling, track & field as well as golf.


McArthur at a state title game

Dennis Bogacz and Scott Zywicki continued with the wishbone and had great success. Born in Milwaukee, Scott Zywicki attended St. Francis HS and then moved to Greendale where he played football before moving on to UW-La Crosse. He was a graduate assistant there for two seasons before moving to Darlington where he was an assistant to Doug McArthur and Dennis Bogacz. Moving up to the head coaching spot in 2005 he spent 11 seasons in that position before retiring. His Red Birds won seven conference titles and appeared in the state finals four straight times in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 finishing as the runner-up. It Coach Zywicki was the story about his retiring that led me to seek out his replacement, Travis Winkers

Coach Zywicki


Travis is 35-years old, but he has a lot of experience. Raised in River Ridge where he was the teams quarterback. He attended U.W. La Crosse majoring in sports management and business. Winkers went to Markesan as an assistant for Kevin Wopat, the current coach at Oshkosh Lourdes Academy, for two seasons before taking over the head spot in 2013. Wanting to move back to the southwestern part of the state he applied for the Darlington job after posting a 40-13 record in five seasons. He and his assistants fine-tuned the offense and they run the wishbone formation and the” pistol”. Their defense is a 3-3-5 because the opposition tends to throw a lot and with a four-year record of 27-14 at Darlington. Even having to replace many key offensive starters there are a number of experienced linemen and seven of the top 10 2021 defenders returning this season and with paid assistants like Lee Black, John McGranahm, and John Sturtz and volunteer assistants Jin Bryson, John Bartaszewicz, Brett Knautz and Tyler Domink. The Red Birds will be ready for their opponents.



Travis Winkers


Setting The Records Straight…sort of

When I was preparing to write the blog, I looked for an updated listing of the all-time winningest football schools. The one I had in my book; THE GREAT TEAMS was a few seasons old and when talking to Travis he said he had heard Platteville was now in second place on the list. I found that hard to believe as my book, information taken from a person who posts in the FORUM section of WISSPORTS. I updated it a bit as I had found some records for Fond Du lac St. Mary’s Springs prior to Bob Hyland starting to coach there and I had done extensive research on Delafield St. John’s. So, I went back to the FORUM (Found under the High School Football section) and asked for an updated list. It was posted and I was surprised to see the results.


In comparing the list from my book and the new one I see that somehow Platteville is credited with 699 wins vs 552 wins from 2-seasons ago. Somehow Platteville did additional research and found 195 games unaccounted for and 147 more wins or someone has made a mistake. I've updated my totals with the assumption that the new research is accurate since the prior number was based on the same source. The new list shows Darlington with only 601 wins vs. the record that Travis Winkers gave me at 693 vs, the list from 2-seasons ago at 590. Yes, Lee Black at Darlington was able to come up with older records and they are now at 693. It would appear that the old Darlington total was based on the past seven coaches and not anything prior to 1925. As a side note, the totals for St. Mary’s Springs have dropped to 491 even though Coach Hyland has 492 wins, and I came up with an additional 47 wins for the school from my research. I had sent the information to the FORUM writer, but he appears to have missed the message. He did get my note on an updated St. John’s record. As I’ve mentioned, getting old information to update records is hard to come by.


Here is a graph of the records of the winningest Wisconsin high school football teams:



I added the 2020 and 2021 season records to the 2019 list o make my own 2021 list and there are a few changes compared to the new FORUM posting. Whether they are #2 or #3 the Red Birds have a right to be proud of their long tradition.