The date: Thursday, September 26, 1963
Location: Marshfield Beell Stadium (Named after former Prussian world heavyweight champion professional wrestler turned local policer officer, Fred Beell, who was killed in the line of duty responding to a burglary at a local brewery in 1933) built in 1941 near Marshfield High School. Neutral site for the two teams.
Game time: 8:00pm Weather: Clear skies. High during the day of 76 degrees, about 64 degrees at game time.
Thorp - Member of the Cloverbelt Conference…3-0-0…victories over Greenwood 40-6, Dor-Abby 46-7 and Colby 39-6. Posted a 7-1-0 record in 1962 for second place in the conference. Loss was a 41-34 defeat to Cornell who was 8-0-0 and named the AP #1 ranked small school team. The Thorp Cardinals were ranked #12 in the final 1962 AP poll.
Auburndale - Playing an independent football schedule in 1963 as they did in 1962.…2-0-1…Defeated Marshfield 30-18 and Edgar 42-6 and tied Stevens Point 12-12. The Apaches were undefeated in 1962, 8-0-0, and were ranked #11 in the AP poll.
This night was the showdown between two top small high school football programs. It would be a battle between two of the top quarterbacks in Wisconsin who were also outstanding all around athletes. Mickey Vandehey of Auburndale had been honored as the second team quarterback on the AP all-state squad as a junior in 1962. Gary Bandor, also a junior in 1962, earned honorable mention.
Thorp, located fifty miles northwest of Marshfield and 42 miles northeast of Eau Claire was a small community of about 1,470 residents and the high school had around 200 students. Bandor was their star. Gary Bandor, standing 5”10 and weighing around 165-pounds earned All-Northwest First Team honors from the Eau Claire Leader newspaper as a junior. Gary passed for 695 yards on 68 of 103 attempts for an incredible 24 touchdowns. On the ground he carried 145 times for 1,105 yards and 10 more scores. Thorp didn’t kick extra points so they ran and passed with Bandor throwing seven extra points after and running for eight more in 1962. In his first three games of 1963 Bandor had thrown 39 times, completed 25 passes for 333 yards and six touchdowns while on the ground he had picked up 262 yards on 17 carries and scored 6 touchdowns.
Now the battle began at 8:00 pm. The largest crowd to ever view a game at Beell Stadium crowded in to enjoy what was supposed to be a close fight. It wasn’t. Vandehey, harassed all game long by the quick Thorp defense tossed three interceptions, the first was taken in for Thorp's first touchdown early in the first quarter. The teams traded punts before Vandehey fumbled and Thorp recovered. Thorp gained two first downs then Bandor tossed a 41-yard bomb that was the team’s second touchdown. Bandor then connected for the extra point. Auburndale was unable to mount a strong attack as Vandehey was bothered by his injuries. Bandor connected on a 40-yard pass but failed to score just as the first half ended with the Cards leading 13-0.
All hope for Auburndale was lost as Bandor opened the second half with an electrifying 79-yard run into the opponents end zone. A Card halfback scored the extra point making the score 20-0. The third quarter remained scoreless but early in the fourth Thorp mounted a solid drive. With the ball on the five-yard line Bandor swept right to run but stopped short of the line of scrimmage as the Apache defenders moved to cover him. He then flicked the ball to a receiver alone in the end zone for the score. Another run made things 27-0 in favor of Thorp.
Two series later, with his team leading 27-0 late in the fourth quarter, Gary Bandor exited to a standing ovation. The second string took the ball down the field to score the final time and the 34-0 victory was complete.
With his work that night finished he had passed for 230 yards and two touchdowns on 13 of 24 passes. On the ground he had run 11 times for 108 yards and a touchdown. When he needed to punt, Bandor averaged just a shade over 40-yards.
The next day newspapers throughout Wisconsin headlined his efforts in an AP press release. Mickey Vandehey had suffered a slight ankle injury against Stevens Point but then suffered a badly bruised knee the second time he carried the ball against the Cards. The Thorp Cardinal defense was relentless in pressuring Vandehey who was only 8 of 22 for 83 yards and suffered three interceptions and gained less than 30 yards on the ground. Hobbled the rest of the football season Vandehey would help the team to a final 5-2-1 record but he never regained his junior season form.
And so, the 1963 season for Thorp and Gary Bandor went on. The next week Thorp moved into the #1 spot in the AP weekly poll and stayed there. Thorp’s next game was the school’s homecoming and they crushed Owen-Withee 53-7. Bandor was again brilliant as he was 11 of 19 passing for 174 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 10 times for 93 yards and three scores. The following week vs Loyal, Bandor was again a star as he completed eight of nine passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns. He was passing more now and his line was holding strong so he didn’t need to run like he had as a junior or earlier in 1963, but he still had legs. Against Loyal he only ran four times for 36 yards in the 41-0 win as the Cards retained their top spot in the AP poll. Next up was Gilman, a 34-0 victory. Bando was 17 of 28 for 234 yards, four touchdowns and three extra points while running 11 times for 55 yards and a touchdown and an extra point run. Cornell had “fallen” to a 6-1 record in 1963 after being named the AP #1 small school in 1962. They now faced Barbor and his Thorp teammates and the game was another season highlight battle in the state. The showdown didn’t disappoint fans as the Cardinals made a comeback 38-25 win. Down 25-12 in the third period Bandor led the attack and ended up with four of eight passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. He was compelled to use his legs more in this game as he carried 16 times for 119 yards and four touchdowns. In the critical fourth quarter Thorp was backed up on his own 15-yard line and Gary punted the ball 70 yards to Cornell’s own 15. He was that good.
The victory over Cornell clinched the Cloverbelt Conference title, the spot as #1 in the AP Small School press poll and many honors for Bandor. He would again be named to the Eau Claire Leader All-Northwest first team and he moved up in the AP All-State football squad to the third team. His official final stats, a little different from reported newspaper accounts for 1963 were 83 of 138 passes with only three interceptions as he gained 1,342 yards and tossed 22 touchdowns. On the ground he gained 574 yards on 89 carries and scored 16 times. His game stats show 79 of 127 for 1,342 yards and 21 touchdown passes. Rushing, his totals were 673 yards on 69 carries and 15 touchdowns. Whatever the totals were, he averaged over 200-yards total offense each game and was the team’s leading scorer. Officially in his career, his football passing stats were listed as 180 of 286 attempts for 3,412 yards and 50 touchdowns. On the ground he rushed 380 times for 2,605 yards and 34 touchdowns. Outstanding totals for only 32 games. In his four seasons on the football team, he directed the team to a 23-9-0 record. After his final game his jersey was given to the school and his number, 11, was retired and it would be placed in the school athletics display case.
Bandor was a star in other sports. In basketball he used his quickness and his good moves that he displayed on the football field to score 1,505 career points as he led Thorp to a 71-18 career record. The team finished 21-3 in both the1962-63 and 1963-64 seasons and as a senior Gary put up 535 points for a 22.3 points per game average. He was all conference three times in basketball as well as earning All-Northwest and special mention on the AP All-State basketball teams. In the 1964 UPI All-State basketball review he was named to the fourth team. Bandor was such a good basketball player that in a 1980 story in the Marshfield News-herald it was stated that he even practiced with the varsity on a regular basis as a fourth-grader.
Gary was also a good baseball player and played varsity for four years. In track he shown brightly. As a senior he competed in the pole vault and in the broad jump. At the state meet he set a state record for the broad jump for Class B as he jumped 22 feet, 9 and ¾ inches.
Gary attended the University of Wisconsin for two years after high school and then was drafted into the Army. He had won the starting flanker/wingback spot on the varsity his sophomore year and he had his scholarship waiting for him when he returned to Madison. He unfortunately didn’t return. After spending a year in Vietnam and about three months away from being discharged in 1968 Gary was stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. He and three other soldiers were involved in a jeep accident and sadly he died. Gone was the athlete who showed great agility and speed on the sports fields. He had excited all who watched him play.
Sometime in the years after his death the school display case was being cleaned and the football jersey that had been officially retired went missing. It left a hole in the school’s awards display case. Gone was the red jersey with white number 11. Then around the summer of 2015 the white with red numbering jersey that Gary Bandor had given a girlfriend was donated to the school. It had been on display at the Mesquite Bar and Grill in Thorp for many years but the owners thought that the school should have it.
In a way, part of the memory of Gary Bandor had been lost when the red jersey went missing but now he has come home to the school he loved. And the fans are grateful.