Black Friday occurred on October 28, 1929, when the stock market crashed. It was near the end of the football season and for many the 1930’s looked dim. Sports in America had grown to great heights as professional baseball and football and college sports became ever so popular. High school sports were drawing big crowds in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, La Crosse and other cities where fine teams battled. Crowds of 5,000-8,000 were not uncommon in key Milwaukee City Conference matches. Players were getting bigger, and their skills were refined with many new innovations to the sport. The passing game was getting more emphasis, but rushing was still the way most teams advanced the ball.
Many great coaches came out of the First World War and became mainstays building or maintaining great programs. Watertown’s Arnold Landsverk, Louis Means and Tom Hearden at Green Bay East, Edison Lerch at Delafield St. John’s, Milwaukee Washingtons Lisle Blackbourn, W. W. Martens at Darlington and Bill Cashton of Arcadia were among the major influences in the sport.
In fact, this was the decade of three great programs…Watertown, Green Bay East and Delafield St. John’s as they copped the most state titles
THE BEST TEAMS
Led by four-year starter Howie Weiss, Ft. Atkinson won their first Southern Six Conference title. They tied their season opener against Milton, 6-6 and then tied their last game vs. Edgerton, 0-0. A great broken-field runner, Weiss is often considered, alongside Whitey Woodin, as being the schools greatest player. Fort scored 208 points overall and allowed only 12.
This was one of Watertown coach Arnold Landsverk’s first great teams and it was also the 1931 state champion. The team was led by quarterback Clarence “Shrimp” Tessman, fullback Edward Burke and halfback George Podalske as they cruised scoring 292 points and allowing 30
#9 Green Bay East…1937…8-0-0
East won three consecutive state titles at the end of the 1930’sand this was the final championship, all directed by coach Tom Hearden. They dominated the northeast part of the state with an offense that didn’t score much but they played tough defense. Hearden, a former star in high school at East, started his coaching career in 1930 at the start of the decade at Racine St. Catherine’s for four seasons winning the Catholic state title in 1932 with an 8-0-0 season. He would move in 1934 to Racine Park and then return to his alma mater in 1936.
#8 Eau Claire…1933…9-0-0
After posting a 5-1-0 season in 1932, coach W.F. Maroney coached his team to the state title and the key was the play of back/kicker Arnie Hanson who could do it all on both sides of the ball. The Abe’s dominated the northwest. They may have gone 9-0-0 but they were state co-champions along with Delafield St. John’s.
#7 Superior Central…1930…8-0-1
The Vikings cruised to the state title except for a 20-20 tie with Ironwood (MI). They beat four Minnesota teams and four Wisconsin teams Harry Conley was the coach who directed five shutouts as they score 202 points but allowed 38…20 in the Ironwood game.
The third of the Goslings three state titles for the decade as Arnold Landsverk continued to keep his 7team on course. Only Ripon held Watertown below 10 points (A 7-0 win) and they won close ones, 14-7 against Fort Atkinson and 14-0 vs. Wisconsin (Madison) HS They scored 249 points overall allowed 19 with six shutouts.
#5 Delafield St. John’s…1933…7-0-0
Why is St. John’s, the co-champions with Eau Claire ranked three spots higher with a 7-0-0 record vs, the Abe’s 9-0-0 total? Well, the Lancers beat four Wisconsin college freshman teams and one varsity squad over 40,000and two Illinois high schools. This was the third state title that coach Edison Lerch with which he was associated. He was an assistant on the 1929 state title team and then, after three seasons as an assistant he took over in 1932 and coached the school to the 1932 title. The Lancers scored 170 points and allowed 16 with four shutouts. Like the 1932 St, John’s team the 1933 edition won the National Prep Championship trophy.
#4 Green Bay East…1936…8-0-0
This many have been Tom Hearden’s best Green Bay East team of the 1930’s. This was a decade that the school won the last four games of 1936 under coach Louis Means and then ticked off 32 more under Hearden for a 36-game win streak. Not his highest scoring team but Hearden continued the tough defense tradition that Means, and other previous coaches advocated.
In his third season Arnold Landsverk had his team playing on all cylinders as the team went undefeated, untied and unscored upon. The school posted a shutout in the last game of the 1931 season and, while 1933 was a down season for the school with a 4-2-1 record they posted two more shutouts at the start of the season to post an 11-game streak. Oh, yeah, they also scored 223 points in 1932. Coach Landsverk posted a terrific 67-16-2 record in the 1930’s on his way to the HOF.
#2 Delafield St. John’s…1932…8-0-0
In his first season as head coach, Edison Lerch, a former fullback and defensive lineman in his high school days, took the team to the top and tied with Watertown for the state title. I placed St. John’s at the #2 spot over Watertown based on their schedule. They defeated five college teams, like the 1933 squad, and played before over 40,000 fans at Chicago’s Soldiers Field for the National Prep Championship trophy. Two other schools backed out of playing St. John’s. One was Louisville Male (KY) and the other was the Carroll College freshman team. They actually only played six games, but they were dominant scoring 209 points and allowing only 6 (To Platteville School of Mines, today’s UW-Platteville). Five players moved on to start a few years later for Northwestern, one of them was end George Wilson. He played pro ball and coached the Detroit Lions and became the first head coach for the Miami Dolphins. He has a plaque in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
#1 Milwaukee Washington… 1939…9-0-0
The Milwaukee City Conference was loaded with very good teams in 1939. It was a tough battle for the Washington Purgolders to win the title but with fullback Pat Harder earning the conference scoring title as he set a record of 143 points, 70% of the teams 194 overall points. Harder would go on to star at UW Madison and in the NFL. Harder scored 17 touchdowns, kicked 23 extra-points and six field goals as well as having over 100 tackles. Coach Lisle Blackbourne had other stars as well in back/linebacker Howard Boese, tackle Len Kalchik and guard Del Holman. All three played college ball along with end Kenneth Kraemer, tackle Kenneth Unrath, guard Julius Bensick and back Al Skat. They did allow 40 points on the season but as I said they played a tough schedule of conference and one non-conference games. Blackbourne oversaw the entire football program at Washington. Besides posting an 8-0-0 varsity record his B-Team squad went 5-1-0 and the sophomore team went 2-1-0 as they were for future championship teams.
Racine St. Catherine’s -1932-(8-0-0)
St. Catherine’s was the first of four state title teams coached by Tom Hearden. They dominate their fellow Catholic Conference teams as well as two Milwaukee City Conference foes. Milwaukee Riverside, often known as East or Eastside only scheduled six conference foes but they were the overall dominate team in the state. Sophomore Back Eddie Jankowski was the star of the team scoring 11 times. Coach Bill Cashen directed his team to an undefeated, untied and unscored upon season and they would doit again in 1950. Cashen is the only known coach to lead two teams to undefeated, untied AND unscored upon teams.
THE TOP 10 TEAMS FOR 1930-1939
1) Milwaukee Washington… 1939…9-0-0
2) Delafield St. John’s…1932…8-0-0
4) Green Bay East…1937…8-0-0
5) Delafield St. John’s…1933…7-0-0
7) Superior Central…1931…8-0-1
8) Eau Claire…1933…9-0-0
9) Green Bay East…1937…8-0-0
10) (Tie) Ft. Atkinson…1934…7-0-2
10) (Tie) Watertown…1931…8-0-0
More in my next post, PART 2