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THE 1950’S…KENOSHA, FROM BEGINNING TO END…PART 1

The decade started with Kenosha high school winning the mythical state title and that’s the way it ended in 1959. There were no polls or playoffs in 1950 but the thought around the state was that the “Red Devils” were the best. Even better than the Green Bay West “Wildcats” or the Wausau “Lumberjacks”.

It doesn’t hurt that Kenosha started the decade with the player named the state’s All-Time Player in the 1993 Milwaukee Journal Team of the Century. That of course was Alan Ameche. He was a great fullback, who would play at the University of Wisconsin and earn the Heisman Trophy. His most famous moment as a professional player was the scoring of the touchdown in the 1958 NFL Championship game to lead his Baltimore Colts to a 23-17 sudden death win. It was labeled as the Greatest NFL Game Ever Played.


Look at that hole his line made for him!!! Photo By Neil Leifer


Kenosha High was the only public high school in town until Tremper High opened in 1964. At that time the school became Mary D. Bradford High School. The 1950’s were BIG for the Red Devils as they produced many All-State and several All-American players as well as four mythical state champions. Kenosha posted a solid 72-9-0 record for the decade. As I alluded earlier, two other schools were very successful, Green Bay West and Wausau, but between them they only won three mythical titles. Compare the three team’s records for the 1950’s:


In a period of time most teams scheduled an eight -game season. Kenosha played. eight games per season in the 1950's. Green Bay West had 80-games scheduled but due to polio outbreaks they only played 75-games.

Wausau was a little different. They played a nine-game season in 1954 but only seven in 1959 as their season finale against Superior was snowed out.


THE TOP 10 TEAMS OF THE 1950’S

Honorable Mention:

1950 was a great year for producing great teams. Two of those teams make the honorable mention list: Milwaukee Marquette was the top Catholic/ Private school in the state going 8-0-0. Another was a team that just missed the top 10. That was tiny Arcadia, a school that went 7-0-0 and was unscored upon while they scored 238 points. The “Raiders” went 20-0-1 between 1949 and 1951. Back Willie Berzinski earned third team all-state and an honorable mention place on the 1993 Milwaukee Journal All-Century Team.


The 1951 mythical state champion Stevens Point squad went 8-0-0. Very good on defense but just an average offensive team. Milwaukee Boy’s Tech defeated all of their City Conference foes in 1952, scoring 249 points and allowing only 39. 1958’s Waukesha team was rated # 2 in the U.P.I. poll to champion Superior Central. (Read more about them in my blog… Waukesha 1943-63 (wihifootball.com)).


Just as 1950 had a number of top teams, so did, as the decade ended, 1959. Making the honorable mention list from that year were: Green Bay West, 8-0-0, who was rated as the #2 team by the U.P.I. Shorewood also went 8-0-0 in 1959 and tied with West in the #2 U.P.I. poll. And, finally, Milwaukee Marquette who posted a 7-0-0 record and again won the state Catholic/Private School


THE TOP 10:

#10…1959 KENOSHA (8-0-0

The “Red Raiders” cruised to an 8-0-0 record. This was the fourth mythical title of the decade for the school and for coach Chuck Jaskwhich who was a Kenosha graduate They piled up327 yards per game and scored 233 points and allowed 64.


#9…1958 SUPERIOR CENTRAL (8-0-0)

Hall of Fame Coach Marv Crowley directed the “Vikings “to the state title. Leading the way on offense was Don VanBibber who was first team all-state after gaining 972 yards on 81 carries (12.0 average) and crossed the goal line 17 times. Six of their opponents were Minnesota teams. [KP1] state title. Leading the way on offense was Don VanBibber who was first team all-state after gaining 972 yards on 81 carries (12.0 average) and he also crossed the goal line 17 times. Six of their opponents were Minnesota teams. state title.


#8…1954 GREEN BAY WEST (8-0-0)

The “Raiders” won the Fox River Valley Conference as well as the 1954 title. This was the the first season as head coach for John Biolo. West went undefeated after losing to Green Bay East in the 1950 season finale. The team went 7-0-1 in 1951, 8-0-0 (State title) in 1952 and 7-0-1 in 1953 and 8-0-0 in 1954. They would go undefeated for 35 consecutive games. In 1955 the team would post a season shortened 4-1-0 record in a year that polio reared its ugly head. They lost to Manitowoc 6-0 in game four to end the streak.

#7…1957 MADISON WEST (8-0-0)

The state champion was led by senior quarterback Jim Bakken. Bakken scored 84 points and five other players made the all-conference first team. They were end Stew Honeck, tackle John Fox, guard Bill Lautz, center Stewart Gordon and back Dick Yates. Most people think of Bakken as a kicker because he was one of the NFL’s all-time greats at that position but in high school, he was also a very good field general who could pass and run. Fred Jacoby was named the Big Eight Conference coach of the year as he led the school to their second conference title in four seasons. It was a battle in 1957 for the conference title as Kenosha placed second after losing to West. The” Regents” beat Madison East in the season finale 26-0 to secure the conference and state mythical title. East would end with a 6-2 mark, losing only to Kenosha and West.


#6…1950 GREEN BAY EAST (8-0-0)

Bob “Toughy” Young was a superb back for East who was one of the first Wisconsin players to be named to an All-America team. He rushed 113 times for 1,153 yards and 19 touchdowns. Coach Al Rudd earned Hall of Fame honors, going 61-45-10 from 1949-60. The team road the back of Young as they only scored 206 points but gave up only 26. This was a truly strong defensive squad and Young contributed as a defensive back. In 1949 the team was 1-6-1 in Reeds first year, but they rebounded and were tough throughout the decade.


#5…1955 KENOSHA (8-0-0)

Alan Ameche in 1950 was nicknamed “The Horse” because of his size. Eddie Hart was given the name “The Pony” because of his smaller stature. Hart broke Ameche’s single season rushing record as he carried the ball only 75 times for 1,033, a 13.8 average and 14 touchdowns. Future honorable mention All-American and two-time All-State quarterback Tom Bonofiglio was a sophomore that season. The team scored 278 points and allowed 88 points.


#4…1953 WAUSAU (8-0-0)

The “Lumberjacks” had a powerful running attack as Robert Severson was named first team all-state and gained 714 yards. Teammate Jim Tremel actually led the team with 838 yards and earned honorable mention along with the teams third running back Ron Kittle. While this was coach Win Brockmeyer’s only mythical title of the 1950’s after earning six in the magical 1940’s


#3…1956 KENOSHA (8-0-0)

Eddie Hart was off to Madison and was replaced by Wayne Cog who gained 669 yards on the ground. Bonofiglio was also back directing the team and after some injuries to several other backfield players, Daniel J. Travanti (Future TV star of NBC’s Hill Street Blues, one of the top TV shows from 1981-87) stepped in and started four games and gained 425 yards and scored 7 touchdowns. Center/linebacker John Gotta earned first team All-America on several different organizational listings…Scholastic Coach magazine and the Wigwam of Oklahoma. This was coach Jaskwhch’s third title of the 1950’s.


#2…1952 GREEN BAY WEST (8-0-0)

In 1951 back Lee Hermsen was all-state after gaining 969 yards on 127 carries and scored 15 times and was named all-state and honorable mention All-America as a junior. He was back in 1952 and carried 114 times for 875 yards and 18 touchdowns. He repeated as an all-stater and was named to Scholastic Coach magazine’s All-America squad. The team only scored 212 points and allowed only 53. Coach Faust I. “Frosty” Ferzacca would coach only one more season at West (1953) and then move on to become head coach at Marquette University and later coach at Northern Michigan University. A member of the WFCA Hall of fame he posted a 54-16-3 record at West. His main assistant, John Biolo took over the program in 1954.


1#...1950 KENOSHA (8-0-0)

Others from that period of time from around the state considered the 1950 Red Devils as having the best team of the decade. And, why not? They dominated seven of their eight opponents as the 14-12 win over a very good Madison East squad was their only close game. Alan Ameche was their star back, but he had a lot of help from end Tom Baatz who caught seven touchdowns, was a great blocker and tackler as a linebacker and defensive end who earned second team all-state. He was named to the Milwaukee Journal’s 100th Anniversary honorable mention team. Baatz later became an executive for the Green Bay Packers. Others who greatly contributed were guard Vic Borowsky, tackle Ed Ronzia, and center Ruel McMillion. Quarterback Mario Bonofiglio was also a second team all -state player who passed for 10 scores, ran for four touchdowns, and kicked 22 extra points. He also handled the punting and kickoff chores.


Let me know your thoughts. More on the best game, coach player and stars of the decade coming soon.






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