The Best Teams of the 1910s

As the decade began, Oshkosh was THE team in Wisconsin. The school claimed six state titles (though I and non-local contemporary papers only credited them with three in 1908, 1910 and 1912). After losing to Eau Claire in 1907 (11-0), Oshkosh didn't lose to another high school team until falling to Green Bay West (10-0) in 1914. The 1912 team came closest to going undefeated at 7-1-0 having lost their first game to Ripon College. The school produced many future college athletes and was truly a feared team to be faced. Things changed as the decade progressed and while Oshkosh still produced good teams, none matched the heights of the 1908-1912 era.


In the middle of the decade La Crosse, Delafield St. John's and Edgerton rose to the top ranks and as the decade ended, Superior was the terror of the north and the best overall program from 1918-1920. These teams were also loaded with great talent.



#10: TIE

MILWAUKEE EAST - 1915 - 8-1-0

MARINETTE - 1919 - 7-0-0


Milwaukee East, also known as Riverside, beat Ashland 14-3 for the state title in 1915. The team's only loss was the season opener against the Alumni team, 13-0. Clinton Miller at guard and Walter Kuehn at end were the stars. East tied with 1919 Marinette for 10th place on my list. The two teams were that good that I couldn't leave either off the list.


1919 Marinette ruled the state as they cruised to the title, posting seven wins in a season still feeling the effects of the great influenza epidemic. The Marines shutout six of their opponents and allowed only one score on the year. They totaled 258 points, beating Kaukauna 52-0, Oconto 82-0, Green Bay East 19-0, Green Bay West 36-0, Escanaba (MI) 34-6, Menominee (MI) 20-0. They met Appleton, playing at Lawrence College, for the title and won 14-0.



#9: OSHKOSH - 1912 - 7-1-0




The 1912 Oshkosh team was the state title team that defeated Janesville for the title, 28-0. An impressive score considering they only scored 178 total on the season. They featured four all-state players, quarterback Eber Simpson, center Farrand Rideout, halfback Covey (first name unknown) and end DeVinney (first name also unknown).










#8: MARINETE - 1917 - 6-0-0


Marinette started to become a power in the northeast as well as the state late in the 1910s and then on to the 1920s. A smaller city about half the size as others in the area, Marinette rivaled the Green Bay football programs for area supremacy. The team went undefeated, untied and unscored upon as they scored 274 points in only six games for a 45.67 point per game average.



#7: LA CROSSE - 1914 - 8-0-0


La Crosse in 1914 scored 283 points and allowed only 13 with five shutouts. When St. John's decided to play Chippewa Falls, the top team in the northwest for the title, La Crosse couldn't find a high school to play and so they set a match with La Crosse Normal. They beat the team 13-0 and because St. John's was a private school some discounted their record despite their obviously superior competition. Still, La Crosse dominated the western part of the state.



#6: Fort Atkinson - 1911 - 7-0-0


The end of the 1911 season was full of controversy but Fort Atkinson won the hearts of most sports writers from around the state, except for those in the northeast. After going undefeated, untied and unscored upon while scoring 138 points with a 7-0-0 record, Fort had a right to claim the title, even though a firm title match could not be set up. Fort Atkinson was prepared to play Green Bay West after they dispatched Green Bay East on Thanksgiving Day but despite having a poor record, upset West. Fort beat Racine on the same day and so, Oshkosh now claimed to be the best team in the northeast even with a 4-3-2 record. Bad weather throughout the state set in on the day before Thanksgiving and was expected to get worse. Fort Atkinson refused to meet Oshkosh and so the claims for the title went to the press to decide.



#5: Sparta - 1913 - 9-0-1


Sparta returned to the top in 1913 after taking the title in 1907. The Spartans beat all of their opponents except for a 0-0 tie against Oshkosh. The team scored 462 points and allowed only 25 with six shutouts. Their smashing 60-2 win over Grand Rapids (Wisconsin Rapids), a team that posted seven shutouts and allowed only 72 points, showed the state that they were a force to be reckoned with as the Milwaukee Sentinel crowned Sparta as the champ nearly a week before they played their final game, a 13-10 win over La Crosse.



#4: Delafield St. John's Military Academy - 1917 - 61-0

Ralph Fletcher (St. John's Head Coach from 1914-1927) - from 1920 yearbook

The 1917 St. John's team is the only school in the top 10 list that didn't win the state title. Their schedule was VERY tough as it was becoming harder for the Lancers to find Wisconsin public high school opponents willing to play them. The school scored 428 points, a 61.14 per game average and allowed only 14. They beat three college teams, Oshkosh Normal 61-0, St. Norbert 55-0 and Milton 122-0. They also played the Murray Athletic Club of Milwaukee and won 63-0 and a team called the Racine Professionals (a.k.a. the Racine Regulars, a forerunner of the NFL Racine Legion team) 36-0. They also played Chicago Phillips High School and won 84-0. Their only loss was to Shattuck Military Academy of Minnesota, 14-7. The oldest player on the St. John's team was 19 and many of their opponents were 21-years old or more. They again won the North Central Academy Association Championship.





#3: Superior - 1918 - 8-0-0

The Superior Vikings ravaged the north west part of the state in 1918. Their schedule had five Minnesota high schools, one college (Superior Normal) and only two Wisconsin high schools. They played Eau Claire for the state title and won 19-0. On the season they scored 427 points and allowed only seven. The Vikings defeated Duluth Denfeld (MN) 117-0. Sophomore John Hancock led the state in scoring with 26 touchdowns and 21 extra points. End Ted Whereatt, a senior, was a great receiver and sophomore star Ernie Nevers, a future all-time college great at Stanford and professional hall of famer, played tackle. The team was named the 'Twin Cities Champion' (Superior and Duluth) and the Northern Minnesota State Champion as well as gaining honors as the Wisconsin State Champion. Hancock would terrorize opponents for the next two seasons while Nevers and his family moved to California after the 1919 year and became a powerful running back.


You can read more about John Hancock's 1918 scoring record and other scoring records here.



#2: Delafield St. John's Military Academy - 1914 - 7-1-0

1914 St. John's was co-state champion with La Crosse for the state title in my book but they played a much tougher schedule. They could have been considered the sole state champion. Yes, they lost one game while La Crosse went undefeated but St. John's beat five college teams...Oshkosh, Carroll, Lawrence, Lewis of Illinois and Beloit. They lost the season opener to Whitewater Normal 13-0 but regrouped and sailed through their next seven games. St. John's beat Chippewa Falls for the state title, 18-10. On the season, St. John's scored 224 points and allowed 51. The school was again, as in 1904 awarded the National Military Prep Championship, the Western Prep Championship and the North Central Academy Association Championship.



#1: EDGERTON - 1916 - 10-0-0

In my Thanksgiving story, I talked at length about 1916 Edgerton and their season. You can read that story here. They scored 310 points and allowed just six. Rollie Williams was the star that season...a super star. He was a much sought after athlete by many colleges. The rest of his teammates were nearly as outstanding and they played a very tough schedule.



The top 10 Teams for 1910-1919:

1) Edgerton…1916…10-0-0

2) Delafield St. John’s Military Academy…1914…7-1-0

3) Superior…1918…8-0-0

4) Delafield St. John’s Military Academy…1917…6-1-0

5) Sparta…1913…9-0-1

6) Ft. Atkinson…1911-7-0-0

7) La Crosse…1914…8-0-0

8) Marinette…1917…6-0-0

9) Oshkosh…1912…7-1-0

10) (TIE) Milwaukee East…1915…8-1-0

10) (TIE) Marinette…1919…7-0-0


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