Some players learn well from their former coaches. They may have had talent on the playing field but they were able to take the knowledge passed on to them and they could also become Hall of Fame coaches themselves. Though often, what worked for their teachers might not have worked for them so they had to look for other ways to win.
In 1958 the “Run and Shoot” offense was developed by Glenn “Tiger” Ellison who was the head coach of Mansfield High School in Ohio. A devotee of Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and his “Three-Yards and a Cloud of Dust” running attack, like most schools in America, Ellison found that things this season was not going well with the offensive attack. Faced with the school’s first losing season since 1911 and having a 0-4-1 record with five remaining games, Ellison looked to see what he could do to stop the mess. One day he noticed some grade school kids messing around and they were playing a game they called “aerial”. The quarterback would, after each snap, be scrambling around with the receivers running, zipping, cutting and making themselves open for the toss. They were having fun. His Mansfield Middies weren’t having fun and he designed what he called the “Lonesome Polecat”.
The Lonesome Polecat formation was similar to what was once known as “The Swinging Gate”. The quarterback and center are in the middle of the formation with one end on the right side and the other eight players bunched together on the left side. The formation could be flipped to have the strong side be on the right. The quarterback would run the ball but if the defense came up too quickly, he could throw it down the field. It caused disruption on the defense and they won their last five games to post a 5-4-1 record. It may have been considered sandlot football but it worked. Coach Ellison worked in the off season to refine the offense. He learned that constant motion from the quarterback and other skill players kept the defense off guard. Gang tackling, and double-covering a receiver was hard to do. The entire field had to be defended. The important thing was that his players were having fun and that created success. He came up with a total of 40-plays…20 passing and 20 running. There were two receivers split with the quarterback and a fullback behind him and two players in slot just off the heels of the tackles. One slotback would always be in motion. It was a Double Wing formation to primarily run but if the right quarterback was available, they would also pass a lot. Tiger let the receivers set the routs depending on how the defender was lining up on them. This was radical thinking for football in the era of the run first, then keep running mindset.
Ellison coached at Middleton from 1945-62 and compiled a 127-45-7 record and was named Ohio High School Football Coach of the Year in 1961. All his success led to a phone call in early 1963 who asked Ellison to join he staff as the Ohio State freshman coach. For those who don’t remember, college freshmen couldn’t play on the varsity (Except for the 1950-51 season because of the Korean War) until 1972. Ellison stayed at OSU until 1969 before returning to the high school ranks but he never changed the schools “Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust” offense. In 1965 he wrote a book entitled “Run and Shoot: The Offense of the Future”. Darrell “Mouse” Davis was the head coach at Portland State from 1975-80 who refined and popularized the concept to huge success, not only for colleges, the pro’s but also at the high school level.
After leading the Durand freshman team to an undefeated season in 1965 Tom Bauer stepped into the varsity starting spot the next season. With his ability and smarts there was no resentment by the older players. In 1966 Bauer was now under the tutelage of future WFCA Hall of Fame coach Pete Adler. His coach taught him well and he went on to become first team All-Northwest as accredited by the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram as well as honorable all-state in 1968. The 1967 Durand team was voted the #1 team in the Small School division of the UPI poll that season. Durand was undefeated all three years that Bauer was at the helm as he completed 163 career passes in 283 attempts for 2,759 yards and 45 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions. He also ran the ball 188 times for 1,088 yards and 28 touchdowns. He went on to play for another Hall of Fame coach, Link Walker at UW-Eau Claire. After starting for the Blugolds and becoming a success at the college level as a player he moved on to coach at Elmwood in 1976.
It was at Elmwood, one of the smallest schools in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference that Bauer found it hard to compete with the bigger schools of the conference. He began to look around for a way to make things better and more fun for the players. That’s when, in 1980 he found out about the Run and Shoot. But first, he had to find a quarterback who could execute the offense. That came in the form of freshman Tom Mountin who was first listed at 5’8, 145-pound but later 1980 editions of the Leader-Telegram reported that he was 5’10, 150, who could fling the ball well. He was smart and inventive but as some freshman often do, he made some mistakes. Not a gifted runner, Moutin left that to sophomore fullback Joe Wolf, a 5’9, 165- pound speedster. Along with sophomore receivers Jeff Brunner and Jeff Schoeder and junior Steve Hartung this young team limped through a 4-5 season. By the seventh game the team started only two seniors with four sophomores and the freshman, Mountin. Wolf was on the bench early but in game five, a 20-16 loss to Glenwood City, he came off the bench to help spark a near comeback when he gained 135 yards on 14 carries plus a touchdown. He started after that.
Mountin had some good days and some very bad days. In game three, a 26-14 win over Colfax he had his breakout passing event with 18 for 37, 205 yards and three touchdowns but he also threw three interceptions. Against Elk Mound, a 30-14 loss, he was 8-18 with 129 yards and a score in the second half after completing only two of 12 passes for 15 yards and three interceptions in the first half. In the season finale, a 60-14 smashing of Plum City, the Run and Shoot worked to perfection. Mountin was 11 of 20 for 144 yards and two touchdowns while Wolfe picked up 188 yards on 19 carries as he scored four times and added an extra point run. Mountin would end up with stats of 133 completions in 258 attempts, 10 interceptions, 1,477 yards along with 14 touchdowns and eight two-point completions. Wolf would gain 665 yards on the ground while scoring nine times and Brunner, Schoeder and Hartung all had around 30-35 catches each. Bauer had found the right formula for his team as they went 4-5. With all the experience they gained, 1981 looked bright.
Some of what Bauer had learned may have also come from hearing about the Chippewa Falls McDonell passing offense that was just beginning to take off at the same time. In 1980 McDonell’s junior quarterback, Dave Geissler tossed for 2,184 yards but he also tossed a lot of interceptions, 25 on the year. Geissler had to run for his life a lot of times as he had no real dependable running attack to help him. At least Elmwood had a back in Wolf to counterbalance the pass. Mountin’s 1,477 yards passing ranked as one of the top efforts for the year.
As a sophomore in 1981, Tom Mountin had grown to 5’11 and his weight was up to 160 pounds. The season went well overall as the team went 7-2 and the offense motored, scoring 316 points and the defense was strong allowing only 77. Mountin was the heart of the team but he had a lot of help end Jeff Schoeder earned second team All-Northwest as did Wolf and Mountin. Jeff Brunner was named to the honorable mention list as was end Steve Hartung and lineman Rocky Noard. Mountin had his best game against St. Croix Central with 14 completions in 24 attempts, 198 yards and five touchdowns with 3 extra point conversions. Another top performance was against Colfax as he was 19 of 27 for 224 yards and four conversions. The receiving corp was top notch with Schoeder, Brunner, Hartung and Wolf all catching between 22 and 38 passes. Wolf broke out rushing for 1,168 yards on 145 carries as he crossed the goal line 15 times. Mountin threw for 1,581 yards with 22 touchdowns and 10 pass conversions.
Over at McDonell, senior Dave Geissler threw 385 times and had 231 completions, 2,517 yards and 17 touchdowns, earning All-Northwest and All-State first team honors. The difference in the two offenses was Joe Wolf’s ability to pick-up a lot of rushing yards. Yes, McDonell also gained a 7-2 record but they really relied on Geissler who set four national passing records…most passes completed in a game with 41, highest average of pass attempts per game with 43, highest average completions per game with 26 and average plays per game with a 53 average. He was a drop back type passer while Mountin often ran the ball.
This is about Elmwood and their Run and Shoot offense and not McDonell’s but the Mack’s passing attack is just shown as a comparison of the two.
The 1981 season ending loss to Glenwood City was Bauer’s last game at Elmwood. In April, 1982 he moved on to take the head coaching job at Mondovi, a position he would stay at for 21 seasons. He had a 36-18 record at Elmwood and a 125-78 record at Mondovi before he retired because of health reasons at age 53. In March of 2004 it was announced that he was being inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Former assistant Curt Weber stepped in as the new coach and he retained, for the most part, the Run and Shoot. In the 1982 season opener, a 47-0 rout of Independence, Mountin was 23 of 27 for 269 yards and one score while Wolf rushed for 134 yards on 16 attempts and four touchdowns. The next week against Spring Valley Wolf rushed 36 times for 275 yards and one touchdown while Mountin passed for 139 and two touchdowns. The following week, game three, a 30-20 win over Prescott, Wolf hurt his shoulder but Mountin rose to the occasion as he passed 43 times with 25 completions and a career high 323 yards and four touchdowns and three conversions. Wolf came back for game four vs. Colfax as he scored twice. Mountin would have some very good games the rest of the season but the running wasn’t going well with Wolf often playing hurt. Luckily, he had a great group of receivers. Expectations had been strong for 1982 as the team had a lot of experienced players. The offense was able to keep some of the conference’s stronger/bigger teams at bay. Elmwood went undefeated during the regular season and earned a spot in the WIAA playoffs making it to the Division 5 semi-finals. After going 10-0, they lost to eventual champ Osseo-Fairchild.
Coach Weber had the team clicking despite losing Joe Wolf for several games due to his shoulder injury or defenses figuring out how to key on his running. But Tom Mountin and flanker Jeff Brunner didn’t disappoint with Mountain earning second team All-Northwest and Brunner first team. Jeff Schoeder and Joe Wolf were honorable mention. Mountin completed 166 of 287 passes for 2,366 yards and 21 touchdowns along with 21 conversions. (The totals are different than what was printed in the November 20, 1982 edition of the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. They only had the regular season totals.) It was the same for Jeff Brunner as he posted 70 catches for 1,193 yards and 14 touchdowns with 14 conversion catches. His three-year totals read 146 receptions for 2,322 yards, 28 touchdowns and 22 conversion passes. The career receiving records as well as his 14 conversion catches in 1982 were state records and he led the state in receiving receptions, yards and td’s for the season. Brunner earned second team AP All-State. Wolf, despite being injured throughout the year finished with over 2,700 career yards and 33 touchdowns. Hartung and Schoeder each hauled in about 30 passes each that season.
Tom Mountin was on the brink of several national records and he was setting state career records. Most of his state career records would only last a few years because McDonell came up with a great sophomore quarterback, Ben Gardow, who would obliterate all competition for passing honors for many years. 1983 was a tough one as Mountin's three most experienced receivers were gone as well as his reliable fullback/receiver. Coach Weber had to come up with some replacements. He revised the offense a bit to be more of a pro-set attack, using the pass to set up the run but still incorporated the Run and Shoot formation when needed. The team would post a 6-3 record as Mountin rushed for 272 yards on the season with nine touchdowns on the ground. He did throw for 1,330 yards but only nine touchdowns. The main newcomers were junior fullback Jason Afdahl and senior slotback Peter Schwartz. Against St. Croix Central Mountin tossed for 235 yards, three touchdowns, two conversions and ran for three scores in a 44-27 win. Afdahl ran for117 yards while Schwartz countered with 110 rushing yards and caught 13 passes for 153 yards.
Now standing at 5’11 and weighing 165 pounds, Tom Mountin completed his career having thrown more passes (1,012) and more completions (553) than any high school passer in history. His 6,754 yards was fourth best and his 66 touchdowns earned him an eight spot on the national list. Paltry stats by today’s standards but outstanding for the era. On the basis of his record setting career, Mountin was named the All-Northwest Player-of-the Year. Schwartz, Afdahl, center Ron Wolf and tackle Joe Fesenmaier all earned honorable mention. Guard Nick Schoeder earned special mention.
Mountin started every game for all four seasons and teams stacked their defenses against him especially his senior year. His records were, for a short time, targets for others to shoot for.
Curt Weber did away with most of the Run and Shoot for his last season as head football coach in 1984, staying with the pro-set. He continued on for several years as the head basketball coach. As mentioned, Tom Bauer moved to Mondovi and produced some very good teams. But what of Tom Mountin? Tom passed up a chance to play college ball at any level. He went to work in the family business, Mountin Construction until he was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. He passed away in 2015 at age 49. Tom Bauer had noticed his ability to throw the ball as a seventh grader and worked the Red Raiders offense around him as a freshman. It proved to be the right move.