After reviewing the best teams of the 1920s I'd like to highlight the best game, coach and players of the decade.
The Best Game
This was another tough call so I had to choose two games and, as it turns out both involved Green Bay East.
The first was the 1927 battle between East and city rival Green Bay West. Before more than 10,000 frenzied fans, Arnie Herber was the difference for West with his passing, rushing, returning kicks, defense and kicking. It was a see-saw battle throughout the game with East taking the lead in the third quarter, 6-0, but a fourth quarter touchdown pass and conversion kick by Herber was the margin to win the game 7-6.
In 1928 Green Bay East met Appleton, a team that would end up in second place in the conference. The Red Devils couldn’t muster much in the way of offense but it was their defense that won the day. There were numerous fumbles throughout the game for both teams. Two safeties, one in the third period and one in the fourth quarter were the margin of victory as East won 4-0. Both safeties were a result of blocked punts.
Two hard fought defensive games that either team in each game could be proud of their performance.
The Best Coach
This era produced many great coaches. First, Curley Lambeau at Green Bay East, who coached the team as well as the Packers during the 1919 through the 1921 seasons. Yes, coaching two teams at the same time!! He was followed by Chester E. Wiley who led the teams for the rest of the decade before returning to his home town of Iron Mountain (MI) to coach. West had Murph White who led them into the 1930s and produced solid teams throughout. Marinette was led by Tom Johnson who led the school to four state titles in six seasons before leaving for Louisville (KY) Male High in 1927. Johnson replaced Harry Wilhelm at Male as Wilhelm in turn moved north to Delafield and coached St. John’s Military Academy to the 1929 state title.
When you look at the list of the top teams of the decade, two coaches stand out. Chester Wiley of Green Bay East coached three of the schools four state title teams in the decade, all in the top 10 and they had another, the 1927 squad, that was defeated by Green Bay West in one of the top games of the decade. They finished 9-1-0 that season. Tom Johnson of Marinette had four state titles and has three teams on the list and posted a 50-5-0 record in six seasons.
Wiley replaced Curley Lambeau as the head coach at East who moved on to devote his efforts full time to the Packers after the 1921 season. Chester Wiley is my choice as the best coach who posted a 68-6-0 record in eight seasons at East. When he left the school was in great shape and continued to be a powerhouse on into the late 1950s.
The Best Players
Many of these players would go on to have success at both the college and professional level. Milt Gantenbein, Wayland Becker, Champ Seibold, Arnie Herber and Swede Johnston all played together on the 1936 Green Bay Packer championship team. Arnie Herber has received the most recognition, as a member of the pro football hall of fame and considered one of the first great modern quarterbacks, winning 4 NFL championships with the Packers.
The 1920s was a great period in the sport. America made it through the Great Influenza and Word War I, the Great War, and there was new prosperity. Kids were healthier than ever before. The modern age was upon us as auto’s became more affordable, wages for the most part, were better, airplane flying was the rage and yes, there was still trouble abroad but overall life was good. Until the November 1929 Wall Street Crash. It wasn’t unusual for fans of a particular team who would rent rail cars to go even several hundred miles to cheer on their favorites, filing the stands with 200-500 out of towners.
Players were getting bigger and faster. The game was evolving. Passing was becoming more prevalent and even though it would be 19 years before the first known 1,000-yard passer and 35 years before the state produced the first 2,000 single-season passer the game was utilizing this option more and more. It was a time to revel in great coaching and great playing. It would be a bit more difficult during the Depression as money became tighter but still the crowds would still be large.