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THE RISE OF THE MUSKEGO WARRIORS

It seems to many like Muskego has always been a powerhouse in football as well as in other sports.  True, the school has, in its 67-years posted a 389-250-4 football record.  The Warriors have appeared in the WIAA playoffs 24 times.  In their 67-years the team has had only 17 losing seasons and in four others they broke even with either a 4-4 or a 5-5 record.  Almost always in contention for a conference title, the school has won two Division 1 titles and even posted a 45-game win streak from 2018 through part of 2021.  They might have had a third consecutive title in the COVID season of 2020 but the season was cut short and they ended with a 9-0 record that year after going 14-0 the two previous campaigns.  Their 45-game streak might have stretched to 50.  The streak is the sixth longest in state history, behind Kimberly’s 70-game streak (2013-17), Manitowoc (1983-87) and Waunakee (2009-12) both with 48 consecutive wins.  In fourth place is Stratford (2003-06) with 47 wins and Wausau (1940-46) with 46 victories   Winning has become a tradition for Muskego but the last 10-years has been the schools best victory stretch.


In order to understand how Muskego has become a football as well as an overall area sports power, you must first understand a bit about the growth of both Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties.


The area was first home to the Menomonie, Ojibwe (Chippewa), Potawatomi and the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Native American tribes.  A treaty with those peoples were, as would happen again and again, be ignored by the white settlers as the Federal Army forcibly removed the Indians in 1836.  In the early 1830’s a few former New England settlers moved into the area.  It was a slow growth of population as while the Fox River supplied water it was not a very good waterway for trade.  The region was part of what was called the Michigan Territory.  Originally part of Milwaukee County in 1834, prior to the land being split into two parts and Waukesha County was formed in 1838.  A vote to decide which town would become the county seat was held in 1840 and the town of Waukesha beat Pewaukee by only two votes.  The hamlets of Muskego, in the newly formed Waukesha County and Norway, part of Racine County, were just southeast of the town of Waukesha.


With the Native Americans removed the county began to increase with farming as the main industry.  The extension of the Watertown Plank Road from Milwaukee through Waukesha, Pewaukee and Oconomowoc fostered county growth and then the first railroad heading west from Milwaukee, eventually leading to Madison, arrived in the 1850’s to Waukesha and added easier ways for settlers to get to the newly opened farm lands.  Move forward 90 years and by 1940 the county had a population of just under 63,000 people with Waukesha having just over 19,000 residents.  Following World War II, the country really began to grow and by 1950 there were 85,901 people living there.  People moving out of Milwaukee County caused the growth of the county and by 1960 the population ballooned to 158, 249 residents.  The rapid growth led to the creation of cities like Brookfield, New Berlin, Menomonee Falls, Pewaukee Mukwonago and Oconomowoc, which before had been quiet little bergs.  Prior to 1950 there were few high schools in the county with Waukesha, Delafield St. John’s Military Academy, Mukwonago, Pewaukee, Oconomowoc and Menomonee Falls supporting the high school population.


In 1950 there was a school district to the south of Waukesha called Norway-Muskego.  The growth of the county forced the new cities to create their own high schools.  Older students from the Norway-Muskego school district, according to Wikipedia, attended Milwaukee high schools but I think some went to Waukesha or to the West Allis schools as they were closer.  New Berlin Eisenhower, Greenfields Whitnall and Brookfield Central were built in this timeframe.  Finally, the people of the Muskego-Norway (The name changed) school district decided to build their own high school and in 1956 the school opened.


The first football season, 1957 under the direction of Cwynn Christenson who took a core of new players and some who had played for a few other schools prior to beginning the Muskego program.  For years, many new schools started with, first, a freshman team then a JV or sophomore squad then finally a first-year varsity.  Muskego started varsity play right off the bat with no JV team in 1956 and they were good, going 5-2-0 in the Braveland Conference.  The Warriors followed up in 1958 with a wonderful 8-1-0 record, winning the Braveland, while losing only to Brookfield (Later to be Central) 7-0.  Christenson moved on and the Donald Yahr era at Muskego began.  It had a bumpy start going 2-20-2 in his first three seasons before directing the team to a 5-3-0 record in 1962.  Yahr’s best season was in 1967 when Muskego posted a 8-0-0 year playing in the Parkland Conference.  Yahr spent 16-years at Muskego as a football coach as well as the being the wrestling coach, being the physical education instructor as well as athletic director.   He was later principal at Whitnall High School.


 A few seasons later with Don Kangas as the new head coach the Warriors again won the Parkland in 1971 with an 8-1-0 record.  Their only loss that season was in a non-conference matchup with a very good Milwaukee Rufus King, 8-6.  Kangas would win two more Parkland titles in 1974 (8-1) and 1975 (9-0).  His final year was 1979 as his team went 8-1.  After 19 years as a physical education and health teacher besides being the football coach, Din moved on to become the principal at East Troy High School and later Superintendent of the school system.


WIFC Hall of Fame coach Dennis Johnson replaced Kangas and took his first team in 1980 to the playoffs and ended with a 9-1 record.  Johnson spent 19-years at Muskego winning 112 games and losing 72.  His best team was the 1994 Division 1 runner-up group that went 12-1.  His teams had a few up and down seasons with only five losing records in his 19 years. 


With so many fine coaches at Muskego over the years, the next great one is their current leader, Ken Krause.  Ken replaced John Sterner in 2008, who had coached the 2006-07 seasons.  It took Krause two years for him to turn things around after going a combined 3-15. He was building his staff as many were from his previous coaching position as the head coach at West Allis Central. In 2010, after going 6-3 in the regular season Krause led the Warriors to a 20-12 victorious opening round of the playoffs, beating a very good and previously undefeated Milwaukee Riverside team.  The next week they lost to an eventual 9-3 Kenosha Tremper squad as Muskego ended with a 7-4 record.  Since then, he has had only one losing season, going 3-6 in 2013.   But it’s the last 10-seassons that I alluded to earlier as Muskego has posted a 98-19 record earning the schools two WIAA championship trophies and capturing seven conference titles, added by a 45-game win streak.  But things have even better the past six years as the Warriors have gone 67-6.  Kimberly has posted a similar 67-7 record in the past six years but has won only one title.  Muskego and Kimberly are the only two D-1 schools to make it to the final 8 in state each of the past six seasons.


The 45-game win streak:


The 45-game win streak was great for the players, the coaches and the school.  It helped solidify the program in the eyes of many who thought that they were often a good program but now they were a looked upon as “the team to beat”.  Yes, you always have had to look at Muskego as a tough opponent but now they had a bigger reputation.


In 2023 Coach Krause became eligible for the WFCA Hall of Fame and he was inducted but he would tell you that getting to the top isn’t a one-man job.  It takes a lot of help and commitment.  Coach Krause and his staff are team builders.  Always moving the players forward toward a common goal of just not winning but improving in all aspects of the game. Blessed with great talent the Muskego Warriors, like other teams, set their goals and in their case, they achieve.  To me, that’s the way it always seemed to be in my research of the program.  They may stumble but they get up and try to move forward and that’s all you can ask of your team.  Honestly try.

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