1994 was the season of the “Purple Plague”. The “Plague” was all over southeast Wisconsin, and it was fierce. The “Plague” started in Cudahy effecting everyone from Greenfield to Brookfield, over to Wauwatosa, down to Racine and finally, over to Madison. The “Plague” was a force that couldn’t be stopped. Nearby South Milwaukee, Franklin and Greendale were also “plagued”.
In 1992, Carey Venne took over as head football coach at Cudahy. While he didn’t reach the heights of Louisiana’s J.T. Curtis of John Curtis Christian Academy (America’s second all-time winningest coach) or Bob Hyland at Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs (Wisconsin’s all-time winningest coach) all three suffered early failures before achieving great success. Venne’s came quicker than that of Curtis and Hyland. Both Curtis and Hyland had to wait several seasons after they started their careers to have a winning season and several more before they would win a state title.
That first season at Cudahy was a disaster going 0-9 with only two seniors from the 1991 team. but 1993 was a complete turnaround. Venne knew he had a talented JV team, but he resisted moving any of them up to the varsity. He kept that group intact so they would blend better as juniors with the experienced varsity players. And they did. The Packers went 10-1 and lost in the second round of the playoffs. He also kept the JV team of 1993 intact as well, though a few moved up. That JV team went 8-1 so with that incoming talent and the experience the varsity gained, they were ready to “Plague” their opponents in 1994. Venne chose not to move any of the JV’s up to the varsity in a way to build confidence and pride.
The 1994 Cudahy Packers were loaded with talent as they had eight returning offensive starters and 10 defensive starters. They joined the Woodland Conference in 1993. The Conference has changed many times over the years. Besides Cudahy, the members were Brookfield Central, Brookfield East, Franklin, Greendale, Greenfield, South Milwaukee, Wauwatosa East and Wauwatosa West.
Cudahy opened the season against conference foe, Greenfield, and as the newspaper said,” they didn’t just overpower their opponent but the” Purple Plague” destroyed the Hawks”. Greenfield was the first to feel the force of the “Plague”, losing 35-0. Returning star back, John Duglinski opened with 183 yards on 15 carries. John was also the kicker. He scored a touchdown and kicked five extra points. Next up was Brookfield Central and the Lancers also went down to defeat, 28-0 but Duglinski was held to a season low 60-yards but kicked four extra points.
Week three brought the teams only regular season non-conference opponent, Racine Park a 27-14 victim. Case was held to 19 yards on the ground in 22-rushes, but they gained 131 yards through the air. The 131 yards in the air was the second most the defense would give up that season. John Duglinski carried for 174 yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns and three extra points. He opened the scoring early with a 65-yard sprint to the end zone. Later, with the game tied he plowed over the goal line on a one-yard score to push the Packers into the lead for good. Two fumbles by the Panthers quarterback, both recovered by Cudahy, in two crucial series was the difference.
The next three games were blowouts, especially the 55-0 win over Wauwatosa West. Duglinski was in full rushing/scoring mode as he piled up 435 yards and scored 10 touchdowns, kicked 13-extra points and a 22-yard field goal against Brookfield East. At the South Milwaukee game there was a great halftime show as the University of Wisconsin Marching Band. The band was on the way down to Evanston IL. To play at the Wisconsin vs. Northwestern football game on Saturday. Against Wauwatosa East the Packers were in for a battle. Going onto the game both teams were tied for the conference lead with 5-0 records. It was a tough battle and the two teams played to a 14-6 hard fought Cudahy win.
After being held to 79-yards on 18 carries while scoring one touchdown against Wauwatosa East, John Duglinski came back with a great game against Franklin. Yes, he didn’t gain huge yardage against Franklin (103-yards) but he scored three touchdowns and kicked four extra points to lead the team to a Homecoming victory. This was their warmup of the regular season finale against Greendale. The Panthers were hoping to move from the conference tie with Wauwatosa East for second place and with a win over Cudahy they could tie for the Woodland Conference title. Greendale entered with a 6-1 record while Cudahy was 7-0. The “Plague” was ready and produced a 42-0 win. Now the playoffs began.
First up was Westosha who had lost in the season finale to Burlington, the Southern lakes Conference East champion 46-13. The Cudahy defense was devastating bur so was the offense. Duglinski powered for 125 yards and four touchdowns, but it was a coming out party with the pass as quarterback Chad Janos finally got a chance to throw the ball, going 8-10-0-144-1. Tight end Chris Samz caught four balls for 70 yards and the score. The defense held the Westosha Falcons who ended the year with a 7-3 record to a total of -3 yards in the crushing 54-0 first round win.
Four days later the Packers matched up with HOF Coach Don Dalton and his Burlington Demons, who would end the season with a 10-1 record as Cudahy prevailed 27-6. Coach Dalton had produced several very good quarterbacks including Tony Romo and this season’s edition was Ryan Dussault who stretched the Cudahy defense with 17-34-2-155-1 with the short passing game. He did throw a short 10-yard pass that turned into a 47-yard touchdown in the third period. The Demons only gained18-yards on the ground but Janos came through with another fine day passing as he went 9-15-1-149-1 with 2-conversion passes.
Round three was a 28-0 win over Menomonee Falls (9-3). It was back to the ground game almost exclusively led by Duglinski who carried the ball 24 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns. This set up a showdown with nationally ranked and defending state champion Menomonie. The Mustangs had a 23-game winning streak heading into the final and they were favored against Cudahy even though they had lost some great stars from the 1993 team. This season’s team would be no pushover but then, Cudahy wouldn’t be one either.
Cudahy had a 12-0 record going into the championship game. They had played great defense and scored a lot of points offensively. The question was, could they stop the power from the Northwest? About that and more in the next blog.