WHEN THE PACKERS WERE THE “PURPLE PLAGUE” PART 2

Two seasons before, in 1992, Coach Venne talked to the Cudahy principal after his first team went 0-9 and asked him if he could take his players to the 1992 state finals in Madison. He was looking to shake things up and he thought this might do it. The principal agreed and the team went to Madison. While at Camp Randall, as Venne tells it: “Our kids were out there with no shirts on forming a “C” in the north endzone. Some coaches I was sitting with said ‘Who are those idiots? and I said “Oh, that’s my football team.’” That’s when success began to spark for the Packers.


After a scoreless first quarter, quarterback Keith Miller of Menomonie scored after a short drive on a one-yard run. After the conversion Cudahy John Duglinski hauled in a pass from Chad Janos and took it 48-yards for the score The two teams were tied 7-7 at the half. Cudahy forced four Menomonie fumbles that the “Plague” recovered and one of them was in the third quarter which led to a second score with Janos tossing a short 4-yard toss to Steve Madden. Madden beat future Little All-American linebacker (UW-Stout) Jamie Spielman. On the returning kickoff Mike Morrow of the Indians took a reverse on the play and scored on the kick return going 84-yards. Morrow had scored in every game of his prep career and that record was intact. In the fourth quarter Menomonie again fumbled and three plays later Duglinski gave his team the lead for good as he took another Janos pass 22-yards to the endzone. Jeremy Guth recovered the short kick off for Cudahy and helped set up a crucial 37-yard field goal by Duglinski. Junior halfback Wes Jock iced the game on a 33-yard counter touchdown run. Duglinski kicked all four extra points and the Packers ended up 31-14 victors.

Cudahy’s defense held the Indians star tailback, Mike Morrow, who had been averaging 12-yards per carry, to 26-yards in 10 carries. Plus, they held Menomonie to only one offensive touchdown which was a knockdown from their 32-points a game average coming into the title game.


If you read my blog…(RUFUS) KINGS OF THE HILL…PART 2…you will remember how tough King’s defense was in the late 1960’s through the early 1970’s. Well, I think the Cudahy defense was just as tough. Maybe better. Defensive coordinator Tom Kujawa came up with the name, “The Purple Plague” for the way his defenders played. Let’s look at what they accomplished as they plagued their opponents going 13-0 and holding opponents to 69.6 yards a game on the ground. In the air they allowed around 75 yards per game. The Packer Plague scored 456 points and allowed only 40 points…six total touchdowns allowed and only six points in conference play. They probably needed to toughen up on the kick-off team as they allowed three of the six scores on returns. Nine shutouts in 13-games. In the Division 2 title game they gave up the most total yards in any single game to #1 ranked Menomonie, 209-yards. The defense recovered 28 fumbles including four in the title game. Menomonie had a 23-game winning streak coming into the final game and they also had a tough defense, but the “Plague” gained 233 offensive yards.




The champs had many stars. John Duglinski carried 240 times for 1,637 yards as he scored 31 touchdowns, kicked 48 extra points and three field goals for 243 points. The 5’8, 160-pound tailback led the state in scoring. He earned honorable All-State. Others also shone brightly. Linebacker/tight end J.J. Kotarak (5’11, 200), one of the few two-way players, made over 100 tackles and caught 23 passes for 357 yards and five touchdown’s earned 1st team All-State. Another 1st teamer was Steve Madden (5’11, 190), a defensive back and running back who led the team in interceptions and also had 100+ tackles plus 562 yards on th5 ground. Both Kotarak and Madden were seniors but center/defensive tackle Clint Grochowski, (6’3,215) a junior, was a standout earning 2nd team All-State. Offensive tackle Greg Kunstman (6’5, 270) earned honorable mention honors. They didn’t pass often but with Chad Janos at the controls of the offense they were very effective. Running the multiple offense that Venne and his coaches devised, Janos was 110-59-5-915-16 on the year and besides tossing to Kotarak and Duglinski he had a very capable wide receiver in junior Chris Samz. Samz, (6’3, 190) caught 22 passes for 345 and six scores. He would get a little bigger in 1995 and be switched to tight end where he would ern All-State honors.


Carey Venne learned from and worked with many fine coaches. In high school at Milwaukee South Division his coach was HOF coach Bill Bartholomew. While at South Corey had the distinct privilege of going 0-20-0 as a starter. Yes, winless. Despite that record Corey was named All-City, won the conference pole vault title and as a senior captained the football, basketball and track teams. He played one season as a freshman at UW-Madison and then transferred to UW-Oshkosh as a quarterback and flanker. The Titans were captained by Venne, and they won the WIAC title in 1968, their first since 1935. Again, he was tutored by a HOF coach, Russ Young. He was a graduate assistant at Oshkosh in 1969 and then moved on to Cudahy where he served under another HOF coach, Jerry Bowe. Venne stayed at Cudahy for 33-years as an English and Geography teacher, 23-years as an assistant before moving into the head coaching position. When the head coaching job in 1992 came up both he and assistant coach Jeff Cavanagh talked things over, and it was decided that Venne would be the head coach and Cavanagh would be the offensive coordinator.


Carey stayed as the head coach until 1999 when he retired, for the first time, as the head man. He was still teaching at Cudahy when Milwaukee Pius came calling. He coached there one season going 3-6 and finished with a 75-23 record. He was replaced at Cudahy by Cavanagh but before that he won six conference titles between 1992-99 and contributed to an additional five as an assistant. He and Cavanagh were co-coaches in 2001. Jeff Cavanagh himself would also earn HOF honors. The team used a 5-2 defense in what he called an “attack-style”. He also employed a creative set of “multiple” offensive schemes. He was inducted in 2004 into the WFCA Hall of Fame. BUT he couldn’t stay off the field for long although it wasn’t until 2008 when Waterford came calling and he stayed there two seasons going 8-3 and 9-2. Then he retired, again, until 2011 when he coached Waukesha North and went 3-6. He finally coached at Palmyra-Eagle in 2020 and again went 3-6. I recently talked to Carey, and he said he was through.

BUT we’ll have to see. someone else may call and he will get the itch again to lead a team.

Did you see a pattern in Venne’s career? Even if you don’t have great success at time’s, you can work hard and learn from the best and succeed.


FINAL NOTE ON THE 1994 TITLE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES:

While I was doing research on Cudahy and the title game, I noticed something very unique. The coaches of ALL the teams in the final are in the WFCA Hall of Fame. I don’t know of any other final to have 12-HOF coaches in the same finals.

Division Winning Team Coach Final Score Losing Team Coach

1 Arrowhead (12-1) Tom Taraska 19-16 vs. Muskego (12-1) Dennis Johnson

2 Cudahy (13-0) Carey Venne 31-4 vs. Menomonie Joe LaBuda

3 Monroe (13-0) Pat Martin 7-6 vs. Waupaca John Koronkiewicz

4 Mayville (13-0) Alex Hilber 47-0 vs. Baldwin-Woodville Wade Labecki

5 Fall Creek (13-0) Ron Schultz 10-7 vs. Darlington Douglas McArthur

6 Hilbert (12-1) Mark Jonas 34-6 vs. Thorp (11-2) Eric Larson

This indeed was a true matchup in the championship games of a group of super coaches


POSTSCRIPT: As far as I can figure there are only two teams in Wisconsin nicknamed “Packers”. IN 1919, while working for the Indian Packing Company in Green Bay, Curley Lambeau started the Green Bay Packers. The Indian Packing Company was absorbed by the Illinois based Acme Packing Company. The two companies were involved in the canned meat industry. Through their support for uniforms and equipment the Packers were born and a nickname of the company that got the team started was used.


In 1888 John Plankinton sold his Milwaukee meat packing company to Patrick and John Cudahy and they operated the business in the Menomonee Valley of Milwaukee. A need for a larger facility pushed their move to Bucktown, a small town two miles south of Milwaukee. In the process they also acquired large tracts of land in the area. If you are on the corner of 6th Street and Howard Ave, in Milwaukee you will see a water tower. That building was on a tract of land that Patrick Cudahy owned, and he gave it to the city. The tower is on the highest point in the city and from the top you can see for many miles. The area where the new plant was built was incorporated in 1896 and Bucktown became Cudahy, miles south and east of the tower. The local high school took the nickname “Packers”. In 1971 the Patrick Cudahy company was sold and after several buyouts a Chinese company bought Smithfield Foods and with it, Patrick Cudahy Meats was obtained. Cudahy High School still uses the nickname Packers but instead of green and gold they are purple and gold. But, in 1994, for that one season, they went by another nickname. The “Purple Plague”.