The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by Don Leighton and his alter ego, Lance Boyle, which runs occasionally in The Superior Telegram.
The year 1990 was a great year, wasn’t it? Cheers was the No. 1 television show of the year (you have to love Cliff and Norm). Home Alone was the top movie and the top song was “Because I Love You” by Stevie B. A gallon of gas was $1.16. I was only 38, weighed 50 pounds less, had no gray hair and was commonly mistaken for Tom Selleck. OK, I lied about the Selleck part.
The greatest part about 1990 was that a group of young men and coaches from Superior Senior High School accomplished something for the only time in the 45-year history of the school. Tonight, this state championship football team will be honored at halftime of the SHS-D.C. Everest game played at historic Ole Haugsrud Field.
What culminated on Friday, Nov. 9, 1990 was in the works for many years from the early years of Pony League Football to that fateful and historic day. Many of these young men and coaches have been close for years. Winning a championship creates that bond, but you can’t come together late in the game and be as successful as the Spartans of 1990.
When practice began in early August, the Spartans had 20 returning lettermen among a group of 60 players competing for a spot on the varsity. Only two starters returned from the previous season.
According to Coach Tom Mestelle,
“We will be very small this year with just one or two players over 200 pounds,” SHS coach Tom Mestelle said at the time. “We hope to make up this deficit with quickness and speed,”
You can’t win a state championship with a team that small. Can you?
The Spartans reeled off eight straight wins to begin the season before losing to the Fargo (ND) South Bruins, at the time ranked No. 24 in the country. Fargo was looking for its fifth undefeated season in six years. In their 22-0 victory over Superior, their first string defense kept their enviable record intact: no points allowed all season.
“Senior High is a very good team, they played with a lot of heart,” Fargo South coach Dale Hertel said of the Spartans.
That is the only way Superior knew how to play football.
Finishing the regular season at 8-1, the Spartans defeated playoff opponents Wisconsin Rapids, 21-7; Eau Claire North, 20-14 in overtime; on the strength of Eric Raygor’s 2-yard plunge; and Green Bay Preble, 17-14.
There was no lack of excitement in the Preble game. Down 14-0 at the half, the coaching staff made adjustments; the Spartans tied the game and then advanced to the state championship game when Raygor kicked a 40-yard field goal through the cold, windy and rainy atmosphere.
Oh, by the way, the kick was attempted as time expired and hit the crossbar on its way through the uprights. Right, no excitement.
Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, around 4,600 fans, 11-1 Superior to battle 12-0 Kenosha Tremper. The “experts” said Superior had no chance to win.
At approximately 9 p.m. on that fateful night in Nov., Superior hoisted the state championship trophy after a 20-7 victory. In defeating Kenosha, according to Stan May of the Telegram, “Superior ended Kenosha’s 12-game win streak.”
The Spartans are the only team to score more than one touchdown against the Trojans, who had allowed just 40 points in their first 12 contests. The Trojans allowed just two extra points that year. Raygor’s run was the only two-point conversion.”
Seniors Jason Moreau and Derick Gudowski and junior Mike Gidley have common reflections on that magical year.
“We were all best friends and would do anything for each other,” Moreau said. “Our coaching staff was outstanding.”
“We were a unique blend of outstanding coaching, better than average talent, blue collar determination and an unmatchable belief in one another,” said Gidley, the starting quarterback.
“We, Not Me’ is what we preached and practiced until the end.”
Gudowski recalls, “One thing we learned immediately was that we would never work harder physically in our lives. Each of us quickly gained respect for everyone out there because they had character in order to make it through Coach Mestelle’s two-a-day practices.”
Mestelle remembers this special team as a unique blend of players, excellent athletes who cared for each other and would take a bullet for each other.
“The team chemistry was incredible and everyone got along,” Mestelle said. “I had a remarkable coaching staff who worked unusually hard to accomplish something. We were close in 1988 and 1989 and were determined to finish the job.”
If we had quotes from all of the players and coaches, they would reflect the same principles. These young men and coaches were a true team. They had each other’s back and defied all odds on their way to glory. A lack of physical size means nothing if you have heart, desire, commitment, toughness, a never give up attitude, and make good personal choices. The Spartans had these qualities and more. That is why they are, and always will be, state champions.
Many of those players, coaches, and cheerleaders will be at the game tonight and will be recognized and honored at halftime. Team members included: Seniors Gudowski, Jim Hogan, Pete Waletzko, Matt Call, Eric Smith, Bill Brand, Andy Johnson, Ron Hedberg, Jeff Reasbeck, Brian DeKiep, Raygor, Jasin Lach, Harley Anderson, Rick Hart, Matt Stariha, Jamie Wick, Eric Guenard, Jason VanErt, Erik Kunz, Greg Venne, Moreau, David Kloslowski, Neil Thompson and Chris Christianson. Junior players were, Jeff Wanic, Bill Connolly, Pat Boyle, Gidley, Izzy Turner, Tim Nelson, Rob Maki, Jay Matushak, Neil Anderson, Doug Clark, James Olson, Mark Rengel, Dan Deveze, Steve Kirk, Ryan Rivord, Pete James, Bruce Brown, Pete Tratechaud, Dennis Dolsen, Scott Wermter, Jeff Tackle, Joel Ross and Erik Larson. Jason Pahlen and Barry Scruggs were student managers. The cheerleaders were Carrie Sharp, Nicole Nelson, Kristine Buchanan, Carrie Cahill, Carmen Lucci, Kristie O’Kash, Amy Johnson, and Stephanie Moncel.
The coaching staff consisted of Tom Mestelle, Bob Glockner, Rick Kennelly, Charlie Law, Bill Mestelle, Dean Hoff, Dale Dhooge, Perky Hanson, Mike Sweeney and Bob DeMeyer.
When introduced, please give them a standing ovation for this great accomplishment.
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