Readers start helping out with area’s all-time best football playersThe following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by award-winning Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Superior Telegram.
By: By Don Leighton, For The Telegram, Superior Telegram
I have received some early responses to the challenge I, Lance Boyle, BS, punted to all football fans in last Friday’s paper.
Three people have responded with some names that are truly some of the greatest who donned the football pads at Northwestern and Superior High Schools.
I need more names to create a representative list of those gridiron greats who graced the green grassy glens of football.
Dan Johnson has some great choices. Bruce Matheson was injured most of his Senior year, but he still earned a spot in the shrine game, earned a scholarship to Nebraska — where he played for legendary Tom Osborne — and was drafted in 1983 by the San Diego Chargers to play for legendary coach Don “Air” Coryell.
Who was the starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills before Jim Kelly arrived from the Houston Gamblers of the short lived USFL? Bruce Matheson. Great trivia question.
Others on Johnson’s list include members of the 1983 Superior Senior High School team, including Pete Preo, who played collegiately at Hamline for four years; Paul Gidley, who played baseball with the Minnesota Gophers; and Bill Olson and Terry Senn, who played for Minnesota Duluth and UW-Superior, respectively.
“There are many on the 1983 Spartan football team deserving of recognition,” Johnson said. “It was really the breakthrough team that set up the success of the later teams,” Johnson said.
Erik Raygor would be Johnson’s choice of kicker.
Hard to argue with that as one of the biggest field goals in state history occurred on a snowy, blustery day in 1990. Raygor kicked a 40-yard field goal that hit the crossbar as time expired to win the game against Green Bay Preble, 17-14. The Spartans trailed at the half, 14-0. SSHS went on to become state champions defeating heavily favored Kenosha Tremper, 20-7.
Am I stupid (no comment from Pat Flynn is necessary), but does this kick not rank with Mike Stack’s “Shot Heard ’round the State” made against Milwaukee Lincoln? His shot tied the game to force overtime in the 1974 state championship basketball game. Superior defeated heavily favored Lincoln, 74-67 for the school’s only state title in basketball.
Johnson also remembers Larry Banks, more from his days at UWS as part of that record setting defense, but also knows his time at SSHS was legendary.
Telegram photographer Jed Carlson has some great choices from Northwestern, including Kiel Fechtelkotter, a two-time national champion at UMD; Clayton Leith; Mark Simonson; Austin Lind; TJ Polkoski; Ryan Miesbauer’ and Donnie Hissa. What an impressive group.
Five greats for the Spartans come to mind for Carlson, including Chris Blake, Joe Reichert, Chad Izzard, Max Phillips and Greg Aker. Having had the opportunity to webcast the Spartan games on ifan, I concur with Carlson’s choices.
Brad Hill brings up a lot of great Tigers. In addition to my selections of Tom Burke, Jeff Anttila and Scott Moreland, he names a few more for our consideration. I cannot argue with any of his choices.
Randy Levine, one of the toughest players I ever saw, heads the list. Also included is Roger Smith who, according to Hill, had “blazing speed and excellent hands — I don’t recall him dropping a pass in a game.”
Smith is also one of the area’s greatest slow-pitch softball players of all time.
Hill also named Eric Trautt, a halfback with great speed and Shane Schiff, who was a defensive end and strong guard on offense. Schiff was all-state at both positions.
“He made tackles all over the field and was the anchor of that stingy defense,” Hill said.
Northwestern’s starting defense allowed a paltry three points during that magical season of 1988.
Lance adds from that team, Mark Weinandt at quarterback and safety, Shane Sedin at fullback, and Mark Pocernich at defensive back. Matt Abell was an all-state defensive lineman. Greg Nelson played tackle and David Palaus played offensive tackle.
These and more, that my memory does not recall, could all have been named all-state that season. The Tigers defeated Prarie du Chien in the state championship game 31-7 to finish the season at 13-0.
Josh, Nate and Luke Jipson were mentioned by Hill along with all-around great athlete, Steve Saari. He also mentions a guy I played with, quarterback Greg Knoll. From personal experience, Knoll could throw the ball at least 80 yards and had velocity. My hands still hurt. He is one of the best athletes to ever play at Northwestern.
If Northwestern had a sports hall of fame, he would be one of the first to be inducted. (Northwestern HOF? Interesting thought.)
Send me more, people. Our area has a rich tradition in football. Let’s keep it alive by honoring the great players of our time.
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