Superior’s 1918, 1920 state championship soccer groups amongst fall legends included in new e-book
It was early in the coronavirus pandemic, around March or April, and winter, executive director of the Douglas County Historical Society on John Ave. 1101, was there alone because the other employees had been fired.
“A skeleton crew,” said Winter. “I just made sure the building was warm and did whatever needed to be done. So I started looking up information about the 1918 pandemic. I was looking for this stuff in the newspaper (in the archives) but then I came across this story about the superior football team from 1918. “
Winter put it into practice and discovered more details of this team, including Famer Ernie Nevers’ future Pro Football Hall. Superior Central, as it became known, beat their opponents 427-7 to win the Wisconsin State Championship with an 8-0 record.
After a relatively modest 6-2-1 the following year, the Vikings won another state championship in 1920, beating opponents with a combined 331-34 at 9-0.
Jon Winter (Courtesy Photo by JoAnn Jardine / Studio One Photography)
Six months after his due diligence on the matter, Winter received an inquiry from a Milwaukee Kevin Patrowsky who was compiling a book about the great high school soccer teams in Wisconsin history and wanted to know a little more about these superior juggernauts from a century ago.
Patrowsky came to the right place.
“Kevin did a few things and I think I sent him more than he was really ready,” said Winter with a laugh. “I said, ‘Well how much do you want? I just send you everything. ‘He was pretty excited. But it’s like I’m there with our school exhibition. At some point you will run out of real estate. “
Patrowsky’s newly published book is called The Great Teams: A History of Wisconsin High School Football and can be purchased at wihifootball.com/the-great-teams for $ 20 plus $ 5.99 for shipping and handling.
Patrowsky devoted four pages to the superior soccer teams of 1918 and 1920.
Superior, who was coached by Irl Tubbs, was so good that legend has it that some opponents found excuses not to play them.
“They feared the great Vikings from the far north,” said Patrowsky.
The results show why.
Sorry fans of Duluth Denfeld, this one wasn’t good.
The superior team of 1918 trumped the Hunters 117-0. The Vikings were clearly on a different level, as demonstrated by the following week when they faded the Superior Normal School – now Wisconsin Superior – 27-0. If you add 75, 81, and 61 routes from Two Harbors, Hibbing, and Ashland, you get the idea. The closest Superior to a nail biter this season was a 20-7 win over Duluth Central and a 19-0 win over Eau Claire in the final.
The cover of “The Great Teams: A History of Wisconsin High School Football” by Kevin Patrowsky (photo courtesy Kevin Patrowsky)
The 1920s Superior team wasn’t quite as dominant, including a 7-6 squeaker over Duluth Cathedral, but the Vikings ended the year in style by beating Madison 47-7 in the season finale.
Nevers was on the 1918 team and a captain on the 1919 team, but wasn’t part of the 1920 team. And contrary to what some may believe, Nevers wasn’t the star.
These honors went to halfback John “Ronc” Hancock and quarterback Harold “Fat” Steel.
“Ernie Nevers was really a better basketball player at that point,” said Winter. “He played on the line. So if it led in anything, it led in blocking and he was a phenomenal blocker, but it was Hancock and Steel, they really were the stars of the team. Nevers was a great athlete, everyone knew it, but he was surrounded by great high school athletes. “
68-year-old Patrowsky has long believed in preserving history and honoring the great, regardless of the size of a school they come from.
“When I was in high school, I ended up on the short end of a 73-to-nothing game against Chilton in 1969,” recalled Patrowsky. “You had an all-state player – he was only the second team, and why? – because he was in a small school. After all that, he gets a scholarship to Notre Dame, earns All-American Honors as a close finish, goes to Oakland and becomes All-Pro several times, gets into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that was Dave Casper. “
Casper was part of the legendary Chilton team, who defeated their opponents 363-0 in eight games in 1969.
Superior’s legendary teams from 1918 and 1920 certainly increased their share of insane numbers as well, as Patrowsky mentions in his book.
Kevin Patrowsky (Photo courtesy Kevin Patrowsky)
In that aforementioned Denfeld defeat, Hancock scored 49 points out of six touchdowns and 13 extra points. Against hibbing that year he had 51 points with eight touchdowns and three extra points.
Against two ports, Steel, associated with a name, will remember superior sports fanatics, Ted Whereatt, nine catches for 279 yards – a single-game state record that lasted until 1981 – and three touchdowns.
“Sums that were unknown for this era,” emphasized Patrowsky in his book. “The Superior Central squad from 1918 scored 427 points in just eight games, which is an average of 53.4 points per game. That average per game is a record that continues today as every other top 10 team has played for the past 25 years. “
While Patrowsky’s travels left the state, Cliff Christl, sports writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, assembled the state’s all-time team in 1993 for the 100th anniversary of the Milwaukee City Conference. One of the people who received an Honorable Mention was John Hancock.
Hancock played at the University of Iowa before getting into college coaching. In 1932 he attended the Colorado State Teachers College in Greeley (now the University of Northern Colorado) and was the school’s sports director for 34 years. There he had an interesting relationship with Patrowsky, whose mother was born and raised in Greeley and worked in the sports department while studying.
“The all-time team had the years that Hancock had played. One day when I was in the historical society in Madison I was looking for Superior in 1918 and was just overwhelmed by the information about the team,” said Patrowsky. “Then I started thinking, if Hancock was only his sophomore, what did he do for the next two years?”
Hancock continued to boom in numbers over the next two years to end a stellar high school career. Despite his injuries, he finished his career with 485 career points with 73 touchdowns and 47 extra points.
“Yes, for whatever reason, whatever my excuse, with the 1918 state championship team there have been some refusals to play them,” Winter said. “Other teams that might have won the national championship simply refused to play them – they were so good.”