While in Vermillion to attend the induction of this year's USD Coyote Athletic Hall-of-Fame last Saturday, I ran into a long-time friend at the new "Hall-of-Fame Wall" in the DakotaDome.
A Coyote star of a few years back, Joe Trudeau was a member of one of the state's most dominating high school football teams ever — the Jefferson Blackhawks of the late 1960s, whose unmatched strength and speed made them the absolute rulers of South Dakota's eight-man grid teams in the pre-football playoff days.
Trudeau, who went on to become an all-NCC tight end in the days of coach Joe Salem, still lives in the Jefferson area and is still proud to have been a member of the state's strongest and fastest small school team, a team that, in 1967, in the midst of their 33-game win streak, not only won all of their games, but by an average score of 75-3. A good Wakonda team gave them their toughest game, but fell 60-3.
The hardest thing that the Jefferson High team had to face was being labeled "pour it on," a term that their coach, Matt Mottice, explained in this way, "It was phenomenal. We had so much speed and strength that we simply overmatched all of our competition. We didn't have a lot of players, but the ones we had were not only talented, but they were hard workers. They spent every day in the off season working on their physical skills and getting better."
The Blackhawks not only dominated the football fields of the state, but also the track. They were the state Class B track and field champions in both 1968 and 1969, and were the runners-up in 1967.
There is no doubt what is classified as their biggest football game. Their win streak had reached 27 when the "Onida Challenge" came. Onida's streak was at 31 and their irrepressible coach, Jerry Kassin, demanded a show-down, "any time, any place." So the big game was scheduled to be played at a half-way site, Mitchell's Kernel Field, early in the 1968 season, and there was a large crowd on hand to see the struggle. Onida drew first blood when two of their stars, Dan Lamb and Tom Fox, teamed up to score on a 23-yard pass play. But it didn't take Jefferson long to get that back when the Blackhawk's quarterback, Dave Roach, passed to Trudeau good for 48 yards and a tying score. It was, incidentally, the first touchdown scored on Onida in their last 13 games.
From that score, the Blackhawks marched to their convincing 33-14 victory.
Five members of that Jefferson team went on to college stardom. Trudeau was an all-North Central Conference player at USD. Quarterback Tom Gorman played well for Jack Martin and Jack Richardson at USD/Springfield, and three of the team members, Marc Bernard, Marc Crevier and Maurice Crevier became Ohio college stars when they attended Ashland College in the Buckeye State.
Trudeau said, "We had so much speed that we'd just pitch the ball outside and go. Most of the guys could run the hundred in 10.4 or less, in fact, one of our linemen, Marc Bernard, placed in the 100 at the state meet in 10.2." Trudeau, incidentally, was a state 120-yard high hurdle champion and ran a 14.9.
Another rumor that circulated in the Jefferson hey-day was that several of the Jefferson stars were really from Sioux City, just a few miles down I 29. "That just wasn't true," Trudeau said. "We were all local kids — either from town or from farms a couple of miles outside."
One oustanding Jefferson family, Ray, Sr. and Pat Crevier, produced five South Dakota all-staters among their 12 children — in addition to one of the finest female athletes ever. Maurice Crevier began the unequalled family string when he was selected as a halfback on the 1968 all-state first team. Then came Marc, a first team linebacker in 1969. Both attended Ashland, where coach Mottice obviously had connections.
Ray, Jr. was a 195-pound all-state linebacker in 1978 and Bruce was named the all-state first team punter in 1983, the fifth Crevier football all-stater.
The star of the family, however, was Tanya, who, in her senior year at South Dakota State, where she started four years on the women's basketball team, was named the Female Athlete of the Year in South Dakota. She has since traveled the world over and is a highly regarded lecturer and fancy basketball handler — a talent that she uses in her evangelistic career as a Christian role model. She has been joined in this endeavor by brother Bruce, who is in the Guiness Book of Records for spinning 16 basketballs at one time. Tanya became a member of the South Dakota Sports Hall-of-Fame in 1990.
The Jefferson school district has now become an integral part of the Elk Point-Jefferson district. But the Jefferson Blackhawks, now history, remain an outstanding part of South Dakota sports history.
To contact Hod Nielsen, e-mail him at email@example.com.