Early though it may be, the football season is well underway. That fact not only triggers present emotions, but gets avid high school fans to reminisce about which teams were the best in past years.
Several teams stand out as I think back on the dimming years. I can remember, for example, the undefeated (and almost unscored on) Yankton Bucks of 1930, and the powerhouses with which Howard Wood dominated the ESD with his Sioux Falls Washington Warriors of the 1930s, challenged only by the strong Huron Tigers under George DeKlotz, and Bob Burns' fine Warriors teams in the '50s. There are those who acclaim Rollie Greeno's great streak with Wessington Springs and Milbank teams forty or so years back, or Max Hawk's outstanding 30-years with the Yankton Bucks, and there was Bob Schroeder's great Miller teams — and 0llie Heitman's string of wins with the Wakonda Warriors — almost every area of the state has bragging rights on one team or another. Many of them owning so-called "mythical state championships" because they were in existence prior to state football playoffs, which had their beginning in 1981.
But — regardless of loyalties — the Jefferson Blackhawks of 1965-1969 — an eight-man team, must be considered the state's most domineering. Coached by Matt Mottice, who wasn't the state's most popular coach, they put together a 34-game win streak in those years. Their 1967 team not only won all of their nine games, they had a season average score per game of 75-3. Wakonda's Warriors was their closest game, and they fell 60-7. Three of the Blackhawk wins were 89-0.
Mottice, often accused of "pouring it on," had this explanation. "We didn't have very many players at Jefferson, but those that we had were excellent athletes. We had a great deal of quality and a burning desire to win and to win decisively. Our talent was unbelieveable."
His athletes proved it with state track and field championships in the spring, when the took home gold medals in all of the short relay races and several individual races.
In 1968 there was another power in the state's eight-man ranks — a central South Dakota powerhouser that had a winning streak even greater than Jefferson's, the Onida Warriors, coached by Jerry Kassin. Kassin badgered Mottice for a game — a showdown he would play — "anyplace, anytime."
So a mythical "State Championship" game was slated to be played a neutral site, which was Mitchell's Kernel Field — a midway point, and they met in late September, 1968 before a huge crowd. Onida boasted a 31- game winning and Jefferson had won 27 in a row when they kicked off. After a scoreless first half, Onida scored on a Dan Lamb to Tom Fox 23-yard pass play. The Blackhawks countered when Dave Roach passed to Joe Trudeau for 48 yards to tie the score, the first touchdown the Warriors had given up in 13 straight games, and Jefferson rolled from there as they continued their unbeaten string with a decisive 33-14 victory.
The Jefferson team included Trudeau, who became a USD Coyote Hall-of-Famer and Tom Gordon, who played collegiately for coaches Jack Martin and Jack Richardson, of the Southern State Pointers, at ends; Marc Bernard and Terry Cole at guard; Joe Pruhl at center, Roach was the quarterback and Rich Johnson joined two Crevier brothers, Maurice and Marc, at running backs.
The Crevier brothers were forerunners of a family who became Jefferson legends. Five brothers in that family were named to all-state teams, no doubt a state first and only.
Maurice later became an NCAA Division II all-American at Ashland (Ohio) College, the same school that Marc attended. Ray Jr. came along in 1972 and played with the Navy (Annapolis) team in college. Then Bert was an all-conference star with Dakota State after his graduation in 1978 from Jefferson High, and , in 1983, Bruce was named all-state punter and then played for Bethel College in St. Paul, Minn.
The Crevier boy's sister, Tanya, who, in spite of her small size became a all-NCC cager for South Dakota State and who is a South Dakota Sports Hall-of-Fame honoree, became famous world wide, known as the "World's Best Female Basketball Handler." Bruce also made the Guiness record book for his ball-handling feats.
Both Tanya and Bruce used their talents to augment a desire to bring their message of their strong Christian faith to their fans.
There can be no denying the 1965-1969 Jefferson Blackhawks' claim as one of the best — if not the best — of South Dakota's eight man teams.
To contact Hod Nielsen, e-mail him at email@example.com.