BLAST FROM THE PAST: Close-knit seniors lead 1984 Trojans to state semifinalsWORTHINGTON — From the soundtrack off the television movie “Eddie and the Cruisers,” the hit single “On the Dark Side,” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band was No. 14 on Billboard’s Top 40 list, while the top four songs were “Caribbean Queen (Billy Ocean), “I Just Called To Say I Love You” (Stevie Wonder), “Purple Rain” (Prince) and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (Wham).
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — From the soundtrack off the television movie “Eddie and the Cruisers,” the hit single “On the Dark Side,” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band was No. 14 on Billboard’s Top 40 list, while the top four songs were “Caribbean Queen (Billy Ocean), “I Just Called To Say I Love You” (Stevie Wonder), “Purple Rain” (Prince) and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (Wham).
On that first Saturday of November in 1984, while Worthington distance runners Wayne Drealan, Stan Haas and Jim Darling were competing well in the Riverfront Marathon in Omaha, “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters was also getting plenty of air time.
That afternoon (Nov. 3) at Mankato State, Worthington football fans had plenty to get excited about, as the Trojans — aided by a trio of punt blocks — defeated arch-rival Marshall (21-8) to win the Section II-A football title and advance to the state tournament.
“It was a very windy day,” remembers long-time WHS head football coach Dennis Hale, who guided the Trojans from 1977-2009. “The team that had the wind at their backs had a huge advantage. It was really blowing strong.”
In the first year of the expanded playoffs, Southwest Conference co-champions Marshall and Worthington had each won a pair of post-season games and were meeting for the section championship.
The Trojans had edged the Tigers (3-0) on an overtime field goal by senior Jim Berger at Marshall in the fourth game of the season (Sept. 21), giving Marshall its only loss.
With even more at stake this time, the senior-loaded Trojans put on a defensive clinic, holding Marshall to a mere 99 yards of total offense.
Early in the game WHS senior defensive tackle Brian Iverson broke through the Marshall line and blocked a Tiger punt, which was recovered by senior defensive back Craig Hayenga at the MHS 28.
Several plays later, All-State senior tailback Dave Peterson scored on a one-yard plunge and Berger’s kick gave the Trojans an early 7-0 lead.
The aggressive and opportunistic Trojan defense blocked another punt near the end of the first quarter. Hayenga blocked the kick, which was recovered by senior lineman Troy Hoefker, who rambled 16 yards for a Trojan touchdown. Berger’s kick made it 14-0 with 1:30 left in the first quarter.
“We called the block both times,” Hale said. “Marshall was punting into the wind. Our guys made some big plays that made those blocks possible.”
Marshall scored its only touchdown on a 90 yard interception return on the last play of the first quarter, after the Trojans had recovered a fumble and were driving towards the goal line again.
Neither team scored in either the second or third quarter, but the Tigers drove down to the WHS five-yard line midway through the third period.
The drive stalled, however, when Marshall fumbled and WHS senior Dan Guimont recovered and returned the ball 20 yards — one of four loose-ball recoveries by the Trojans in the game.
WHS stretched its lead with a four-minute touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
Trojan senior defensive end Andy Raedeke blocked a Marshall punt with 10:33 remaining in the game, setting up Worthington at the Marshall 42. A few plays later, facing a fourth down and nine, WHS senior quarterback Keith Balster connected with Hayenga on a 13-yard pass completion to keep the drive alive. Peterson, who finished the game with 88 yards on 25 rushes, scored from three yards out and Berger’s third PAT of the game gave WHS a 21-8 lead with 6:11 left.
With a two-touchdown lead, the determined Trojan defense recorded several more sacks to finish the game, setting off the wild celebration of Trojan players and fans who were state-bound and “so excited.”
“That game really stands out,” remembers Iverson, who teaches social studies at the Worthington Middle School and coached baseball at Minnesota West for several seasons. “Beating Marshall for the section championship is something I will always remember.”
Trojans edge Lakeville, 36-34, in state playoffs
On the Sunday following Worthington’s second victory of the season over Marshall, the Vikings (coached that year by Les Steckel) snapped a five-game losing streak on the strength of Jan Stenerud’s 53-yard field goal with two seconds left, giving them a 27-24 win over Tampa Bay, which would be Minnesota’s last victory in a 3-13 campaign.
Two days later, Ronald Reagan was re-elected President, as U.S. Senator Walter Mondale — who grew up in Ceylon, Heron Lake and Elmore — carried only Minnesota. Rudy Boschwitz defeated Joan Growe in the Minnesota Senate race and Vin Weber, a 1970 graduate of Slayton High School, was re-elected to his seat as a U.S. Representative from Minnesota’s Second Congressional District.
Meanwhile, the Trojans were preparing for the state playoffs and the challenging task of stopping Lakeville’s high-powered offense.
Representing the Missota Conference and ranked fifth in the state in Class A (11-Man teams were divided into Classes AA, A, B and C), Lakeville had won its section with victories over Montgomery (34-7), Stewartville (41-18) and Jordan (35-14).
Lakeville’s starting unit had not punted in any of its playoff victories and had opened up a 28-0 halftime lead on a highly-regarded Jordan team in the finals.
“We’re at the top of our game right now,” Lakeville head coach Larry Thompson told the Daily Globe in a preview written by Doug Wolter, on the Thursday preceding the contest. “But, Worthington has an excellent defense and will give us a better challenge defensively than we’ve had in a long time.”
The game was played at Southwest State in Marshall on Saturday, Nov. 10, 1984.
It was cold and windy, although the wind was not nearly as strong as the previous Saturday at Mankato.
“It was a great football game,” Hale recalls. “We got a lead and then won the game with some dramatic plays and a little luck in the overtime.”
Forcing Lakeville to punt three times in the first half, the Trojans utilized superior field position to open up a 21-7 halftime lead.
But with hard-running Steve Shiner continually pounding the ball to Lakeville’s left side, the game became closer in the second half. Shiner, who had rushed for more than 3,500 yards and scored more than 50 touchdowns in his career, was an All-State first-teamer.
A third-quarter TD by Shiner trimmed the Trojan lead to 21-14, but Worthington had the wind at its back in the fourth quarter and re-claimed a two-touchdown advantage after senior Skip Feenstra recovered a Lakeville fumble that led to Peterson’s third TD.
“We were up 28-14 and they were going into the wind,” Hale remembers. “But we couldn’t stop them. They just kept pounding the ball to their left, picking up five or six yards on each run.”
Lakeville, which had been predicted to win the state championship by an article in the Minneapolis Tribune, eventually scored a pair of touchdowns and tied the contest at 28-all, setting up overtime.
Balster, Guimont, Kuiper, Peterson come up with key plays in overtime
The Trojans got the ball first and scored on the first play, as Balster fired a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Guimont, who made a leaping one-handed catch in the end zone, putting the Trojans up 34-28.
What happened next is a memorable moment in WHS sports history.
“We were going to run a fake kick,” Hale explained. “But somehow it did not get communicated to everyone.”
Senior wide receiver Marc Kuiper was Berger’s holder and was surprised when the Trojan place-kicker whiffed at the ball (the fake). With the ball in his hands, the quick-reacting Kuiper (who would later excel as a receiver at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa), streaked to the corner of the end zone and scored a two-point conversion for the Trojans, giving WHS a 36-28 lead.
“It was a great effort by Marc,” says Hale. “But, we were totally lucky that he was able to make that play on his own.”
According to Kuiper (in the Daily Globe game account, written by Wolter): “It was a busted play. Our fake kick called for me to throw a screen pass, but I thought that Jim (Berger) just missed the ball. So I just took off and ran to the end zone.”
Worthington’s good fortune continued, as the Trojans came up with a big stop on Lakeville’s two-point conversion try — after Shiner had scored a touchdown on his third rush of the possession.
“For some reason, they tried to trick us on the two-point try,” Hale remembered. “Instead of coming at us again on the left side, they went right and Dave Peterson was there and made a great play, stopping them short and giving us the win.”
“I really remember that play,” Iverson recalled. “Dave just played off the block and completely stood Shiner up and pushed him back.”
With the dramatic victory over Lakeville, the Trojans continued their season with a trip north to Hutchinson to meet the defending state-champion Tigers, who had defeated Worthington in a close-contest (21-12) at Trojan Field in the 1983 state quarterfinals.
Hutchinson wins back-to-back titles in ’83 and ‘84
After sharing the Southwest Conference title with Marshall and Jackson in 1983, the Trojans won the coin flip to advance to the playoffs that year and hosted Hutchinson in the first round of the state tournament.
The junior-dominated Trojans outgained Hutchinson by a 221-103 yard margin, as Balster passed for 116 yards. But Hutchinson prevailed and went on to win the state title.
The Tigers, who had defeated Totino-Grace (32-6) in the state quarterfinals in ‘84, hosted the Trojans in the state semifinals on Friday evening, Nov. 16, 1984.
“If it had been then like it is now, we would have played at the Dome and people would really remember it,” said Hale about that state semifinal trip. “But, we played at Hutchinson on a very cold night. At least it wasn’t windy, but it was cold and the game was competitive through the first quarter. They made a great catch on a long pass for the game’s first touchdown and then pretty much dominated the game after that.”
Undefeated and top-ranked all season, Hutchinson opened up a 20-0 halftime lead and led 34-0 before WHS junior Dave Schafer scored for the Trojans on a five-yard run up the middle with 5:21 left in the game.
Hutchinson added a late touchdown, winning the game (40-7) and ending an exciting Worthington seven-game winning streak just one game short of the 1984 Prep Bowl.
Hutchinson won a second consecutive state title with a 32-7 victory over Centennial in Prep Bowl III.
Closeness of ‘84 seniors continues 25 years later
Of all the game success enjoyed by the Trojans that season, the thing that stands out most for Hale is how close-knit that team was — and still is today.
“The players on that team have maintained their friendships over the years,” Hale said. “That’s something that I have noticed about other successful teams, too.”
Iverson agreed with that.
“We like to chat about those days,” he said. “We had some good times and have a lot of memories from that season. We still see each other and talk about our football days as Trojans.”
Minnesota West head football coach Jeff Linder was a senior starting offensive tackle for those ‘84 Trojans and spoke of how close-knit the team was and about the way they each supported one another.
“There was no one guy that felt he was more important than the next,” Linder recalled. “We all played for each other and that whole season was a blast.”
Two of Linder’s assistant coaches at West were also members of that ‘84 team, but as juniors their playing time came the next season, helping the 1985 Trojans sport a 5-4 record.
Gene Lais was a junior tackle and Scott Barber was a junior wide receiver and defensive back.
“I was backing up a pair of outstanding defensive backs in “Hutch” (senior Scott Haugen) and Hayenga,” remembered Barber. “We had a tremendous group of seniors in ‘84 and it was a good learning experience being a part of that team.”
Lais echoed those thoughts.
“We had a great group of guys and it was fun being a part of that,” he said. “It was a great experience and playing well was important to those seniors.”
Linder, Barber and Lais all spoke highly of Hale.
“Coach Hale was always there to prepare us and guide us,” Linder exclaimed. “He supported us so much and he got the best out of us because he wanted the best for us.”
“Coach Hale was the greatest — one of a kind,” declared Barber. “I respect him so much. The life lessons that he taught us were just amazing. He is a class act in everything that he says and does.”
“Coach Hale had a positive influence on all of us,” praised Lais. “He was fun to play for and we learned a lot about football, while learning how to handle the ups and downs that go with it.”
High expectations take hold in early victories
Wolter’s pre-season preview about the Trojans in the Saturday, Aug. 25 issue had the following headline:
“Experience marks ’84 Trojans.”
Senior Rich Inman started at center on the Trojan offensive line, while Iverson and junior Monte Einck flanked him as the guards.
Linder held down one of the tackle slots, while senior Wayne Nau manned the other.
Guimont was the starting tight end, while senior Troy King played split end.
Hayenga and Kuiper ran in the plays and shared time as the other wide receiver.
Balster returned as the starting quarterback and Berger played fullback, while Peterson was featured as the tailback in Hale’s I-formation.
The Trojans opened the season with a 20-13 home-field victory over Fairmont, getting the season off to a good start.
Berger “Mr. Inside” scored all three Worthington touchdowns and Balster was 12-of-20 passing for 211 yards. King caught seven passes for 122 yards and Guimont hauled in three for 71 yards.
Worthington racked up 403 total yards, while holding the Cardinals to 59.
Senior linebacker Brian Roos was the Trojans’ defensive point leader in ‘84, coming up with a total of 243, as he had 51 solo tackles and 81 assists — both team highs.
Raedeke (211), Nau (192), Hoefker (178), Guimont (166), Balster (153), Peterson (149), Haugen (146), Iverson (143), Feenstra (118) and Hayenga (109) also racked up over 100 defensive points for the season.
The Trojans intercepted 21 passes that season, as Balster picked off six (133 return yards), while Hayenga and Peterson both had four picks.
Worthington’s defense stepped up big in Game 2, as the Trojans traveled to Windom and posted a 27-7 victory over the Eagles.
Peterson scored four touchdowns for the Trojans that night and Raedeke was praised by Hale for an exceptional game from his defensive end position, as was Einck — the only junior in the WHS starting line-up — for his play at offensive guard.
“Worthington is a good team, they just out-muscled us on the line,” exclaimed Windom coach Ron Meyer, about the Trojans in the Globe’s game story.
Totino-Grace victory is big boost for Trojans
The Trojans hosted Totino- Grace, a Twin Cities powerhouse, in Game 3.
“They came down in two greyhound buses and had an impressive pre-game warm-up,” Hale remembered. “I told Kuip (assistant coach Don Kuiper) ‘Well, they just kicked the snot out of us in pre-game warm-up.’ But during the game, they never crossed the 50-yard line.”
Applying tremendous pressure on the fourth-ranked Eagles, the Trojans intercepted six passes that night and claimed a 13-0 victory.
Linder remembers that game well.
“They thought they were pretty special,” he recalled. “But, we took it as an opportunity to show what we could do against a big city school. Winning that game meant a whole lot.”
Next came the 3-0 overtime win at Marshall, improving the Trojans to 4-0 and moving them to No. 3 in the Class A state poll.
But, Redwood Falls came to town on Sept. 28 and defeated the Trojans, 22-15, on Homecoming night.
“That was a tough thing to swallow,” remembers Linder. “It brought us down, but we sustained ourselves and we played better after that.”
They had to — for league-leading Jackson was next.
The Trojans intercepted four passes in that game and posted a key 21-7 victory over the Bluejays — a team that would win the Class B state championship the following season.
“Worthington just had a better football team than we did,” said Jackson head coach Ty Wacker about that 1984 contest in the Daily Globe game story.
Roos had six solo tackles — three for a loss — and six assists in Worthington’s 33-0 victory over Pipestone at Trojan Field on Oct. 12.
Balster fired a 60-yard touchdown pass to King on the first WHS play from scrimmage, Guimont ran 57 yards with a fumble recovery in the second quarter and Balster scored on a 45-yard interception return in the third quarter, as the Trojans had a number of big plays.
Peterson capped a pair of sustained drives with TD’s, including one that was kept alive by a Balster to junior Tim Mogck 13-yard pass completion on a fourth-and-five.
With a 6-1 record, the Trojans finished the regular season with a 10-0 victory over Luverne in a “Mud Bowl” on MEA Wednesday, giving Worthington a share of the conference title.
“A conference championship is something the seniors can be proud of,” Hale was quoted in the Daily Globe account of that game.
But there was more excitement to come for the ’84 Trojans, as playoff victories over Windom (34-7) and Fairmont (24-16) at Trojan Field advanced Worthington to the sectional title game for its rematch with Marshall.
A 52-yard TD pass from Balster to King was a highlight play of the Windom win, while Kuiper’s 55-yard punt return for a touchdown was a big play in the Fairmont victory — as was the late-game onside kick recovery by Schafer.
Final ‘84 stat leaders
Peterson finished the season with 1,305 yards rushing on 263 carries, while scoring 19 touchdowns.
Berger kicked 27 PAT’s and a trio of field goals.
Balster was 76-of-145 passing for 1,155 yards, including five touchdowns.
King had 30 catches for 458 yards, while Guimont (19 for 355) and Hayenga (12 for 218) were also key receivers for those ’84 Trojans.
Kuiper returned 11 punts for 178 yards, while Balster had 133 yards on 14 punt returns. Hayenga returned 13 kickoffs for 259 yards.
Berger kicked off (42 times), while Iverson — who did all the punting (41 times) — kicked off nine times.
That statistic — 51 kickoffs, compared to 41 punts — is an indication of the type of success that the 1984 Trojans enjoyed.
“It was a special year,” concluded Hale. “We had a lot of good players — that’s why we won 11 games and went as far as we did in the playoffs.”