Jackson-Fairmont football game in 1969 was Halloween thriller
EDITOR’S NOTE: In late October of 1969, the Jackson high school football team played a memorable game against Fairmont in a showdown of unbeaten conference champions. In what was described in the Daily Globe headline as a Halloween thriller, Fairmont won 7-6. Spring sports are canceled, so The Globe is reprinting selected articles from great sports moments of the past. Today’s story (condensed), which appeared in the Nov. 1, 1969 issue of the Daily Globe, returns us to that thrilling Jackson-Fairmont game.
JACKSON (Special) -- Fairmont’s football magic pervaded a misty Swearingen Field just long enough to give them a 7-6 victory over Jackson in a battle of unbeaten conference champions here Halloween night.
It was the fourth straight win over Jackson for the South Central Conference champs, and it was the 31st consecutive win for coach Tom Mahoney’s teams. The streak is the longest one in the state and also ties the state’s all-time consecutive wins record set by St. Cloud Tech.
The victory also enabled the Cards to retain the “Old Oaken Bucket” which goes to the winner of each game in the rivalry-filled series between neighboring communities.
The loss shattered Jackson’s dream for an undefeated season, just the way Fairmont’s 13-6 win spoiled a bid for an undefeated season a year ago. The Southwest Conference champions still finished with an excellent 7-1-1 season record for 1969, but the Fairmont game was the one they wanted most.
Although Halloween superstition has nothing to do with football games, there were some almost-eerie aspects about this grand finale. You could start three weeks ago at Windom, where Jackson’s Steve Petersen, a 5-10, 200-pound bull of a fullback, broke an ankle. Then, about 10 days later, 6-3, 200-pound Blue Jay fullback-linebacker Rick Vacura injured a hip in practice. Petersen and Vacura are regarded as the best of the 1969 Blue Jays.
Vacura went ahead and played against Pipestone the following Friday, but reinjured the hip. The big hush was on. Jackson didn’t want Fairmont to know that its primary runner (about 30 carries per game) wasn’t going to be in top physical shape for the showdown of the unbeatens.
The injury led to a bit of chicanery on the part of Jackson coach Wes Wistrom. “It was in our game plan to use Vacura as a decoy,” Wistrom said. “We hoped to spring (Bill) Hutchinson and (Mike) Simmons … That’s what happened on our conversion try. We worked on that play in practice, using Vacura as a decoy and giving the ball to Hutchinson.”
Hutchinson was stopped just short of the goal on the fourth-quarter play that would have won the game. “We had decided ahead of time to go for the two points in such a situation,” Wistrom said.
The “situation” developed after Fairmont fullback Mark Walters sprinted over his own left tackle and through Jackson’s “4-4 stack” defense for a 7-0 lead on the first offensive play. No ghost, witch or goblin could have startled Jackson fans as much. The scoring potion took effect 2:46 after the game started. Wistrom promptly switched defenses.
Jackson drives carried to the Fairmont 21 and 16-yard lines before the quarter ended, but the Blue Jays didn’t get on the scoreboard until -- wouldn’t you know -- 2:46 had passed in the final quarter.
Wingback Simmons ended an 84-yard drive by scoring on a second-down and 10 play at the Fairmont 21-yard line. He went into formation winged left, ran parallel to the line of scrimmage after the ball was snapped, and veered sharply upfield after quarterback Brent Chozen popped the ball into his stomach. A couple of nice cuts later, he went into the end zone. …
The Halloween weather was a factor in the game. The wet, slippery turf probably benefited the larger Cardinals. Furthermore, Fairmont is not a passing team. It was to their advantage that they never found it necessary to try a pass after they had their 7-0 lead. ...
The Blue Jays weren’t talking about injuries or the playing conditions after the game. They didn’t want, nor did they need anyone’s sympathy. The Jays had come within a broomstick of defeating the sixth-rated team in the state, and coach Wistrom had a good reason to conclude, “I’m proud of my boys.”