Elk Mound football history: Part 3 – Mounders find plenty of success in nineties

by Marlys Kruger, Messenger Sports

After ending the 1989 season as the Division 5 state runner up, Dan Pedersen and his Elk Mound football team had high hopes of continuing their success as they started a new decade. As it turned out, they  had plenty of it as they steam rolled through the conference in 1990 with a perfect 9-0 record and went all the way to the state finals for the second straight year.

 Pedersen was starting his 17th season leading the team which began the year with a 27-7 win over Spring Valley, holding the Cardinals to 57 total yards, all through the air. Trevor Linberg, a receiver the past couple of years, took over at quarterback for W.J. Vincent and immediately let his presence be known by throwing a pair of scoring strikes, one to Pat Rhude and another to Kyle Jensen while Jake Morris ran the ball in for a score. Morris added two more in a 20-0 win over Colfax and against a tough St. Croix Central team, Linberg ran in for a score, kicked an extra point and threw a TD pass to Jensen for a 13-6 win. In what turned out to be Pedersen’s 100th career win, Morris scored three times as they blanked Boyceville 48-0. Another shutout followed, 36-0 over Pepin-Arkansas and with Bob Rhodes hitting paydirt three times on the ground, the Mounders crushed Glenwood City 55-6. Rhodes again scored three times in a 42-14 win against Prescott and the Mounders clinched their second straight conference championship with a 22-8 win over Elmwood, after being down 8-0 at the half. Rhude replaced an injured Linberg at quarterback in the game and Rhodes, Morris and Jesse Zurbuchen (back from an injury) all scored on running plays. A final 47-15 win over Plum City gave them a perfect 9-0 regular season record.

Heading into D5 playoffs again, they creamed Cochrane-Fountain City 35-0 as five Mounders scored including Zurbuchen, Jensen, Morris, Linberg and Rhude. They continued to roll with a 14-0 win against Somerset on a day in which stiff, high winds allowed them to attempt only one pass in the game while Somerset was 0 for 4 in that department. A smothering defense led by Jeff Koller and Zurbuchen who combined for 30 tackles allowed them to post the shutout. The next round proved to be a little tougher as they faced Crivitz. The game was tied at 21-21 at the half as Rhodes scored twice and Linberg combined with Jensen from 50 yards out, then Rhude put the Mounders up on a 40 yard run. Crivitz knotted it up and the game went into overtime. The Mounders had the ball first and settled for a 27 yard field goal by Linberg and on the Wolverines possession, Jensen picked off a pass to seal the game to send the Mounders back to state.

Playing against Darlington, the 1987 state champs and semi-finalists in ‘88 and ‘89, the Mounders fell behind 14-0 in the second quarter before staging their comeback. Zurbuchen and Rhodes both crossed the goaline and Linberg converted both extra point kicks to tie it up at the half, then Linberg gave his team the lead on a 30 yard fieldgoal in the third quarter. Darlington scored to take the lead back and Elk Mound marched to the Redbirds 24 yard line with three minutes left and lost the ball on a fumble. They had one more chance to score with a minute left but an interception by the opposition ended the game.

Named All Conference for the season were Rhodes, Linberg, Koller, Zach Dodge, Jensen, Zurbuchen and Paul Jain on first teams and Jay Simon, Bruce Freeland and  Morris, second team and honorable mention Jason Maes, Freeland, Koller, Zurbuchen and Linberg.

Emergence of Morris

He may not have known it yet, but the 1991 season was going to produce the leading rusher in Elk Mound’s history for Pedersen.  Although Morris had shown he was a powerful runner as a sophomore, he showed even more as a junior. In an opening 47-6 win over Colfax, Morris ran for 327 yards and four TDs with some big boys in the line to help him out including 238 pounder Tom Gilbert, 219 pounder Jay Simon and Koller at 205 pounds. In a game that had a delay part way through due to lightning, Morris rushed for 133 yards and a score, Scott Johnson ran the ball in for a TD and Rhude, now the starting quarterback, threw to Mitch Maes for a score in a 20-0 win over St. Croix Central. The Mounders seemed to be unstoppable as they bombed Boyceville 49-8 with Morris running for 200 yards and a trio of TDs, Rhude hit Mike Peterson for a pair of scores and Maes ran one in while Jason Saxton picked up a fumble and took it all the way for another six points. Morris had 200 yards and four TDs in the FIRST HALF against Pepin as they pounded them 49-0 and the Mounders followed up with a 33-0 win against Glenwood City. In what Pedersen called “one of the best high school games we have had in conference history in a long time”, Elk Mound won a defensive battle 21-8 over Prescott. On the first play from scrimmage, Rhude hit Peterson on a 59 yard scoring strike and Morris added two rushing touchdowns later in the game. Although Morris had been playing on a bad ankle, he still managed to score all four touchdowns for the team in a 28-0 win over Elmwood, and with a non-conference game against Blair-Taylor up next, Morris got a much needed rest allowing Steve Heuer to have a chance to shine by rushing for three scores in the 28-0 win. A final blasting of Spring Valley 42-6 with Morris gaining 244 yards with three scores, gave the Mounders their 27th straight regular season win and 26th straight conference win while winning their third consecutive conference championship.

Back in the playoffs, a first round 15-8 win over Augusta was a hard fought battle with Rhude and Morris both scoring with a two point conversion pass to Johnson. But after a snowstorm delayed their game against Fall Creek by two days, the Mounders couldn’t muster a lot of offense on a cold and icy field and fell 12-7 as Morris was held to 93 yards on the ground. Elk Mound was up 7-0 on a Rhude to Maes 15 yard pass but lost two fumbles later in the game. They had a final drive with 2:25 left in the game, starting at their own seven and got as far as the Crickets’ 10 before the clock ran out.

On the first team for All Conference offense were Morris who ended the season with 1,731 rushing yards, along with Koller, Simon and Rhude as the placekicker, and Koller, Maes and Rhude were first team defense. Second team on offense was Peterson and on defense were Wade Gullickson and Jim Welke while honorable mention went to Johnson and Rhude.

Big year for Morris

After losing several key players from the ‘91 team, coach Pedersen played down the upcoming season, saying it would be tough for his team to repeat as conference champion. But with Morris just getting warmed up along with plenty of back up on offense now led by quarterback Justin Mishacoff, along with another stifling defense, Elk Mound pounded their way to another undefeated regular season. Starting with a 53-0 win over Colfax as Morris put his team up 14-0 on two punt returns and rushed only 11 times in the game but scored on three of those runs. Wins over St. Croix Central and Boyceville followed with Morris running over the Bulldogs for 276 yards and Mishacoff threw just three passes with two of them for TDs to Maes, who also returned a fumble recovery for six points. Showing the disparity of  the level of play in the conference, the Mounders demolished Pepin-Plum City to the tune of 61-0 with Morris scoring five times and all 50 kids on the Elk Mound team saw action in the game. Also crossing the goaline were Jason Saxton, Maes, Jason Reiten and Heuer.

In their closest contest of the regular season, the Mounders came from behind for a 31-14 win over Glenwood City. Although Morris was known for his ability to find the goal line (he scored all three TDs in the win), his defense was also a big part of his game as he picked off a pair of Topper passes in the game. Morris was just warming up it appeared as he led the Mounders to a 51-34 over win over Prescott by scoring 7 touchdowns (one on a punt return) while rushing for 225 yards to put him over 1,000 yards in just six games with 23 scores. In a 43-0 win against Elmwood, Morris tallied four TDs, Peterson ran the ball in for a score and Mishacoff passed to Kevin Hanson for six points and Kopp kicked five extra points. In a non-conference 58-0 win over Blair-Taylor, Morris added his second seven TD game, again with one on a punt return while racking up 281 yards on the ground. The Mounders wrapped up their fourth straight conference title with a 38-14 win over Spring Valley as Morris scored three times and Heuer, one of his usual blockers as the fullback added a pair of TDs.

It was playoff time again and the Mounders opened with a 41-14 win over Loyal as Morris scored on the first play of the game on a 55 yard run and put his team up 14-0 on a 40 yard run. In a hard fought battle against Augusta, a team Pedersen said was the best team they had played all year, Morris scored twice and picked off a pass while Kopp and Lonnie Myers both recovered fumbles in the game. Kopp kicked all four extra points which spelled the difference in the final score of 28-26. A 35-14 semi-final win over Fennimore (sorry, there were no details in The Messenger) put the Mounders back in the state title game, but  breaking their losing streak in the state finals wasn’t meant to be as they again fell a little short. After leading 7-0 on a Morris score, Edgar came back for two TDs and took a 14-7 lead at the half and neither team could add any points the rest of the way. Morris ended his stellar high school career with 167 yards in the game.

You don’t need to be a football expert to figure out Morris left the Elk Mound holding all the rushing and scoring records. His senior year, he ran for 2,758 yards and 49 touchdowns with seven of them coming from punt returns. In three years of varsity play, he rushed for 5,447 yards including 87  TDs with 10 on punt returns and three from kickoff returns for a total of 530 points. He is in the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association record books, listed fourth in the state for single season rushing yards and 11th in career rushing yards. He is also fourth in total points for a season with 296 and seventh in career points with those 530. He was named first team All Conference of course and made several district and state teams while being named Player of the Year by the Milwaukee Journal.

Morris moved on to have a successful career for Division II North Dakota State University and is currently third on their list for career rushing yards with 3,688 in 35 games from 1994-97. He ran for 1,710 his senior year and led the team in points with 90 on 15 touchdowns and has the team’s second and third highest individual rushing game with 251 and 246 yards. He also ran for more than 100 yards in a game 20 times, placing him fourth on the list in that stat. He was impressive enough to be invited to a Packers mini-camp, but when they didn’t sign him, he was drafted by the Detroit Lions and made it through the pre-season before being cut. Morris decided to end his football playing days at that point.

In a recent interview with a very humble Morris, he was asked to reflect on those high school years.

“I really didn’t pay attention to any records or stats when I played,” he said. “I was so happy to be on the field with my teammates and to just be able to play and stay healthy. No matter what happened in the game, when Monday rolled around I was ready to get out on the practice field again.We were kind of spoiled in high school because we had good teams and good athletes all four years I was on the team so we were used to winning. Coach Pedersen was a great coach and knew how to get the best out of every player. He also made it fun, in practice and in games. Elk Mound was very lucky to have him all these years.”

Deciding to go to North Dakota seemed to work out very well for Morris.

“It was a great fit for me and I received my pharmacy degree from there while getting a chance to play football with good coaches and teammates,” he said. “I lived there eight years before moving back to Elk Mound. As far as my tryout with the Lions, it was a great experience and I was able to practice with running back Barry Sanders while meeting a lot of other good athletes. But when I was cut, I had no desire to play in the Canadian or European League. Football was great to me but I knew I was done,” he added.

Morris has a son who is a sophomore on the Mounders football team this year, and doesn’t seem to be phased when he sees his dad’s photos and retired jersey in the showcase by the high school gym.

“I don’t think he even pays attention to it,” Morris said with a laugh. “He is his own person and I can’t even get him to watch old video tapes of me playing. All that happened 20 years ago so it doesn’t excite him I guess.”

Tough season to follow

The big question in everyone’s mind at the start of the 1993 season was how to replace someone like Morris and continue to dominate the conference. Not to worry as the Mounders opened the season with a slim 20-14 win over St. Croix Central for their 34th straight conference win. Maes took the opening kickoff back 90 yards and Heuer, now the leading running back scored on a 10 yard run. They were down 14-13 however, before Heuer scored with 1:04 left in the game and Chad Coss picked off a Panther pass to seal the win. Wins over Boyceville, Pepin-Plum City, Glenwood City, Prescott, Elmwood and Spring Valley followed and the Mounders had their fifth straight conference title. A final 60-6  win over the Vikings topped off the regular season with all 50 players on the team seeing action and Heuer surpassing the 1,000 yards mark with five touchdowns.

Into the playoffs the Mounders went, beating Somerset 14-0 in the first game and in an uncharacteristic performance, they turned the ball over four times on two fumbles and two interceptions in a 21-0 loss to Fall Creek. Heuer led the conference in rushing yards with 1,136 and ended the season with 1,292, making him the sixth player in Mounder history to reach the 1,000 yard milestone.

Kopp, Maes, Steve Solem and Hanson were named first team All Conference for defense and Lonnie Myers was second team  while Coss and Andy Ausman were honorable mention. On the defensive side, Mishacoff, Heuer and Maes were first team and Blake Bodenburg honorable mention.

Will the streak end?

That was the question in everyone’s mind, especially opponents of Elk Mound as the 1994 season began. The question was answered early as they lost the opening contest to St. Croix Central 24-14, ending their conference winning streak at 42 games on their new home field. A controversial call in which a lost fumble by the Mounders (which showed later in the video the runner was down) gave the ball to the Panthers which led to their go ahead touchdown. They moved forward from the loss to pound White Lake-Menomonee Indian school 41-0 with Kris Kaanta beginning to break through as the new running back while scoring a pair of touchdowns. In the first play from scrimmage in the game against Colfax, Kaanta took off on an amazing run, breaking several tackles for a 77 yard score in a 30-12 win and added four TDs in a 48-12 win over Spring Valley. Another tough conference loss came by way of Glenwood City when a safety gave the Toppers an 8-6 win and the Mounders didn’t help themselves as they fumbled seven times, losing three of them. In a 24-12 win over newcomers to the conference Somerset, the Mounders held a slim 3-0 lead at the half on a Kopp 23 yard fieldgoal before Kopp then scored on a three yard run, Kaanta took off on another long jaunt for 85 yards and a score and Coss added a 30 yard TD. Kopp was the man of the game as he came up with 15 tackles to lead the defense. Three more big wins followed, 37-6 over Boyceville, 42-6 against Elmwood and 56-0 over the again struggling Pepin team. Kaanta scored seven rushing TDs in the three games along with a 91 yard kickoff return against Boyceville and a 78 yard punt return against Elmwood. The Mounders finished in a three way tie for third in the conference which was good enough to host a playoff game against Fall Creek yet again. And it was the same result as they dropped the contest to the Crickets 10-0.

Kaanta topped the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the season with 1,387 and was a first team All Conference pick on offense along with Tony Roder and Sam Ausman while Jack McMahon was a second team pick and Kopp honorable mention. First team defensive honors went to Kopp and Lonnie Myers, second team Coss and McMahon and HM Ausman.

Losing five fumbles against Colfax in a 19-0 loss wasn’t a good way to start the 1995 season, making it the first time in six years they lost to the Vikings. They lost two more games 14-0 to Somerset and 35-25 against St. Croix Central before taking a 19-16 win over Viroqua. As members of the Small Dunn-St. Croix Conference, the Mounders racked up over 400 total yards in a 41-14 win over Plum City, upset Elmwood 29-12, routed Pepin 56-0 as Dan Reinert, Kevin Garnett and Paul Burcaw all scored twice in the game and earned their seventh straight trip to the playoffs with a 56-22 win over Spring Valley, setting what Pedersen believed was a school record in total yards with 560. In a crossover game against the Large D-SC champions Somerset, they lost 28-7 before their opening round playoff loss to Osseo-Fairchild 25-6 to end the season with a 5-5 record. Kris Wampole scored the only touchdown of the game which had lots of penalties, fumbles and interceptions on the Mounders part. First team offense for the Small Division were Corey Knudson, Garnett, Coss, Ausman and Sean Murphy and second team were Reinert, Brian Lawrence and Terry Svihovec. First team on defense were Casey Brouhard, Garnett, Coss, Wampole, Ausman and Svihovec along with second teamers Lawrence and Steve Brunn and HM Nick Schultz.

Into the Large Division

With another realignment in the conference, Elk Mound was moved up to the “Big Boys” division in 1996. With Nick Schultz at quarterback and Garnett, Wampole and Burcaw doing most of the running, they got their revenge again on Colfax with a first game 42-7 win. Three straight losses followed however, to Bloomer 46-29, Glenwood City 42-19 and Elmwood 20-15 as they had a final drive of 95 yards but time ran out when they reached the five yard line to end the game. They “shocked” Somerset 21-6 with Schultz connecting with Brouhard from 19 yards out and Tony Kaanta from 14 yards, then ran in from six yards himself. Kaanta kicked all three extra points and Garnett came up with 18 tackles in the win. But three more losses to conference teams Prescott, Mondovi and St. Croix Central ended any playoff hopes for the team and a final 14-9 win over Boyceville ended the year with a 3-6 record. All Conference in the Large Division were Kaanta and Murphy for first team offense and Schultz, Kevin Garnett and Andy Garnett second team. Kevin Garnett and Wampole  were named first team defense and HM were Murphy, Brouhard and Nick Holmberg. Wampole managed to rush for 1,043 yards for the team.

Still in the Large D-SC, now referred to as the “Big Six”, Elk Mound started the 1997 season with another win over neighboring Colfax 18-6. Down 6-0, sophomore quarterback Adam Rose was on his way to becoming a household name with a touchdown pass to Werner just before the half and Wampole scored the go ahead TD in the third quarter as he finished with 141 rushing yards in the game. But just like the year before, three straight losses followed against Bloomer, Glenwood City and Elmwood before they turned things around by stomping conference opponent St. Croix Central 33-0. Another conference win over Prescott 23-22 with Rose running for two scores and Wampole returning a kickoff back 85 yards, led to another win over Boyceville to give them three conference wins and a return to the playoffs. A 26-15 loss to Mondovi followed but the Mounders knocked Somerset out of a playoff berth with a 7-6 win as Rose scored from a yard out  and Steve Plemon made the kick. Another matchup against Glenwood City who were the D-SC Small Division champs came about for a Level 1 playoff game and the Toppers, led by Rob Ohman’s three TDs, won again, 35-14. (Glenwood went on to win the state championship). Elk Mound ended the season at 5-5 and 4-1 in the conference. Selected to the All Conference first team were Wampole, Werner and Andy Garnett, second team Rose and HM Mike Stewart and Ryan Brenden. First team defense were Wampole and Nick Holmberg and Brenden was second team. Rose led the conference in passing yards while Werner was the leading receiver.

Back to the Small Division

With Pedersen starting his 25th season (as was assistant coach Jack Curtis), the Mounders were moved back into the Small Division, and continuing the tradition of opening against Colfax, they lost not only the game 20-6, they lost Werner to a hip injury after he caught a 71 yard scoring pass from Rose. Cal Davis ran for 208 yards in a 41-11 victory over SCC but three consecutive losses followed to Glenwood City, Somerset and Spring Valley. But Werner came back and made his presence known rather quickly as he took the opening kickoff back 80 yards for the score in a 20-12 win against Pepin. A 39-0 pounding of Plum City followed with Tom Kopp hitting paydirt three times, twice while rushing and again on an interception. Joe Cable also added two scores in the game. Needing one more win for a playoff berth,  the Mounders were up 7-0 over Elmwood but let the game slip away as the Raiders scored twice in the fourth quarter for a 14-0 win, ending their season at 3-5 and 2-3 in conference. Werner again led the conference in receiving with 283 yards while Rose was second in passing yards with 577. Kopp, Werner, Stewart, Brenden, Rose, Severson, Chad Craig, Cable and Scott Jensen were All Conference selections.

Ending the decade in the playoffs

The 1999 season began with another win over the Vikings 28-14 and a 26-0 win over SCC as Rose threw a trio of TD passes, two to Jensen and another to Ryan Krumrie, then ran in from 11 yards out himself. After a 20-14 loss to Somerset, they finally came up with a win over Glenwood City as Tyler Suckow took over most of the rushing duties with 111 yards and a score in the 42-18 win. Rose again was involved with three TDs, passing for a pair and running for another while Zed Zielie booted six extra points. After a 35-0 victory against Spring Valley, Elk Mound clinched a playoff berth with a 33-20 win over Pepin as Suckow rushed for three TDs on his way to a 200 yard game. They won the Small Conference with a 5-0 record with wins over Plum City and Elmwood and began playoffs against Cameron. Down 7-6 at the half, Pedersen again made his halftime adjustments and with Rose passing and Suckow running, the Mounders won 34-12. Another big win, 48-13 over Hurley followed with Rose hitting Krumrie twice, Suckow scoring on a 65 yard run and a one yard plunge and Garnett adding a score from 20 yards out. In their third straight home game, they beat Boyceville, the Large Division champs 17-14 after being down 14-0. The defense came up big with Justin Dwyer, Andy Kochendorfer and Dennis Grohn all sacking the quarterback and Rose scored on a one yard plunge, passed to Garnett and ran in the two point conversion to knot things up at the half. Zielie used his foot as he had been doing all season to boot a 22 yard field goal with four minutes left to seal the win.

Playing on the road, the game was tied 7-7 against a much bigger Iola-Scandinavia team but they wore the  Mounders down to take a 21-7 win in the Level 4 game. Rose was named first team offense and HM punter and other first teamers were Suckow (who rushed for 1,066 yards on the season), Krumrie, Stewart, Luke Peery and Dwyer. Jensen and Zielie were second teamers and Davis and Garnett were HM. For defense, Dwyer, Garnett, Peery and Darren Dummer were on the first team and Dave Brenden, Rose, Stewart and Jensen were placed on the second team and Kochendorfer was HM.

Up next: Pedersen begins his 27th year in year 2000.