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by Marlys Kruger
Back in the fall of 2013 while working as a reporter for the Colfax Messenger, I took it upon myself to do a story on the history of the Elk Mound high school football program. Legendary Elk Mound coach Dan Pederson had just retired after 39 years of leading the Mounders and current coach Dave Lew took over.
Knowing Elk Mound did not start their football program until somewhere in the mid 1960s, I did my best to research their humble beginnings by looking at school yearbooks and past Messenger papers, and talking to one of the first coaches Larry Plaszcz.
About four months ago, an email was received by the Messenger staff from Dennis Gilbertson who happened to be a senior on the first Elk Mound football team which started in the fall of 1964 according to Gilbertson, not 1965 which is when I began my original story.
What follows is some information from Gilbertson on that inaugural season.
Elk Mound played seven games under coach Len Gilbert with the first one resulting in a loss 26-0 at Elmwood. The only offense generated by the Mounders was by quarterback Jerry Werner and halfback Tom Pannier but they couldn’t push the ball across the goal line.
Game number two was the first home game for the Mounders, resulting in a 27-0 loss to Lake Holcombe. The only highlight was Dennis Gilbertson intercepting a pass late in the game.
The third game was much more successful as the Mounders recorded their first win, 7-0 at Somerset. Pannier scored the team’s first and only touchdown on a long punt return while Gilbertson kicked the extra point. An interesting note on the game, head coach Gilbert was ill and couldn’t coach so assistant coach Ken Koppleman, who happened to be the band teacher, needed a replacement for his injured lineman and the smallest guy on the team, Tom Spagnoletti volunteered and ran onto the field to complete the job.
The Mounders broke loose for a 23-18 win for their first home win against St. Croix Central in their fourth game. Dennis Gilbertson scored 17 of the Mounder points which included a 20 yard field goal. Jim Gilbertson caught a long touchdown pass from Werner then Dennis Gilbertson did the rest, scoring on a long touchdown pass from Werner, the field goal and a second half 75 yard kickoff return. He also tacked on two extra point kicks. The team lost Pannier, who was the conference sprint champion to a leg injury during the first half.
The two game winning streak was snapped with a 33-13 loss at Prescott. Fullback Steve Benden scored on a short run for the Mounders and Dennis Gilbertson caught a short pass from Werner for six points. He made one extra point and intercepted a pass on the last play of the game. Prescott had a ton of players and used their backups the second half.
Elk Mound hosted Plum City in the next contest and were dominated by the taller and heavier visitors, resulting in a 47-0 loss. A very rare simultaneous catch was called on a pass from Werner to Dennis Gilbertson, resulting in a 10 yard gain for the Mounders.
The Mounders finished the season with a 38-13 loss to Boyceville on the road. Team points came from Werner’s touchdown throw to Dennis Gilbertson and Werner, eluding several would be tacklers, scored on a long run. Dennis Gilbertson made one of two extra point kicks to end the scoring for the 1964 season.
According to Dennis Gilbertson, the second season for the Mounders was coached by Ed Kofal who had played baseball for UW-Stout. Plaszcz took over the following season, making coach Lew the fifth coach in Elk Mound history. I hope this clears up the beginning of what turned out to be a six part story nine years ago!
Thanks to Dennis Gilbertson for the information!