As a spectator to all these games, I witnessed a lot of frantic, physical action. Backfield in motion, holding, illegal use of hands, deflected passes… and that was just in the parking lot after the games! For Part 4 of the CHS football trilogy, we return to the words of Dale Gentzler, businessman and booster, to get the perspective of the avid football fan:
Football was new for Clarkson in 1956 under Head Coach Francis ‘Kooch’ Dostal. Although that 11-man sport was new to many Clarkson folks, it didn’t take long to catch on. It took some larnin’ though. I vividly remember some of the first games when the pep club was yelling “let’s go north,” and the team was going south, or didn’t even have the ball. At the beginning of the first season, there was a “get acquainted night” where people who didn’t know anything about football could come and get an explanation of the rules. They even demonstrated the various important parts and the safety qualities of the football uniform, right down to the athletic supporters.
Oh, we were athletic supporters alright. We had some good years and we had some bad years. We supported through thick and thin.
I remember one particular ‘thin.’ Have you ever heard about a spectator getting a 15-yard penalty in football? It was during the final days of Pilger High School, when they had a really good team, starring David Goeller, who later went on to star at Nebraska. Leroy Ernst was the head coach for the Red Devils and I drove the team bus that year. There was a goodly number of Devil fans along the east sideline wire and we were getting trounced pretty good. On one particular play Goeller made a long run, was tackled out of bounds near our goal line, but not across it. The official signaled a touchdown and we went ballistic! I shouted at the ref, “open your #@$&*!# eyes!” and I called him by name, because I knew him and “never did like that guy.” The hankie went down just like that and I disappeared down the sidelines, meeting Coach Ernst en route, who was coming to see what the penalty was about. I said “I dunno” and kept on movin’ away from the scene of the accident. Ruth O’Neal and Eldora Gentlzer were left standing there to face the ref, declaring their innocence—- and I was long gone. They called a fifteen yard penalty on the crowd (me, only they didn’t know it was me) and assessed it on the ensuing kickoff. We did score in the next few minutes but that didn’t ease my embarrassment much. I was like Bill Clinton, not sorry that I did it– just sorry I got caught. Fortunately we lost by a lot of points, so it wasn’t instrumental in the outcome. The sad part was that, being the bus driver, I had to own up to my actions when we got back on the bus.
I’m also reminded of a football game at St. Edward. We arrived and there was only one light pole for the entire field. Encouraged by old man “Schnapps,” who rode with us, the Clarkson contingent stood at attention and lit matches for the kickoff. Somehow St. Ed decided we were getting a little rowdier than necessary during the game, so the city cop came to our side of the field, which only made things worse. We never left him alone. Irwin Kluthe asked him if he wanted to make something out of it. Alan Dusatko let him know that he was an “attorney at law” and Buster Miller got in his face to make a point. The cop, who just happened to be the father of Case, the football star for St. Edward, endured it for a minute, then he waggled his finger at Frank, and said “Now, look here, Buster!” The whole Clarkson crowd just broke up, realizing that the cop didn’t know it was a real “Buster” he was talking to. Laughing didn’t help matters. We didn’t go to jail, but we were guilty of doing things our kids would get in trouble for. They sure make good memories, though.
Home football games were fun, too, and there was always a crowd. Our two girls got their love for the sport very early, partly because of their parents’ enthusiasm for Clarkson Red Devil football. During a game, if someone would take off downfield on a long run, I’d grab an arm and away we’d go. Their feet would barely touch the ground.
In summary, the pep club eventually got the hang of it. And that was the only fifteen yard penalty I’ve ever heard called on the sideline. Oh well, I’m famous for something.
My zeal for small town athletics got me in trouble more than once. When we were in business at Clarkson Sundries I would often design window displays to boost the Devils on to victory that particular week. One time I was so proud of my innovative mind, when I built a grave in the window, with the following epitaph; “Here lies St. Francis dead on the level, victim of the Clarkson Red Devil.” Clever? Father Kubesh didn’t think so. Promoting a devil’s victory over a saint was carrying team spirit a bit far, I was told. It was a learning experience— I didn’t do anything like that, ever again.
- Dale Gentzler
And so ends our story of the first decade of Clarkson High School football, 1956-1966. The spirited players are now old men, and can only dream of the speed and stamina they had as 17-year-olds. And the Red Devil teams are gone, part of history. So put your cheeseburger and Coca Cola down, put your hands together, and join in our fight song (Sung to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In”…)
When the Devils, go marching in,
When the Devils go marching in,
Oh, I’d love to be in that number,
When the Devils go marching in!
Thanks for reading our modest effort. If you are interested in printing out the entire 4-part story, click on this link: