Thursday, September 27, 2018

After 60 years, Eagle gridders to reunite

CSC Homecoming pays tribute to undefeated 1958 football team

By Con Marshall

One of the highlights of Homecoming at Chadron State College this weekend (9/29/2018) will be a reunion of athletes coached by Bill Baker 60 or more years ago.
Now 90 and living in Tucson, Ariz., Baker and the CSC Alumni Association organized the reunion, which will primarily focus on Chadron State’s undefeated football team in the fall of 1958.
Coach Bill Baker (left) with All-Conference Lineman
Tom Blundell, an end on the 1958 Eagle squad.
The Eagles had to come from behind to defeat Southern State College of Springfield, S.D., 26-20 in the season-opener, but won all their remaining seven games by at least three touchdowns.

The remaining scores were CSC 35, Concordia 0;  CSC 34, Doane 13; CSC 27, Wayne 7; CSC 45, Dana 6; CSC 26, Midland 7; CSC 26, Peru 0; and CSC 32, Nebraska Wesleyan 13.

A logical question is, why didn’t the Eagles play arch-rival Kearney State that season?  It’s a good question, particularly since the Antelopes also were undefeated that year, but they were not on the schedule in either 1958 or ’59.

The Eagles rushed for 2,071 yards and passed for 881 in ’58.  They held their foes to 1,007 yards rushing and 619 passing, meaning they gave up only 203 yards per game.

While Baker, who was just 28 when he initially came to Chadron State to coach football and track and field in 1955, is still going strong and will serve as the grand marshal of the Homecoming parade Saturday morning, time has taken its toll on the ’58 team. 

To get a closer look at the 1958 CSC team – including names – visit our DCJ Photo Gallery
Seventeen of the 30 lettermen have passed away and only five of the remaining 13 have made reservations to attend this weekend’s gathering.

The five planning to attend are Rex Jones, John McLane, Jerry Rowe, Don Schmaderer and Jim White.

Several others had previous obligations this weekend or said they don’t travel much nowadays because of physical problems.

However, five other football players that Baker coached as well as two outstanding sprinters from his track teams and a couple of basketball players from that era are planning to attend, along with at least two widows of football players.

Baker says the ’58 team was made up of rugged, hard-nosed players who worked hard and got along well.  Several played more than one position and started on both sides of the ball. Fourteen of them received at least honorable mention when all-star selections were made at the end of the season.
Several of the standouts were from the Panhandle.

Tom Blundell, a native of Chadron, got the highest honors.  He was selected the outstanding senior lineman in the Nebraska College Conference and was named NAIA second-team All-American.

Dick Colerick of Alliance and Lonny Wickard of Minatare and later a long-time school administrator at Bayard, were the co-captains.  Both were all-conference linebackers.  Colerick also was the fullback and Wickard the quarterback, or blocking back, on the single-wing offense. 

Lonnie Wickard was quarterback for the '58 Eagles
Guido Santero of Lewellen was the tailback and played in the secondary on defense. He rushed 117 times for 807 yards and scored 13 touchdowns to spark the offense.

Wickard, who called the signals, completed 25 of 42 passes for 575 yards and seven touchdowns and had just two intercepted. He also handled the punting, but was needed for that only 23 times. His 42.8-yard average is still among the best in CSC annals.

Wickard, whose senior-season highlights also included an 80-yard punt and a 93-yard interception return, was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

Other stalwarts included McLane and Rowe, two of the players who are expected at the reunion. Both played tackle on both offense and defense.  McLane was from Cambridge and Rowe is a  Valentine native.

The Chadron newspaper noted that the 1958 team was a “heavy one,” with the line averaging 193 pounds and the backs 180.

The line average included a 158-pount center, Chadron native Don Mathis, who, at Bakers’s insistence, was inducted into the CSC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003 when the team had its 45-year reunion.  The entire team went into the Hall of Fame in 1998, on the 40th anniversary of that great season.

After coaching six years at Chadron State, Baker was an assistant football coach nine years at the University of Wyoming and two years at the University of Arizona.  He then was a pro football scout for 25 years.

(Editor’s Note:  Our thanks to Con Marshall for sharing a great Homecoming story and related photographs about Chadron State College football – and a great team from 60 years ago!  You'll find the above photos and others in our Dawes County Journal Schools Gallery.)