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Local Sports

A walk down memory lane

One of the tremendous perks of my job is to help recognize those who went before the current crop of high school athletes. This fall I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with two groups of foundation layers for Newton High School athletics.

A couple of weeks ago, we heard stories and memories from the women who were on the first Newton High volleyball team. That team was in 1987.

Ten years earlier, a group of Cardinal football players and their coaches put together a run to the Class 4A state championship game. The Newton football team came up short of the 4A playoffs in 1976, but made a great run in the 1977 season.

The men I was able to contact shared stories and memories with me. What struck me most about these two groups of former Newton High athletes was the memories were about the team — the group — more than any individual.

One story I heard from two of the football players is about offensive line coach Dick Stiles, the players and recipe cards. Denny Klingensmith and Denny Griggs, both were seniors on the 1977 team, related that one. Griggs said he compared notes with friends and former players for several stories.

Here’s Griggs’ version of the Stiles, players, recipe card story”

“We had some terrific coaches. They weren’t only technically brilliant, they were motivators and disciplinarians.  Head coach Frank Gilson was less verbal when it came to correcting someone. He would usually give you a look and you knew exactly what it meant. In detail. He would usually motivate you by suggesting that we weren’t focused and didn’t want to play —“ You don’t want to play football.”

Line Coach Dick Stiles? He’d use a verbal flame thrower. You knew exactly what he thought and he would use his volume to motivate you. I was a little simple minded sometimes and didn’t realize that he was in my grill,  trying to get me fired up. It usually worked. They kept us busy, especially in practice. 

We were usually broken up in skill sets. Quarterback Steve Ogden would usually be with Ron Corbett, Jeff Girdner, Gary Swanson, Kevin Shipley, Dave Gullett and Mike Borst. They would be throwing / catching and working on pitches and handoffs. The defense would be working schemes with Coach Kevin Merkle.  Perfecting the “Bubble Defense” with nose guard Dave Norvell in a stand up position and others like Junior kicker Randy Farr, would be focused on their specialties. 

Like I said, we were kept busy, but if you were caught milling around? Uh oh! Coach Stiles never missed a chance to turn on his flame thrower whenever he saw something like that. He would usually yell deep into our ears “What are you girls doing over there?  Trading Recipes?” Of course before he finished the word trading, we’d be quick busy with some drill or running off somewhere else.  

Then a magical thing happened. We became seniors. Well into the season, we were having one of our hot, hard nosed practices. It came to the point where we separated into our specialty groups. This particular day, the linemen, Jeff Denison, Dave VerWoert, Randy Clausen, Alan Good and myself had something special planned for Coach Stiles.  

We walked over to the where the water was stationed. We took our sweet time and slowly got together in a huddle. As predicted, Coach Stiles fired off a couple of volleys and let us have it. “What are you girls doing over there?  Trading Recipes?”  In unison, we all pulled our helmets off, walked over to Coach Stiles and offered him up some of our best Betty Crocker Recipes. The look on his face was priceless. We had a good laugh, put away our recipes and got back to practice.”

It wasn’t all about hard hitting, sweat and mud. A team can be built with some good clean fun among the players and coaches. Memories of those moments usually outlast the wins and losses.

Contact Jocelyn Sheets

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