On Friday, November 22nd, the Iowa City Regina High School football team won their fourth straight Class 1-A state football championship. More importantly, they accomplished two more things: they broke a 41-year old record and, if you are willing to accept the Iowa High School Athletic Association‘s interpretation of the record book, they tied another record.
Huh? Here’s an explanation.
Regina’s win was their 56th in a row. They eclipsed the longest winning streak record of 55, which was set by East Waterloo, my alma mater, from 1965 to 1971. The second one? Regina tied East for the longest unbeaten streak in state football history at 56.
There were no overtime procedures and no playoff format until 1972. Therefore, the IAHSAA credited schools with ties.
How ironic that the topic of ties in football just happened to be the water cooler topic on Monday?
Yes, Iowa did not have a playoff system. Before 1972, the media pollsters determined who was the state champ in each class at the end of the season (9 games).
What Iowa City Regina did is amazing and spectacular. I’m happy that they did it, because records are meant to be broken.
With that in mind, I feel it’s appropriate to recognize what East High did, because it’s a story worth talking about.
How important was “The Streak” to East High, Waterloo, and Iowa prep sports?
Plenty, when you consider the events the world would see between October 1965 and November 1971.
The buildup in Vietnam and social unrest in America was starting to percolate in the fall of 1965 when East High traveled to play Cedar Rapids Regis in Week 8. The game ended in a 6-6 tie. It was an up and down season for the Trojans, with one game remaining against their crosstown rivals, West High. Beating the hated Wahawks would be a fitting end to the ’65 campaign. The Trojans won 40-7 and ended the season with a record of 4-4-1.
The start of the 1966 season brought some uncertainty. The Trojans had talent and great players. They started the season against Burlington with a 53-0 win. Right off the bat, something was special about the ’66 squad. Win after win, in dominating fashion. East went 9-0 and were declared the state mythical champions in 4-A. It was their first mythical title since 1941, and their second ever undefeated season. Remember, the playoffs didn’t start until 1972.
The following year, 1967, ended up the with the same result: an undefeated team. Something was brewing in Waterloo, and it wasn’t a tea party. Against Dubuque Wahlert, East’s defense held the Golden Eagles to a minus 64 total yards.
The spring and summer of 1968 dramatically changed the American societal landscape. The assassinations of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., anti-war demonstrations over Vietnam, racial riots, and the tumultuous Democratic National Convention in Chicago put America in a vastly different paradigm that would leave lasting impressions to this day .
The aforementioned events played a pivotal role as East started the ’68 season.
In a Week 1 home game against St. Joseph’s of Chicago, Illinois, a scrape between fans erupted in the East High stands. Minutes later, it became a full-scale brawl. Before both teams knew it, the entire home stand at Sloane Wallace Stadium was empty, as the fights spilled into the streets. The teams kept playing…in front of a near empty stadium. The east side of Waterloo turned into chaos, as the riot got bigger and uglier.
The National Guard was called in to stop rioters from looting. In one instance, early in the season, East moved one of their home games to an out-of-town opponent’s stadium and play a 3:00 pm game, so that the team could return home before a city-wide curfew at sundown.
And yet, it didn’t distract the Trojans at all, except for close wins against Ames, a shootout over Ft. Dodge, and a 28-27 win over crosstown rival West in a battle between #1 vs. #2. East captured their third mythical 4-A title over football powerhouses Dowling Catholic, Sioux City East, Cedar Rapids Jefferson, and Davenport High (now Davenport Central).
The 1969 team was, in the opinion of many at that time, the most dominant football team in state history. With Jerry Moses at running back, the Trojans ran roughshod on everyone in their path. It’s much like what Dowling, Valley, and Ames did this season…racking up points like a pinball machine. In fact, Valley’s 88-0 win over Council Bluffs Jefferson this season was the most points scored by a 4-A team since East High’s 98-6 demolishing of Newton in Week 2 of the ’69 season.
The ’69 squad held the IAHSAA record for the most team points scored with 504, Moses alone scored 244 of those points himself.
The 1970 and 1971 seasons were no different. The 1970 game versus West was televised on KWWL-TV, which was reported to be the first for the station. An overflow crowd of 9,000 packed Sloane Wallace Stadium to see East pull out a 20-9 win. In Week 4 of 1971, Cedar Falls was leading by two touchdowns late in the 4th quarter, when East moved the ball on the ground and scored twice for a memorable 25-24 win.
The 1972 Munich Olympics, marred by the kidnapping and massacre of 11 members of the Israel Olympic team, shocked the world. However, one of the positive stories of the Olympics was Dan Gable winning the gold medal in wrestling…without giving up a single point. Gable was a West High grad and all of Waterloo was glued to their television sets to watch him put his opponents on their backs.
While East football had their streak, West High had their own streak going in wrestling under the great Bob Siddens. From 1968 to 1975, the Wahawks won 88 consecutive dual meets. That record held until Dowling Catholic ran off 136 in a row. Gable, Dale Anderson, and the Bowlsby brothers (John and current Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob) were on those amazing squads.
East kicked off the new season against Sioux City East on September 8th. After East scored first, Sioux City East responded with a score of their own. When the final horn sounded, the Black Raiders upset the Trojans, 7-6. A missed PAT was the difference.
When Gable arrived home at the Waterloo Airport, he was given a hero’s welcome. But he wasn’t the only big story in town, as everyone was abuzz about East losing for the first time since October 1965.
When East went on their winning streak, there was no playoffs, no overtime, and no internet. Also, this occurred during the most turbulent time in American history.
East High’s winning streak was unique and special, given the events of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. For one, East was and remains one of the most diverse high schools in the state. Despite their racial differences, the players on those squads played together and represented Waterloo and it’s citizens.
They provided pride where there was discord. The fans packed Sloane Wallace Stadium every game to support East. With all of the distractions surrounding them, how East High continued to win during this era is nothing short but amazing.
Congratulations to the Regina Regals for being the team to finally break the record. Forty-one years is a long time and many teams have attempted it, but fell short many times. I hope that you start the 2014 season off with a win. Records are meant to be broken.