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Chroniciling our history since the day we stepped on the field as J-Hawks

The Fisk Years ~ 1966-1981


Between Jefferson’s 1965 and 1966 seasons, and after back-to-back state championships, Ted Lawrence resigned and was replaced by four-year assistant Jack Fisk. Over the course of his sixteen seasons at the helm, the J-Hawks won 112 times to only 36 defeats. There were two ties in that span. We are left breathless today by the fact Fisk recorded winning seasons each and every year, capturing five MVC titles and the 1972 state championship.

Fisk inherited a team with great depth and talent. Although they finished second in the state, many fans and insiders feel the ’66 club was the equal to its undefeated predecessor. For the season opener, Red Peppers columnist Gus Schrader, like so many other curious and excited sports fans, went out to Kingston to get a look at the reputed horseflesh himself. The J-Hawks obliterated an outmanned Moline squad, provoking this postgame analysis: “One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but after the 60-6 victory over Moline, you would have to say Jeff has the physical strength, depth and speed to become an even better team than last year’s unbeaten club.”

And so it relentlessly continued the next three weeks. Rock Island, 48-13, Clinton, 54-0, and Dubuque, 40-7. Imagine being the lucky Waterloo West team which visited Kingston the next Friday for Jefferson Homecoming. As fate would have it, the foul-weather gods smiled on the Wahawk gridders and the heavens opened up, delivering a monsoon. The final score was a mere 22-7.

Entering the always emotional Washington game, several factors pointed to the possibility of a lopsided outcome for Blue. After five games, the J-Hawks had outscored their opposition 224-33 while the Warriors had only tasted victory once. Additionally, Wash was breaking in a new head coach and West had not lost to East over the last five years. The scoreboard read 48-0 when the final horn sounded.

At Frank Bates Field in Iowa City the following week, Larry Lawrence produced offensive fireworks that left jaws gaping. He completed 16-of-25 passes for 217 yards and ran for a touchdown in downing the Little Hawks, 26-7. Jeff handed Davenport West a 23-6 setback on Dad’s Night, setting the stage for a week nine showdown with the newest of the two Davenport public schools.

Entering the final game of the season at Davenport Central, both the J-Hawks and Blue Devils were 8-0, eagerly expecting both conference and state titles with the win. The game was so evenly matched, not only did each team only score once, each also missed its point-after kick. The regrettable final was 6-6.

The resultant tie allowed unbeaten Waterloo East to claim the state championship leaving blemished Jeff and Central second and third respectively. Try to imagine this fact today. There was a time in Jefferson football history when an undefeated season, marred only by a tie, but still producing a state runner-up finish, was looked upon with disappointment.

At the crowded football banquet, Jack Fisk praised his troops for their outstanding season and reminded the crest-fallen team that was unable to accomplish a three-peat, “Maybe this is a lot like eating cake without the frosting, but let me assure you, we got an awful lot of cake.”


With the opening of Kennedy, the MVC swelled to 11 schools. Within the nine-game schedule, there was one league team you were unable to play. Unfortunately for the ’67 J-Hawks that team was Moline. As fate would have it, the Illinois team finished undefeated but never was allowed to tangle with Jeff. In finishing 8-1, Fisk’s troops were relegated to MVC runner-up status. Yet, in the final Iowa polls, the chance remained for a high finish.

In quest of an unprecedented fifth consecutive Valley title, things got off to a good start. Shutouts of the first two opponents signaled it was indeed the “reload” mentality fans had come to expect. On the road in Rock Island, Jeff blanked the Rocks, 19-0.

East Moline waved the white flag early, surrendering unconditionally, 57-0. In week three a feisty Clinton outfit had other plans. They spoke openly of halting the 35-game J-Hawk undefeated streak. And they nearly pulled off the stunner at Coan Field. Down, 14-12, with 10 seconds left on Jeff’s ten-yard line, the River Kings attempted a game winning field goal that mercifully sailed wide, preserving the longstanding run. Fisk and his troops knew they had dodged a bullet. An effortless spanking of hapless Dubuque, 42-13, on Homecoming night saw the bench emptied.

The table was set for the next big Jeff-Wash intercity skirmish. An opportunistic Red jumped on Blue early and never looked back, halting the Jeff undefeated streak at 37.

Solid punishment of West Waterloo, 41-14, upstart Kennedy, 27-6, Iowa City, 29-6, and lastly, Davenport West, 46-7, ended the season on a bright note.
Over nine games, Jeff outscored the opposition 281-86. A final pollster vote proclaimed Jefferson third in Iowa in their final ranking. It had been yet another outstanding football season, but was tainted by the bitter loss to their crosstown rival.


Entering his third year at the helm, Jack Fisk and his troops had only tasted defeat once. But in a preseason poll of MVC coaches, Jeff was only expected to finish in the middle of the pack. In the season opener, Rock Island exposed Jeff’s alleged inexperience. The 21-7 loss was stunning.

An angry swarm of blue jackets unleashed their frustration on East Moline 40-0 and followed it up with a second shutout, this time back home in a 21-0 conquest of highly-regarded Clinton. Dubuque surrendered quietly, 27-7, to push Jeff to 3-1 with a much-anticipated rematch against Wash looming.
Wash entered No. 3 rated in Iowa, while the J-Hawks cautiously entered 10th. Jeff had not forgotten the whipping Wash delivered the previous year. But in the final analysis, Goliath thumped David. East soundly dominated West, once again, 48-13.

The good news was, the next week for Homecoming Jeff got to play Wash again— Washington High from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that is. The even better news was, it was at Kingston Stadium! But the absolute best news was the out-of-state visitors allowed the J-Hawks a chance to exorcize their demons in a rout by scoring 62 points, a new school record. The final score was 62-31.
New intercity rival Kennedy was the next opponent and for the first time the J-Hawks were considered an underdog. However, for a second year in a row, Jeff prevailed by an identical score, 27-6.

Like a race horse marking the finish line ahead, the J-Hawks broke the tape at full throttle, laying waste to their final two foes. In vanquishing Iowa City and Davenport West 52-7 and 55-6, Jeff did in fact claim sole possession of the runner-up spot in the MVC behind Washington. The Warriors finished third in the state rankings. Jeff came away 11th in one poll, 12th in another, finishing 7-2.


By 1960’s standards, the previous season’s 7-2 mark and No. 11 final ranking was a bit of a disappointment. Imagine thinking that today! The returning juniors from that team made no bones about it, they aimed higher in ’69. For one season, and one season only, 10 games were scheduled instead of 9. The first two games pitted the J-Hawks against odd bedfellows Regis and Des Moines East.

Adding city parochial power Regis as an unprecedented tenth regular season game produced one of the greatest “what might have been” moments in school history. In the opener at Kingston stadium, the Royals ruined what could have been an undefeated state championship season. The underdogs stunned Jeff 15-6.

The offense scored 42 points the second week at Des Moines East. The defense held up their end of the bargain as well. The final was 42-6. In the next five games the J-Hawks only surrendered two scores. Iowa City was derailed, 13-0, and the train was back on the tracks building up a head of steam when the always pivotal intercity rivalry with Washington arrived mid-season.

Having been soundly beaten by their east-side rival each of the last two seasons, the west side had atonement on its mind. The final was 19-6. “Did you ever see such a beautiful job on defense?” Fisk asked the assembled press.

It was raining hard when Jeff arrived at a gloomy Coan Field in Clinton. It had been all day. It was still sheeting torrents when the victorious J-Hawks departed the partially-flooded stadium. You may not have known it from the final verdict, 28-0.

A Homecoming crowd of 6000 welcomed the J-Hawks home, so, too, did dry weather. The opposition from Bettendorf provided a stern test, but only for a half. The J-Hawks prevailed, 34-19.

Pesky Kennedy provided a stern test, holding the J-Hawk offense in check for much of the contest. Jefferson held on, 14-6. A week eight trip to Dalzell Field in Dubuque greeted Jefferson with yet another sloppy turf that quickly degraded to greasy gumbo. The J-Hawks exited a muddy locker room and showers with a 28-8 win.

A week nine, 62-0, whitewash of hapless Muscatine set up a big finale with an old foe. Sixties arch nemesis Davenport Central visited Kingston Stadium for the season finale with the spoiler role firmly in tow. In an evenly matched back and forth offensive affair, the Blue Devils stole the lead from the J-Hawks, nudging ahead by 5 points with just 47 seconds remaining in the game. But the cardiac kids in blue were not quite done either. They drove the field, using deft clock management, executing one big play after another. Seemingly mired on the Central 14-yard line with two ticks remaining on the clock, a clutch Brad Trickey calmly rolled to his right and threw a strike to Doug Keown in the coffin corner of the end zone as time expired. The final verdict was Jeff 35-Central 33.

The ’69 J-Hawks added a fifth MVC football championship to the school’s athletic trophy display. They finished third in the final state ranking and a praiseworthy 9-1 record. Still…one is left to wonder what might have been if Regis hadn’t been included in the only season Jefferson ever played a 10-game regular season schedule.


In a 12-year span from 1961-1972, the J-Hawks achieved an amazing 95-13-3 record. In the middle of that period, from ’63 to ’67, they had a 37-game undefeated streak, marred only by two ties.

Jeff started the season ranked No. 1 in Iowa. Expectations were sky high, fueled by the return of exceptional multi-sport stars Brad Trickey and Emmitt Doolin.

Des Moines East made the long trek to open against a J-Hawk team that easily demolished them a year before. Jeff was feeling good, leading 13-0 entering the fourth quarter. And then the roof caved in. East scored twice late on big plays, both aerial bombs. Converting each kick they staggered the J-Hawks, upsetting the top-rated team, 14-13.

It didn’t get much easier the second week on the road at Iowa City High. But what a rebound it was. Who was to know the Little Hawks would run the table (after the Jeff game) in claiming the Valley crown? But not before the J-Hawks served up a 29-15 setback in producing the Little Hawks’ only MVC loss.

Back on even footing at 1-1, it was time to face the Warriors who surely had redemption on their minds after last year’s setback to their westside rival. Red entered the contest No. 2 in the state while Blue was pegged at No. 8. A high scoring game was anticipated in everyone’s mind. But it never materialized. The final score, hopelessly deadlocked at 0-0, was shocking to everyone except the weatherman and the grounds crew at Kingston Stadium. A supper hour deluge left the field a swamp, stalemating all attempts to the contrary in the resulting morass. Both teams sputtered. At season’s end Wash and Jeff shared MVC runner-up honors behind Iowa City. Jeff was also shut out the next week against Clinton, 6-0. Oddly, it was only the second time in school history, to that point, that Jefferson went two weeks in a row without scoring a point.

Steadily improving each week, as their popular lineman Dave Miller remembers, the team “crawled out of the back seat and grabbed the steering wheel.” The result a 38-12 win over Dubuque Senior. It wasn’t an automobile they were driving anymore, it was a steamroller, 41-0 over Iowa City West. Big win beget big win, 41-6 over Kennedy. They were feeling their oats, kicking butt and taking names, 35-0 over Bettendorf. Walking with a swagger and puffing their chests, sowing their wild oats, 35-6 over Davenport Central. The J-Hawks spanked their final five foes by a combined score of 190-24.

Yes, the team slipped a bit from their MVC title status of the season prior, and it had to settle for a 6-2-1 season record, and a No. 9 final state ranking. But in doing so, they were unbeaten against the two MVC teams finishing higher than they did.


The opener was at home against Davenport West, a team Jeff had not lost to in eight years and an outfit it had frequently pounded as of late. This time, the J-Hawks started fast and ended strong sending the Falcons home crippled, 27-10.
Traveling to Clinton the following week, Jeff was surely reminded it was the River Kings who had shut them out a year ago while absorbing a physical beating. The J-Hawks cruised to a 34-0 redemption and returned home to prepare for a new school they had never faced, Dubuque Hempstead.

The upstart Mustangs were ready for a brawl taking an early 6-0 lead. In the fourth quarter, the slumbering J-Hawk offense awoke, erupting for 27 points and sealing the deal, 27-14.

Sitting at 3-0, holding a top five state ranking, it was time to welcome the Bulldogs from Bettendorf to Kingston. Mostly bark and no bite, a blue wave swept the visitors back to the Quad Cities smarting from a 42-6 shellacking.

On to “The Big One”… East vs. West, Red vs. Blue, Wash vs. Jeff. Bragging rights were once again on the line. The weather cooperated this time around and the offenses went up and down the field as if on roller skates. The Warriors prevailed, 32-29.

There was still time to win the Valley crown. The close loss to river rival Wash left a bad taste in their mouths. But instead of spitting it out, they exacerbated the issue by losing to Dubuque, 21-14, in a contest filled with fumbles and penalties.
With three games remaining, it was soul searching time. How did the ’71 team want to go out? How would they be remembered? Rick Marsh helped get the ball rolling down the home stretch when he scored five touchdowns the next week in a 34-12 triumph at Iowa City High.

The Kennedy Cougars awaited. The game pitted the Valley’s number one offense (Jefferson) against the top-rated defense (Kennedy). On a night best suited for ducks, Green fell to Blue, 14-0. The low score was due to soupy weather that produced a greasy turf. The resultant blanking of the Cougars meant that in five tries, Kennedy had yet to best Jeff. The season ended with a 44-14 trip to the wood-shed for hapless Muscatine.

Only 10 points separated the Big Blue of 1971 from going undefeated, a three-point loss to Washington and a seven-point reversal against Dubuque. They finished 7-2 on the year and were ranked sixth in the final state poll. It was their tenth top-ten finish in the last 11 years. Did the juniors who would return in ’72 know what lay ahead? Destiny awaited, and things were about to turn magical.


The Anatomy of Jefferson’s First “State Playoff” Championship
The Regular Season:
On the road for the opener, Jeff locked horns with a solid Davenport West team inside Brady Street Stadium. The defense allowed just 70 yards rushing. (Falcons grounded 20-0) Dubuque Hempstead visited Kingston and put up a good fight for one half. (Mustangs corralled 21-0) A street-tough Clinton club visited next. The defense allowed a paltry 19 yards rushing on 34 attempts. (Kings clobbered 28-7) Jeff went on the road to Bettendorf and manufactured yet another shutout. The Jeff defense allowed 106 yards rushing. (Bulldogs muzzled 21-0) Enter, Washington. Would they continue their string of shutouts? Almost. (Wash walloped 37-7)

With ample scouting evidence at their disposal, Iowa City High knew there was virtually no way they stood a chance of running the ball against the stone wall Jeff defense, now being referred to as the “lead-pipers”— as in, take you into the alley and beat you with one. The Little Hawks threw the ball 40 times, but never found the end zone. (Hawklets humbled 28-0) Kennedy never got out of
the starting blocks fumbling the ball away four times resulting in easy Jeff scores and the defense held the Cougars to minus 42 yards rushing. (Cougars tamed 44-7)

And then it came, the trap-game along the Mississippi in Melon City. Defensive end Pat Casey’s alertness saved Jeff from disaster when he recovered four fumbles. Whew! A massive crisis was averted. (Muskies edged 14-7)

The Inaugural Playoffs:
The J-Hawks hosted Cedar Falls in round one at Kingston Stadium. Keyed by three fumble recoveries and two pass interceptions, the J-Hawks rocked the Tigers. (Tigers trounced 27-0)

The state championship game was originally scheduled for Drake Stadium in Des Moines on their grass surface. However, those plans were foiled when a blizzard on the Wednesday of the game caused officials to move the contest to the scrape-able artificial turf at frozen Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
Regardless of weather, or the playing surface, the match up of Dowling against

Jefferson was a classic. It was rightfully billed as the irresistible force vs. the immoveable object. The Maroons averaged 40 points per game. Dowling had only lost once in its last 59 contests. Fully six and a half years!

As it turned out, only one time could one team force the ball beyond the other’s goal. Fortunately for the J-Hawks, they were the ones who accomplished the job.


Jack Fisk’s returning troops had a tough act to follow in ’73. The opener against Davenport West did not go well. The offense sputtered and the defense dug an early hole. They ultimately lost 28-12. What no one knew at the time was this Falcon team would end the season highly ranked and then go on to claim the 4A state championship a year later, in 1974.

Iowa City West, a team Jefferson had never faced, provided the magic elixir for a much needed win in week two. The J-Hawks ran wild, 26-18, trampling the Trojan defense. A week later, with the score knotted 7-7 in the fourth quarter against intercity rival Kennedy, center/kicker Sid Sampson booted a 26-yard field goal late to ensure the 10-7 win.

On the road at Dalzell Field, Dubuque Senior fielded a quarterback the J-Hawks had faced not once, but twice the year before. The Ram signal caller faced Jeff playing on behalf of Hempstead first, then after transferring mid-season to Senior he played against the J-Hawks again three weeks later. The third time around, in ’73, he found success when the Rams scored a 18-14 victory.

Teetering at 2-2, it was time to face top-ten ranked Wash which was unbeaten. It was a see-saw struggle that saw the favored Warriors jump out to an early 7-0 lead, fall behind 13-7 in the fourth, and then surge back for the win with just 1:38 to go. For the first time in many moons, Jefferson’s football record was underwater at 2-3.

But these J-Hawks were determined that with four games remaining the rally horn was sounding. Neither Hempstead or Bettendorf could compete with the suddenly resurgent J-Hawks. Jeff cruised posting scores of 38-14 and 34-14 in successive weeks.

Clinton should have been the next victim. With Jeff leading 10-0 in the fourth quarter, the defense permitted a late score, and then failed to recover the ensuing onside kick, leaving the door ajar. The River Kings scored a second shocking touchdown as time expired for the 14-10 come-from-behind upset.

Thankfully, a winning season record of 5-4 was almost assured in week nine when the J-Hawks travelled to winless Muscatine. Jeff frolicked 30-7 as Fisk emptied his bench in a romp on the river.

Just how important is it for a team to intensely compete the full 48 minutes of regulation in every game? Consider the following. If Jeff had protected late fourth quarter leads in each of their three MVC losses, the ‘74 team finishes 8-1. It even may have been enough to qualify them for the playoffs again, especially after witnessing how an 8-1 Davenport Central team went on to win the state title that year.

But, as it was, coming on the heels of an 11-0 state championship, 5-4 was viewed as a hefty disappointment. As mentioned before, perspective is everything. Ask any post-millennial J-Hawk team of recent years how a record of 5-4 would be received.

Click here for The Fisk Years; Part Two ~ 1974-1981


Chroniciling our history since the day we stepped on the field as J-Hawks

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