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

The Hidinger Years ~ 1957-1959


Due to construction delays, Jefferson High School would not be completed as planned until April of 1958. Its student body did exist, but at two sites known as North Jefferson (now Roosevelt Middle School) and South Jefferson (now Wilson Middle School). After classes each day, the two separate contingents of football prospects joined forces in an attempt to field a unified team, known for the first time as the J-Hawks, in the fall of 1957.

The first J-Hawk unit, rivals in prior seasons, now less than comfortable teammates, came from different directions to a locker room at Kingston Stadium and the practice field just north— known as the plaza— and also at nearby Cleveland Park, kitty corner from the Kingston grounds. They continued to use these accommodations for the succeeding three years as well, even after the much anticipated merger into the new building.

Coach George Hidinger, former Roosevelt High coach, and his assistants, Vern Bredeson, former Wilson High coach, along with Bob Ask, former McKinley High assistant, led Jefferson’s first entry into the rugged Mississippi Valley Conference.
The J-Hawks’ inaugural game was on September 13 in Clinton. The River Kings prevailed 19-0. The home opener at still new Kingston Stadium, on September 20, resulted in a 21-14 loss to Moline. In that game, end Jim Novy registered Jefferson’s historic first touchdown on a 26-yard fumble recovery scoop-and-score.

A 21-6 road loss to Dubuque left the J-Hawks winless entering the week four contest with Iowa City. Jeff absorbed its worst beating in a 33-6 raking at the hands of the Hawklets. No less than six starters, including the coach himself, were trying to shake the effects of influenza.
Still winless after four contests, the inaugural collision of Jefferson with its newly opened sister-school Washington would not disappoint. The much anticipated showdown drew well over 10,000 fans who flooded the multiple gates initially used to service Kingston Stadium.

The first Blue vs. Red game was tightly contested. Knotted-up at 13 apiece with four minutes left to play, a weary Jeff defense yielded on a 33-yard Wash touchdown scamper. The final score was 20-13.
The situation appeared near hopeless in the week five matchup when #1 ranked Davenport invaded Kingston. The Blue Devils (aka the Imps) cruised in a 40-0 rout.

Three games remained to find the school’s first win. The Trojans from the east side of Waterloo visited Kingston next. They would be the third top-ten-ranked opponent Jefferson faced in as many weeks. Supreme underdogs, the plucky J-Hawks put it all together in a shocking upset of a stunned Waterloo East club sporting a backfield loaded with two state champion wrestlers and an all state basketball player.

The headlines boldly proclaimed: “Wow! J-Hawks Blast 4th-Ranked East, 20-0.” It was a night on which Jeff simply would not be denied. They showed the spirit of an unbeaten team as they came back to score three times in the second half to blank the highly touted Trojans. But did it signal a corner had been turned? It did not.

The title of John Meyer’s postgame article detailing the subsequent loss to East Moline read: “J-Hawks Still Fuming.” His lead sentence: “Jefferson fans were still throwing menacing remarks in the direction of officials and East Moline was cursing the injury plague after the Illinois school scored a 19-13 win over Jefferson in a rain drenched battle at Kingston.”

The season finale at Rock Island, a 22-6 loss, ended the inaugural season for the J-Hawks at 1-8.


Tribulations began immediately when Clinton visited Kingston for the September 19 opener. The River Kings drove the dagger home in the final minute of play, winning 18-6. A trip to

Moline offered no time to lick wounds. The game with the Maroons did offer a chance at victory. The subsequent 7-7 tie ended a string of Jeff losses in the Valley.

Johnny Orr’s Dubuque Rams put the next contest out of reach early in cruising to a 32-0 shutout at Kingston. Against Iowa City, the Little Hawks appeared vulnerable, winless like Jeff. This time Hidinger was not optimistic concerning the Homecoming tilt, “We had two of our worst practices of the season this week. We have a chance, if we play the full 48 minutes.” Unfortunately the J-Hawks played like they practiced, submitting 20-7.

Against Wash, the Warriors overpowered an outmanned west side contingent, 26-6. Two additional losses ensued—Davenport, 19-0, and East Waterloo, 20-19.

The lone highlight of Jefferson’s second football campaign was its thrilling 26-20 Halloween night spooking of East Moline across the Mississippi River. Unfortunately, Jeff was unable to climb down off cloud nine for the season finale. Rock Island came to Kingston and escaped, 20-13.

The East Moline upset was to be Jeff’s only win of the season in finishing 1-7-1. Still, progress was evident and most games were competitive.


In retrospect, many veterans knew that regardless of the autumn’s success or failure, 1959 would be George Hidinger’s final season coaching. He was bound for the J-Hawk administrative ranks.

Opening on the road at Rock Island would prove a daunting task. The Rocks were spoiling for a fight and proved they were simply reloading in taking down the J-Hawks, 21-0. While the public may have thought “here they go again,” the J-Hawks proved otherwise. They tied Clinton, 6-6, and then defeated Moline, 13-7, while evening their record at 1-1-1 after three weeks.

The highlight of the season occurred in the home opener as Hidinger’s troops made their 1959 Kingston Stadium debut. The Moline Maroons entered the contest having been beaten badly in their three previous outings. Jeff’s troops understood, they had a golden opportunity. They won 13-7. The Gazette reported Jefferson fans “leveled the goal posts at the north end of Kingston. Meanwhile, inside the Jeff dressing room Coach George Hidinger was tossed into the showers.”

It was followed by a 7-0 loss to the Senior Rams and a 33-6 loss to highly ranked Iowa City.

In week six, the distinct possibility of Jefferson realizing its first win over cross-town rival Wash loomed large. The clash of the J-Hawks and Warriors produced a mighty struggle. Blue did not win, neither did it lose in a tussle that produced a 7-7 deadlock. Jeff’s second tie of the season was played on a dreary rain-interrupted night.

Who knew Jefferson’s week seven 20-0 loss at the hands of Davenport would signal the end of the fall campaign as well as George Hidinger’s career on the gridiron? In an unprecedented late fall weather-event, two successive blizzards wiped out the final two contests against Muscatine and East Moline. During the 1950’s the final week of the regular season was deep into November. Today, many assume it must be a typo when they read the 1959 season ended 1-4-2. But without the ability to reschedule, it was reality. So, too, was the fact that for the first time, the J-Hawks did not finish in the Valley cellar. They were seventh out of nine.

The Monday after what was to have been the final game of 1959, George Hidinger announced his resignation as head coach. Superintendent Arnold Salisbury began an immediate search for a new coach, one who had previous experience at rebuilding downtrodden programs. By the following March, he had found his man, and oh, what a hire! Ted Lawrence would take the program to new heights in just two short seasons.

A more detailed profile of Coach George Hidinger
and his teams can be had by purchasing the book
“Fight, Team, Fight - The History of Cedar Rapids Jefferson Football”
by John Hegarty Jr.
268 pages, including 661 photos. $25
Email: FightTeamFight2020@yahoo.com
or call 319.551.8008


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