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.