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

The Lawrence Years ~ 1960-1965


Between seasons three and four, founding father George Hidinger was reassigned as the school’s full-time athletic director and 33-year-old Ted Lawrence became the institution’s second head coach. The Gazette reported the new man saying, “I know Jefferson’s football program is a real challenge. The new school reorganization made it tough the first couple of years, but I think it has been ironed out and is ready to take off.” Oh, how prophetic that comment eventually turned out!

Lawrence feared the season opener at Moline may prove difficult. The stark reality was it produced no success at all. The only positive in the 27-0 loss was that Lawrence now had precious game film against another program with which to educate his team.

The learning curve had to have been tremendous as the J-Hawks gladly returned home to Kingston Stadium for a chance at showing improvement against rugged Dubuque. The Rams added more lumps and bruises, dominating 27-7. A week-three trip to Iowa City would offer no respite. No one knew it at the time, but the Little Hawks would finish the ’60 season as mythical state champions of Iowa. More contusions were delivered to Jeffy’s noggin’ as the 60-13 verdict sadly proclaimed.

The next day, Saturday, End Dave Long was inserted under center and played there in the junior varsity game on Monday, back in Iowa City. He played well enough to make the move permanent. He also threw caution to the wind and elevated six talented sophomores to varsity: Dennis Murphy, Gary Herman, Tom Prescott, Larry McDowell, Cliff Bishop and Jim Kloubec.

In short, the J-Hawks started competing. The week four Homecoming loss to East Moline was disappointing, but in yielding 19-13 against an unbeaten Panther unit, the upset bid bolstered spirits. The week five midseason showdown with Washington, which had ended in a tie the year before, proved a dandy affair once again. Even in losing, 13-7, Blue nearly upset Red in the final quarter.

A 26-6 loss at the hands of Clinton followed. The visitors in Columbia blue went to Coan Field and had their chances when the River Kings were penalized 20 times in a physical and chippy snort-fest between two ornery rivals. In total, four players were ejected over the course of the crazy contest.

Winless after six games, the team could easily have folded its tent, but stated simply, they puckishly refused. The J-Hawks squeaked out a 7-6 win over the Blue Devils.

At Muscatine, the result was a 6-6 tie.

Unfortunately, the season finale at home Rock Island unleashed the hounds on the J-Hawks to the tune of 35-0. However, history will record the Rocks finished 9-0 and won the mythical Illinois state title.

Though the overall season’s record was about the same at 1-7-1, it featured what would be, in retrospect, a turning point in Jeff’s football history. Switching lineman Dave Long to quarterback at mid-season changed things dramatically. With Long as their senior leader the next year, the entire state would take notice.


It has been said, patience is a virtue and good things come to those who wait. Coach Ted Lawrence had no time for such platitudes. It was time to start winning on the west side of Cedar Rapids.

The opener against third-ranked Moline pitted Jeff against a dream team on paper. Every one of the Maroon linemen tipped the scales over 220 pounds, including the fullback. (Huge for the early 60’s) The game was played on even terms, but an extra point sailing wide left made the difference as Blue succumbed, 7-6. Even so, Jeff’s play was deemed so outstanding it was ranked No. 1 in the subsequent Des Moines Register Poll.

At Dalzell Field the next week, the contest was played in a steady downpour. The sloppy conditions and 10 Jeff fumbles (8 lost) accounted for the low 7-0 score. The J-Hawks prevailed due to their rock-ribbed defense that held the Rams inside their own 4-yard line three times.

Week three arguably presented the biggest challenge of all, the defending state champion and newly No. 1 ranked Iowa City lay in wait. It was the same Little Hawk team that rang-up the scoreboard like a pinball machine the previous season. But there would be no humiliation this time around. The 20-7 score held up in favor of Iowa City, which knew it had beaten a team that was trending upward, and fast.

A convincing 26-7 rolling of East Moline set the stage for the removal of a monkey from the backs of all west siders. Jeff had never tasted victory over Wash. A historical changing of the guard was about to occur. The sister school from the east was about to suffer its first of many Jeffersonian brush-offs.

Both the J-Hawks and Warriors were now considered upper tier teams in the state. The year 1961 will fondly be remembered for the 12-0 emotional triumph when Blue finally defeated the Red-clad east siders. Going into the contest, Wash was unbeaten, having only allowed one team to score on them. The Jeff backfield of Dave Long, Cliff Bishop, Tom Knutson and Larry McDowell was too much for the Warriors. Today, those “four horsemen” are still considered one of the school’s very best ever.

Truth be told, Washington lost the battle with Jeff that season, but may have won the war. Finishing atop the MVC with only one loss, the Warriors claimed the league title and a runner up finish in the final UPI state poll. Jeff, with two losses, was voted third in the state. In the final AP poll however, it was Jeff who finished second.

Before surrendering their helmets and pads, the J-Hawks disposed of Clinton, 35-7, Davenport Central, 27-14, Prairie, 40-12 and Rock Island, 20-13. However you choose to look at it, the evidence was undeniable, what Bob Ask describes as the “Golden Years” were clearly underway.


There was to be no more sneaking up on anyone. Everyone knew, this could be the year. In the preseason poll of top-ten teams in Iowa, Jefferson sat perched atop all three wire services responsible for the rankings. Expectations were high, so, too, was the pressure. But Ted Lawrence had confidence his team could handle it, mainly due to recent success in other arenas. This squad oozed confidence and it had earned the right to expect big results.

In the first four games, the Jeff juggernaut outscored the opposition 105-26, with each contest well in hand at halftime. Moline, 20-7, Mt Pleasant, 20-0, Davenport West, 33-13 and Clinton, 32-7 were the final scores.

Then came “The Annual,” the showdown of No. 6 vs. No. 1, East vs. West, Red vs. Blue, George vs. Thomas. The crowd that assembled was estimated somewhere between 15 and 16 thousand— even the horseshoe was packed. Having won the bitter rivalry for the first time the previous year, Ted Lawrence was eager to retain the upper hand. Ahead 14-0 at half, it looked as though another drenching was on tap, but the plucky Warriors’ defense stiffened while their offense scored once late, before yielding to Jeff 14-6.

There was no let-down the following week. In blanking Dubuque, 26-0, the Jeff defense stood proud, flexing its muscle just as the offense did each week. Against pesky East Moline, in Illinois, the J-Hawks were losing 3-0 late in the fourth quarter. The verdict was in doubt until Tom Prescott’s clutch one-handed reception on 4th-and-11 saved the day. Jeff escaped, 13-3 on two late touchdown dives by Tom Knutson, the second of which was set up by a Prescott interception returned to the Panther 5-yard line.

The J-Hawks were spoiling for a fight, anxious to end the losing streak to City High in a big way. The offense erupted for 46 points and the defense only allowed six as the former state champions, two years removed, were soundly humbled by the new sheriff in town.

And so the stage was set. No. 1 Jeff, at 8-0, would put their season-long top billing on the line against No. 2 Davenport Central, 7-0-1, in the season finale at Brady Street Stadium. The Blue Devils had tied Washington early in September. Overshadowed by the J-Hawks all season, Central’s intense motivation and huge offensive line propelled them to a 27-18 victory. The home team led, 27-0, in the third quarter when the visitors from the west staged a furious three-touchdown rally before exhausting the clock.

Bedlam prevailed on one sideline when Davenport’s 10,000 reported fans swarmed the field mobbing their players. On the other side, a somber but dignified Coach Lawrence found the words to satisfy an eager throng of reporters, “Central was tremendous tonight. They had, by far, the best line I’ve seen. They outplayed us and certainly deserve to be state champions. That’s one fine ball club, but I’m pretty proud of our boys too.” When asked about the disappointment of coming oh-so-close he responded honestly, “The pressure of being top ranked all season long certainly told on our boys in the game. It’s too bad all our season was wrapped up in that one outcome. That doesn’t take away from the fact this is one of the most dedicated groups of athletes I’ve ever worked with.”

Along with the disappointing loss went the dream of Valley and state championships. And so, once again, the Jeff crew had to settle for another number two ranking in the Iowa State polls. They finished 8-1. The Central loss ended a 14-game winning streak. Yet, on the horizon, at midseason of 1963, the J-Hawks would begin a winning streak that would last until midseason 1967.


Lawrence had 10 lettermen back on his 50-man roster, but only four of them were regulars in ’62. No one, no one listed the J-Hawks in the top three teams expected to vie for the Mississippi Valley Conference crown. That would prove to be a mistake.

After a comfortable opening win on the road at Moline, 20-7, Jeff entertained Mt Pleasant for their Kingston opener. In a defensive stalemate that saw the game knotted at zeroes late in the third quarter, the Panthers converted on a long pass for the only touchdown of the game in besting Jeff, 10-0. Before you ask, how could the J-Hawks have lost to Mt Pleasant, consider these facts. This edition of Bob Evans’ Panthers was a generational team. They finished the ’63 season undefeated, untied, and unscored upon. That’s right, the Panthers shut out every team on their schedule while claiming the 1963 mythical state title. Twelve of their players went on to play college ball, including a running back named Bill Calloway who would be named Jefferson’s head football coach down the road in 1982.

The only other loss of the season occurred the following week at Brady Street Stadium in a 13-6 setback to a rising Davenport West outfit. How did they want to see the last six games play out? It is fair to say, it was the turning point of the season and they had had enough of losing.

The annual showdown with Wash loomed and its outcome was representative of the whole season. In his immortal classic, “High on a Hill,” Bob Ask described the crazy game: “11,000 fans saw the Warriors take a 10-0 lead which stood until the fourth quarter got underway. The relentless Jeff comeback started when a 38-yard pass from quarterback Don Rajtora to Tom Harrison. It put the J-Hawks in scoring position for the first time. Rajtora plunged over three plays later with 10:58 remaining. A pass interception by Bob Fulton started Jeff’s next drive on the Warrior 38. Eleven plays later, workhorse Dennis Fitzgerald went over for Jefferson’s first lead. The Warriors gambled to regain the lead but failed and good field position set up the final J-Hawk tally.”

Convincing wins over Dubuque Senior, 35-14, East Moline, 26-6, and Iowa City, 21-0, set the table for a season finale duel for MVC bragging rights with Davenport Central. They were fast becoming a foremost rival for league and state laurels. A year had passed, but the J-Hawks had not forgotten the searing sting of defeat the Blue Devils inflicted the last time they met. One season prior, in Davenport, a proud top-ranked Jeff squad saw a 15-game winning streak, the MVC title and a state title slip away when Central had won 27-18. But the shoe was on the other foot this time around at Kingston Stadium. Now it was the Blue Devils who were top ranked, with both teams owning one loss in the conference.

Jefferson was ready this time and dominated the game, shutting out the visitors from the Quad Cities 13-0. Never discount the revenge factor. Linebacker Dennis Fitzgerald scored on a pick-six defensively and then again on offense as a running back after a sustained 60-yard drive early in the third quarter.

Jefferson finished first in the league and fourth in the final state rankings. Only Mt. Pleasant, Ottumwa and Des Moines Lincoln were voted higher. Finishing at 7-2, the ’63 J-Hawks solidified the claim that their school was now among the state’s top football programs. With an undefeated sophomore team ascending to join the varsity in ’64, the future appeared oh-so bright. But just how good could the J-Hawks really become? Who could know Jefferson would not lose another game for the next three and a half years? The “Golden-Years” were building a head of steam.


Anatomy of the First Mythical State Championship
Keep in mind two facts: First, Jefferson High School was a mere seven years old and the first four J-Hawk squads were incapable of winning more than one game per season. Secondly, in the early sixties, there was only one class for voting purposes. When Jeff was anointed the state’s elite power, they were judged against every other high school in Iowa.

First half of the season— Operation “On the Road-to-Wash”
The home opener of the season pitted the J-Hawks against a team that would become the eventual Big Six Conference champions, Waterloo West. It was evident from the 27-0 outcome that the Jeff defense was nearly impenetrable as the highly-respected Wahawks were held to a meager 31 yards rushing.

Clearly off to an acceptable start, the team chartered across the border to the Soule Bowl and a date with an East Moline team that would only muster one win all season. In what was expected to be a romp, the J-Hawks delivered an unacceptable ragged performance in the eyes of their head coach. After the game a visibly upset Ted Lawrence met the press asking, “How can a club play so lousy and still win 26-0? We were terrible. We made all kinds of mental mistakes.” When asked how his team came out injury-wise, he scoffed, “Nobody got hurt— they didn’t hit anybody hard enough to get hurt!”

The result? A hungry swarm of J-Hawks invaded Clinton the following week and rang up five touchdowns in drubbing the River Kings, 34-13. The verdict left no doubt in the minds of the pollsters as week four commenced with the J-Hawks ranked No. 1 in the UPI and No. 2 in the AP.

An undefeated Dubuque team invaded Kingston with hopes of upsetting a J-Hawk squad whose defense had not allowed an opponent more than 90 yards rushing. A 28-0 waxing sent the Rams back to the Key City smarting as a ruthless J-Hawk defense once again proved as tenacious as a junkyard dog.

The Jefferson express had reached full throttle and was not stopping en route. Next up was a Davenport West outfit that offered little resistance. Blue efficiently laid waste to the hapless Falcons during a 41-0 Homecoming bloodbath. Against the Falcons, as was often the case in 1964, the Jeff bench was emptied in deference to its hard-working reserves and to demonstrate charity to a lesser foe. The J-Hawk assault left no doubt, with preseason top ranked Washington laying-in-wait the following week, supreme focus must continue unabated.

Mid-season— Operation “Wallop-Wash”
Jeff had had the upper hand in recent East-West encounters and Wash was anxious to knock off its top-ranked arch-nemesis. The Warrior faithful surely cringed each time they opened The Gazette over the last three years only to be greeted with feature photos of Coach Ted Lawrence being thrown into the Cedar River by the triumphant west side infidels. It was the immovable object vs. the irresistible force. Jeff’s tenacious “D” prevailed and the Blue made it four in a row over the Red with the 14-0 shutout.

The Big Finish— Operation Championship
Three of the toughest members of the MVC stood between Jeff and a perfect season. There was concern following the emotional conquest of Wash that the next Friday’s road-trip could be a “trap-game,” especially since undefeated Iowa City provided the barricade. Defense and special teams came to the rescue, altering a tense stalemate when Jim Norris blocked a Little Hawk punt resulting in a safety. Rod Brecke’s two-yard plunge culminated a 72-yard march that ensured the Jeff victory. The final tally on the scoreboard read 9-0 and a major upset was averted.

A similar outcome could not be reported for the November 7 trip to Brady Street Stadium for a tilt against highly-respected rival, Davenport Central. Clinging to a razor thin 7-0 lead in the fourth quarter, the J-Hawk defense that had proven so air-tight all season, uncharacteristically yielded the lead with less than two minutes left in the game. A final desperate Jefferson drive got as far as the Blue Devil 24 before stalling as time expired. The resultant 7-7 tie forced the J-Hawks to neither win nor lose in settling for one blemish on their undefeated record.

With one precious week remaining, Jeff fell to No. 4 in the state rankings. And for the fourth week in a row, they would have to contend with a sinister foe intent on playing spoiler. When Rock Island visited Kingston, it was for all the marbles as both teams sported unbeaten Valley records. For the J-Hawks, a win would ensure the undisputed MVC crown and keep alive the possibility of a state title.

The Rocks possessed what Ted Lawrence described as an “aerial-circus.” They may have lost the skirmish in yielding 241 yards worth of receptions, but ultimately won the war in outscoring the Rocks, 27-14. Lawrence was carried to the lockers on the shoulders of his giddy team.

It was the first undefeated season for any Cedar Rapids prep team in 37 years. The win ensured Jefferson’s second MVC title in a row. But would it be enough to earn their first state title? That bitter tie with Central left the door ajar.
On Monday, the final ranking was released. Remarkably, eight of the top ten teams would finish without a loss. Jeff was one of three possessing a tie. And yet, the pollsters awarded Jefferson the top honor by a wide margin. It was a supreme show of respect for the program Lawrence had built, the caliber of MVC competition, and the margins of victory achieved throughout the 1964 season.


Anatomy of the Second Mythical State Championship

A motto quickly emerged, “Keep it Alive in ’65.”

The seniors were joined by a junior group that had run rough-shod over their sophomore adversaries. This team was so deep, so full of athleticism, so cock-sure they were top dogs, it would take a tremendous effort for even the highest caliber opponent to catch them on an off-night.

First half of the season— Operation “On the Road-to-Wash”
The first two teams to line up opposite the J-Hawks waved the white flag of surrender fast and easy. The West Waterloo Wahawks were swept away 53-7 and the East Moline Panthers rolled belly-up, 48-0. Those duo cake walks led to the first serious challenge, and the J-Hawks were seriously welcoming an early season test. Clinton presented the roadblock.

The River Kings were also undefeated entering week three and ranked third in the state, courtesy of an efficient big-play passing attack. The J-Hawks prevailed, 20-10, as the outcome was never in doubt. Clinton finished the season fifth in the final Iowa poll.

The next Friday, another rout ensued, 48-0, over an out-manned Dubuque squad. After four games, Jefferson had outscored its opponents, 169-17.

The undefeated Davenport West Falcons presented a stiff challenge entering week five at venerable Brady Street Stadium. The low scoring 14-7 verdict was misleading as the skirmish was played in a quagmire due to a driving rainstorm.

Mid-Season— Operation “Wallop Wash II”
After half-a-season of not outwardly focusing on the Warriors, the time had come for Jeff to claim its fifth straight win over its crosstown adversary. Blue took their cross-river-rival out to the woodshed for a good ole fashioned spanking, 34-0. Coach Lawrence reviewed the lopsided win: “This is the first year Wash gave us a few turnovers. But it was a team victory. Our kids were hitting hard.”

The Big Finish— Operation “Championship”
Down-on-their-luck Iowa City stood between the J-Hawks and what the entire state knew would be the state title showdown with No. 2 ranked Davenport Central the following Friday. The Little Hawks offered no resistance to the panzer-like Jeff blitzkrieg. Coach Lawrence pulled his starters early, as every able-bodied reserve saw action during the 59-0 thrashing.

A rendezvous with destiny (and immortality) awaited in the form of an old nemesis— the Blue Devils (aka the Imps) of Davenport Central. The two heavyweight contenders were 1-1-1 over the last three years. They knew, as did the entire state of Iowa, this contest was for “all-the-marbles.” Some 12,000 boisterous fans were in attendance to witness the battle of titans.

Coming into the contest, both offenses were prodigious. Jeff had tallied 275 points while Central amassed 244. Both teams averaged around 320 yards per game. Neither team’s defense had yielded more than one score a game.

The J-Hawks nursed a slim 7-6 lead at the half. Opening the third, Jeff drove 67 yards in 12 plays, finding the end zone on a 4th down pass to Scoop Hellentall from 19 yards out. Ahead 14-6, at the 5:41 mark of the third, the home team appeared to be in the driver’s seat. But, early in the 4th stanza, Central came to life. Imp quarterback John Kehoe threw an 84-yard strike to dangerous receiver Gene Baker. The unruly Blue Devils had stormed back, nudging ahead to an 18-14 lead.

The table was set. It was do-or-die time for the team of destiny. Victory was hanging precariously, waiting for someone to grasp it. Could the Big Blue reach out and secure it? Yes! What transpired next echoes within the halls of Jefferson to this day. With 7:35 left in the fourth quarter, Ted Lawrence’s quarterback and son, Larry, engineered a 72 yard drive during which he himself converted twice on fourth down before stalling at the Davenport 12. Once more, the younger Lawrence saved the day scampering into the end zone with 1:07 remaining in the game. Mighty Jon Meskimen fell on a Central fumble as time expired. The final verdict: Jeff survived, 20-18.

Technically, the J-Hawks had to win their regular season finale, near the Arsenal in Illinois, a week later. They did, to the tune of 43-0. Jeff raked in all the chips with two juniors leading the way against Rock Island.

The Aftermath— Mission Accomplished
When pressed by reporters to compare the two championship teams, Lawrence replied, “It’s hard to compare the two teams. This year’s is by far the best offensive team I’ve ever had. But I don’t know if they’re any better on defense than the team we had a year ago.”

Shortly after the banquet, a bombshell dropped. Following consecutive state championships, it was announced this would be the final year for Coach Ted Lawrence who finished as the J-Hawk head man with a six-year record of 40-12-2.

A more detailed profile of Coach Ted Lawrence
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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