Fifty years ago, Weyauwega-Fremont’s high school football team not only won every game, it did so without allowing a single point to be scored against them.
The Union High School football team played eight games that year, beginning at Seymour and ending at home against Wittenberg. In all, the Indians scored a total of 215 points.
Their opponents? Nothing.
“It was maybe the third or fourth game in that we began thinking about the fact that no one had scored against us,” said Jack Wohlt, who was a junior that fall and the team’s quarterback.
Keith French was the head coach and in his second year of teaching and coaching there.
“He knew how to put the right people in the right places,” Wohlt said. “He had a very good knowledge of the game. He set up multiple offenses. It was easy for me to understand.”
Jim Steinberg was a senior in the fall of 1961 and played offensive and defensive tackle.
“In my perspective, there wasn’t a lot of talk within the team about no one scoring against us. It was just one game at a time,” he said.
The team’s desire to win the conference stemmed from how it had finished the previous season.
“Waupaca beat us at the last minute with a field goal. If we had won or tied, we would have been tied with Waupaca for the conference championship,” Steinberg said.
Richard Barker was also a senior in the fall of 1961. He was the back-up quarterback and started at linebacker.
“I never thought of the team as special at the time. However, after four shutouts, some of us on the defense began to think about the possibility of going unscored-upon for the season.
“We knew we would have a good team. The team was senior dominated. That being said, our best athlete, in my opinion, was our junior quarterback, Jack Wohlt. We had great coaches, great team leadership and chemistry,” Barker said.
He said their coaches were ahead of their times and extremely organized. “Everyone was treated equally, there were no favorites,” Barker said.
French was joined on the coaching staff by Fred Aegerter, James Otte, Ed Hildebrand and Richard Behnke.
One of Steinberg’s memories before the start of the 1961 season was a phone call from French that summer, asking Steinberg if he could bring his lawn mower to the new field.
Up until then, the team had played its games in front of the grandstand at the county fairgrounds. This would be the first year on the new field.
About four other guys received the same call from French, asking if they could help cut the new field’s lawn. “It worked,” Steinberg said.
When the season started, little did they know just how successful they would be on that new field.
Members of the team gathered for a reunion in September and learned that while no official records were kept by WIAA, newspaper articles mention that the 1942 Wausau, 1943 Baraboo, 1950 Aradia and 1969 Chilton teams also had perfect seasons.
The Aug. 31, 1961 issue of the Chronicle had a preview of the Sept. 1 opening game in Seymour. In addition to Barker, Wohlt and Steinberg, the starting lineup was listed as Ed Mathwig, Tom Bartel, Joe Phillips, Chuck Looker, Dennis Robbert, Jack Paschke, John Buchholz, Russ Schoenick and John Marks.
A column from that same issue said, “If you can’t think of anything to do Friday evening, why not run up to Seymour and see our football team open its season? The Indians have as good a chance to take the conference championship this year as they ever had. It’s a smooth running club, loaded with talent.”
Steinberg believes the team was successful because of its focus.
“The offense he (French) installed was simple yet complicated,” he said. “We ran audibles many times.”
The work ethic they had as a team carried through for many of them.
“I had Mr. Otte sophomore year for biology,” Steinberg said. “His theme in all of his classes is that there’s always a system. He told us that will always be important in whatever you do. Looking back, that is exactly what we had as seniors – a system – being able to change plays, running series or a system of plays. That was one of the most important things I learned in biology class.”
Of the perfect season, Steinberg said, “We had good luck. We were also pretty good athletes. Going back to junior year, our objective was to win conference. Jack was a tremendous athlete all around – football, basketball, baseball. He was the best man at our wedding.”
Wohlt said the community was behind the team. “It was the thing to do. Everyone went to the football games,” he said. “I signed my first autograph after that last game.”
The autograph was for Tommy Maasch, a young boy who lived in Wohlt’s neighborhood.
“He came up to me as I was getting on the bus and handed me two quarters and said he wanted my autograph. He had a pencil and a piece of paper. That stood out in my mind. What did I just do? That was my first and my last autograph that I ever signed.
“We were on an emotional high for a long time after that. We felt we could accomplish things that were difficult,” Wohlt said. “I remember at one of my reunions, one of my teammates said, ‘What good did it do for me?’ It made me think that for a lot of people, I think it did them a lot of good – self esteem, confidence, fair play.”
Several members of that team, including Barker, Steinberg and Wohlt, went on to become teachers and coaches themselves.
Barker has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and a master’s degree from Northern Michigan. He taught biology in Kimberly from 1970 to 1975 and middle school life science at Southern Door from 1976 to 2005. He coached middle school basketball for 25 years at Southern Door. Retired since 2005, Barker and his wife Julie live in Sturgeon Bay.
Wohlt went to UW-Stevens Point, where he played football for four years, baseball for two and basketball for one.
He retired in 2000, after teaching junior high and high school art in the New London School District for 32 1/2 years. During many of those years, he coached varsity football and junior varsity and varsity baseball. He and his wife Sharon live in rural Weyauwega.
Steinberg also graduated from UW-Stevens Point and played football there. He worked in public education in Wisconsin for a total of 33 years, including as a teacher, coach and athletic director.
He and his wife Marlene (Zeichert) were high school sweethearts and live in Oconomowoc.
“This team I played on and the other teams I coached, the thing was it didn’t matter who did what as long as the team was successful,” he said. “When you have a selfless group of people, you will be highly successful.”