SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-HERALD- Defensively Fetter and Hand were linebackers in the 6-2 set, Olson and Lyon the defensive ends, Les Zmolek and Corum at tackles and Carson and Dave Zmolek at guards. McCreary and juniors Wiese and Mark Rutledge were in the defensive backfield. Foreman place-kicked and Maplethorpe punted. “Mark Fetter was a special player,” said Ommen. “In two or three steps he was running wide open. He was as quick a player as I ever coached and could cover sideline to sideline defensively. “Pound for pound, Rick Hand was as tough as they come,” said Ommen. “So was Carson. I tell you, he was only 170 pounds playing on the offensive and defensive lines. About every guy on the line was like Carson and Corum, extremely quick off the ball. When you have a team that could gain six to 10 yards every play running, we didn’t pass as much as we probably could have. Maplethorpe was a smart, talented quarterback and we had all kinds of guys (Lyon, Wiese, McCreary, Stan Zeutenhorst) who could catch the ball.” What would make South Tama so strong as the season wore on were the reserves that would step in. Foreman eventually found starting time on the interior defensive line and Randy Nekola had quality time at defensive end. Seniors Gary Abbe (quarterback/defensive back), Ron Hill (defensive line), Rutledge playing behind Fetter at tailback and junior Zeutenhorst at split end and defensive back all made significant contributions. In many games, reserves would play most of the fourth quarter. Injuries cost some of the team’s best players (Fetter, Maplethorpe and Hand) full games and limited the play of others like Corum who played on despite a painful hip-pointer and Lyon who sprained an ankle midway through the season. The team traveled to Des Moines East for its first game and slugged out a 7-0 victory over a team that the Des Moines Register had predicted as one of the top 4A teams in the Metro. Against Boone the Trojans had their first home game and responded with a 34-7 victory. Saydel had scouted the Trojans well and used a 240-pound nose tackle to jam up the team’s highly effective trapping offense. A classic quote from Coach Ommen in his weekly “Coaches Corner” in the Tama News-Herald said, “Saydel definitely came to play while South Tama became absorbed in their news clippings with their heads in the clouds.” Ouch! “Of all the teams we played that year,” said Ommen. “Saydel gave us the most trouble. People think of them as sort of the doormat of the old CIC, but they played us tough.” Ommen’s tough love approach to the game worked as the team crushed a highly ranked, and enormous Grinnell team 39-7. The Grinnell coach admitted to a Marshalltown Times-Republican sportswriter that South Tama’s small, quick offensive and defensive linemen “beat his players to death.” Two top-10 ranked 3A teams met at Ankeny in the fifth game of the season and it proved a costly victory for the Trojans. Maplethorpe sustained a bruised kidney and Fetter separated his shoulder. Maplethorpe didn’t miss a snap and directed the team on a long, fourth-quarter drive to win the game. A battered Trojan team met Urbandale at home the next Friday without the services of their starting quarterback and all-state tailback. Gary Abbe stepped in at quarterback and played brilliantly. Rick Hand ran up the middle off the trap blocks of Carson, Olson and Paxton for 100 yards and Mark Rutledge and Byron Wiese let the entire conference know that the Trojans did not have a one-dimensional offense. It was the defense, however, that drove the spike in Urbandale’s heart with two interceptions returned for touchdowns. “We were good defensively because our guys were disciplined about doing their jobs, particularly a long the line,” said Ommen. “Our linebackers made a lot of tackles, but it was because guys like Lyon and Olson at ends, Corum and Foreman at tackles and Carson and the Zmolek boys were doing what they were supposed to do.” The next game was at home as well and would be a rematch of the prior year’s CIC title bout. Indianola entered the game with the longest winning streak in the state, 34 games. A crowd estimated at over 5,000 packed the old Tama field. The game was close until near the end of the half when the lights on the east side of the field went out. Time was called, officials and coaches agreed to play on in the semi-darkness and Maplethorpe threw the first pass after play resumed to a streaking Wiese down the east sidelines for the only score of the first half. Fetter would rush for 129 yards with a bum shoulder and STC won 29-7. “The play I’ll never forget was a punt early in the third quarter,” recalled Ommen. “We were yelling at Fetter to let the ball roll into the endzone, he picked it up at the 10, ran into Mark Rutledge (who sustained a mild concussion from the blow), spun around and ran 90 yards for the touchdown. It was the beginning of the end of Indianola.” The next week the Associated Press had the Trojans ranked fourth in the state – a poll that included all classes – behind Waterloo East, Des Moines Dowling and Sioux City Heelan, all 4A teams. The final two games were wipeouts as the Trojans rolled to an unbeaten year. The team beat Southeast Polk 46-0 in a driving rain on an absolute field of slop. The next week in freezing cold they demolished Knoxville 48-0. The season ended with South Tama ranked fourth by AP among all classes and second in a Des Moines Register 3A poll to Cedar Rapids Regis (8-1) a fact that still rankles former players. “It was a year before the playoff system,” said Coach Ommen. “I’m pretty sure if you asked any of the guys, they’d tell you we would have won the title.” Post-season honors followed. Fetter would be named first team all-conference, first team all-state and high school All-American. Maplethorpe, Corum, Lyon, Carson and Wiese were all first team all-conference picks by the Register. McCreary and Paxton were second team all-conference. On another all-conference team, Corum, Carson, Maplethorpe and Fetter were first team offensive players, Lyon, Foreman, Hand and Wiese were first team defensive players and Abbe, Rutledge, McCreary, Paxton, Dave Zmolek, Les Zmolek, Olson and Zeutenhorst received honorable mention. Most of the first team all-conference players received all-state honorable mention. The team was wined and dined following the season as universities across the nation recruited Fetter. The entire team attended an Iowa State game and later an Iowa game where they ate in the Amana Colonies following the game. Both ISU’s Johnny Majors and Iowa’s Frank Lauterbach, spoke at banquets held for the team. Fetter wound up at Iowa and was a four-year starter in the offensive backfield. Corum headed to Cornell College and became a three-time first team all Midwest Conference tackle and linebacker for the Rams. Maplethorpe and Carson both played at Luther College. There were other players who could have played at the collegiate level but for one fact. The team remains one of the smallest teams in school history, with their biggest player weighing around 205 and the offensive and defensive starters on the line averaging Just over 180 pounds. The late Dr. Charles Maplethorpe, Jr., Jim’s father, kept the legend of the team alive, gathering up all of the old 16mm film and making it into VCRs for players on the team. Many of the teammates gather at five-year reunions of the classes of 1972 and 1973 and after spinning up on spouses, children and grandchildren, the unbeaten season is always revisited. Teammates and their coaches will gather at South Tama’s home game Friday, Oct. 14 to remember again, 40 years after an unbeaten season.
(Dave Paxton is the publisher of newspapers in Albia and Chariton and was a senior on the 1971 Trojan team.)
The 1971 South Tama football team and coaching staff. Members of the 1971 South Tama football team: Seniors, Gary Abbe, Kim Willer, Jim Maplethorpe, Craig McCreary, John Karkosh, Rick Hand, Mark Fetter, Dave Paxton, Dave Zmolek, Jim Haynes, Wally Carson, Craig Brown, Bob Stewart, Les Zmolek, George Corum, Dan Quigley, Eric Lyon, Luther Heller, Bruce Bouska, mgr. Juniors, Mark Rutledge, Byron Wiese, Paul Genskow, Mark Oettchen, Dale Little, Mike Purk, Randy Cooper, Tom Vest, Randy Gitautis, Randy Olsen, Dick Burnes, Dave Harrison, Ric Foreman, Jeff Else, Vanetin Aguilar, Jeff Feisel, Marty McCoy, Gordon Fetter, Stan Zeutenhorst, Larry Hand, Randy Nekola, Mike Bidwell. Photo from team members Craig McCreary and Eric Lyon