In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, the Beaver Dam prep football program set a tradition the likes of no other.
In 1979, ’80 and ’82, the Golden Beavers won Little Ten Conference championships with undefeated records all three years, and in ‘79 they won the WIAA Division 2 state championship.
“We expected to be good every year in that era,” then-BD head coach Charlie McDonald said. “We had outstanding talent.”
The tradition was set not just with amazing talent but even better people, and those same members of the ‘82 team will be holding a 35-year reunion today as part of BD’s homecoming game vs. Sauk Prairie.
McDonald said that the ‘82 team was special because the players believed in the tradition he set.
“These kids showed up in a bad mood. We could count on them for that. You didn’t have to encourage them too much to be in a bad mood,” he said. “They pretty much knew that’s the way they wanted to be.”
McDonald coached nine first-team all-LTC players that season: Tim Scharfenberg, Jeff Schkirke, Dan Affeldt, Andy Kohn, Doug Lloyd, Karl Nienhuis, Brad Chitko, Mark Gonnion and Rob Riehbrandt that season. And Scharfenberg, Nienhuis and Chitko also received all-state accolades.
It resulted in a 10-1 record that included a school-record five-straight shutout victories and a trip to the D2 state semifinals against eventual state champion Grafton.
“It was very much in our minds we wanted to carry on the tradition,” Scharfenberg, a former 6-foot-5 defensive back, said. “The tradition had been established (in the 70s). We grew up with it. I think I can speak for my teammates – the highlight of our week was going to a Beaver Dam football game and being a part of that experience growing up (seeing) the success they had through the 70s and, of course, the state championship team in 79. It was a big part of our mindset.
“We didn’t want to let the community down. We felt a very strong sense of community pride.”
Defeating highly-favored Oconomowoc – the No. 1 ranked team in the state at the time – 3-0 in overtime that season gave the Beavers a boost of confidence.
“We rose to the occasion,” Scharfenberg said. “We never looked back and went on to win the conference championship. We played for each other, our families, our town and for all those who built the winning tradition of Beaver Dam football.”
That season was built on a balanced offensive attack and amazing defense. Nienhuis, the quarterback, threw for a school record 1,200 yards while running back Doug Lloyd rushed for 741 yards and nine touchdowns on 163 carries, and running back Kurt Hein rushed for 535 yards and six TDs on 110 carries.
And in an era that was known for its rushing attack, Nienhuis had talented receiving options in Chitko (46 catches for 681 yards) and Gonnion (30 catches, 346 yards).
“I think it was twofold,” Nienhuis said of passing more than most. “I think it was one, we had the talent to do it and I think Charlie trusted that we put in the work.”
It wasn’t just the offense that made that BD team great – the defense was punishing as well.
“We just wanted it so that if they ever played us again they wouldn’t even want to go on the field because they knew they were going to get hit,” Nienhuis said. “Our defense was awesome.”
“We definitely got after people,” Scharfenberg added. “We were just a tough, hard-nosed, physical football team. Yes, it was definitely an attitude involved that we were going to be the aggressor and … we just played hard, physical football.”
It showed in how many shutouts the Beavers had.
Scharfenberg and Nienhuis both agreed that it was practice and the coaching staff that deserve a lot of credit for the success.
Practices almost felt like game day for the Beavers, who went all out during the week.
“Our practices were awesome,” Nienhuis said. “I think it just pushed everyone to another level.”
Then the coaching staff of McDonald, Joe Loizzo, Jerry Lauff, George Gonnion and Mark Furdek knew how to teach and motivate the players.
“I can’t say enough about the coaching staff that was in place,” Scharfenberg said. “That was a pretty consistent group. They had been together as a unit … for quite a few years.”
Needless to say, with all the winning and the quality athletes on the roster, McDonald and his staff were loving life.
“I think it was a lot of fun,” McDonald said. “We had come off some years where we were really good, which helped. It gave us a lot to build on. Playoffs were just beginning. In those days you had to win a conference championship to be in the tournament. The whole emphasis was really on the season, on the conference games and playing that way.
“Even now, I think emphasizing the conference games is really vital, not for anything else other than to win the conference championship. I think that’s a goal you always want to have.”