SI Vault
William Nack
November 04, 1985
As if Glenville, Minnesota doesn't have woe enough over the parlous state of its farm economy, the high school football team had an 0-8 season, extending its losing streak to 68, four games from the record held by Iberia (Mo.)
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November 04, 1985

'like Being Slugged In The Gut'

As if Glenville, Minnesota doesn't have woe enough over the parlous state of its farm economy, the high school football team had an 0-8 season, extending its losing streak to 68, four games from the record held by Iberia (Mo.)

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Oh, there have been some things to talk about over the years. In 1876, in the town of Northfield, 70 miles away, the Jesse James gang bungled a bank robbery that landed Cole Younger in jail, and while in the area the gang stopped for fresh horses at Stephen Reeder's place, some 3� miles west of Glenville. Now and then a twister passes through. In 1967, a tornado picked up Mrs. Otto Ziebell's house, sheared it off at the foundation and deposited her out in the pasture.

"They couldn't find her for a while," says Janice Schilling, a bartender at the Office Bar, "but she lived."

That was the year when Severtson was a hard-nosed sophomore and Glenville was still a force to be reckoned with in high school football. It was not a power, but its teams were competitive, in part because in those days Glenville belonged to the now defunct Southland Conference, made up of a group of smaller burgs like Lyle, Elkton, Adams and Rose Creek.

When the Southland Conference folded in 1973, after three of its member schools consolidated, Glenville was invited to join the Gopher Conference, with its bigger schools and stronger teams. Olson coached the varsity from 1969 through '79, seeing it through the transition. "We'd win three or four games a year in a schedule of nine in the Gopher," he says. "We never went over .500." In 1977, their last respectable year, the Trojans were 4-5. The next season they began the big slide after winning the second game against Minnesota Lake. The rest has been silence.

After the winless 1979 season, Olson became the athletic director and coach of the girls' softball team, a new program that he has since turned into the centerpiece of Glenville athletics. The girls have gone 55-5 in the last four years, and are undefeated in the Gopher Conference over that time. "Something to brag about, they are," crows Forseth.

But the football team continues to lose and lose. Why? For one thing: Glenville has only 450 youngsters in kindergarten through the 12th grade, giving it the second-smallest enrollment among the conference's seven public school systems. Blooming Prairie has the largest enrollment, with 891 kids. "We're out of our league," says Friedrichsen.

Over the years, some games have been so close as to be decided on one play—on a missed kick or errant pass. In 1983 Janesville beat the Trojans in overtime, 6-0, and a week later Faribault won 7-6. Against Morristown in 1981, they lost 2-0 on a safety. Remembering the close calls, Glenville's school superintendent, Bill Bjorklund, says, quite sympathetically, "If there's a way to get beat, they have found it."

The coach's office has had a revolving door. Since 1979 there have been four coaches at Glenville, and in the three years from 1982 to '84 there were three. Jeff Foss, a senior last year, played under all three. "Very unstable," says Foss, an offensive lineman and linebacker, one of the best players to come out of Glenville in the last few years. "Different coaches, different strategies. It's hard to build a program like that."

But Don Williamson, who runs Don's Food Market on Main Street, says, "There has to be something mental holding them back. It has to be intangible. They can go from the 40 to the 30 to the 20 to the 10, but something in the back of their minds is telling them that the end zone is a twilight zone. An unknown. And, hey, you don't really have to be there, so why do it? There is a security being in a situation that hasn't changed. These kids aren't losers. They are no different than other kids. We've had good kids up there, as good as other kids, but I think they're secure in the state of losing. Let's face it. Losing has been accepted."

However much truth there is in that, losing football games has been no intangible experience for Roger Reuvers, who took over as football coach in '84, but the reasons behind it have remained as invisible to him as pollen in the air. "We've been improving statistically, but we're still coming out with the same results, the same score," he said after a 13-0 loss to Janesville on Oct. 5. "And I hear it over and over again from coaches at other schools: 'Your kids play hard, they don't quit, they play to the end.' It has been tough this year. The media. The continued losing. We really thought we had a chance to win some games this year."

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