By Vern Cahak
In 1976 Antigo High School won the first ever WIAA state football championship.
Now, four decades later, that historic team and coaches will be recognized at a 40th anniversary celebration. Saturday, Sept. 24 is the date for that occasion, which will include a 1 p.m. football game against Merrill at Schofield Stadium. Members of that team in attendance will be introduced. Following the game there will be a social gathering, a program and dinner.
The program will feature comments by Dan Thorpe and Dean Seis, who were stars on the ’76 team, Mike Kafka, all-state player on Antigo’s No. 1-ranked 1972 AHS squad, and Jeff Wagner, the play by play radio announcer who covered Antigo’s 6-0 victory over Racine Horlick in the state championship game. Wagner will serve as master of ceremonies. Also appearing will be the three Schofield coaching generations—Gordy, Greg and Tom, the present AHS coach.
The celebration was organized by a group of players belonging to the 1976 team and will serve in part as a fundraiser for the Antigo Gridiron Club. All events are open to the public. Tickets for the program and dinner are available from club members and a new venue location is yet to be determined – as soon as this is decided, it will be posted on the Antigo Times website.
The 1976 Red Robins featured an exceptionally strong defense which carried them to an undefeated 11-0 record. While the offense managed just one touchdown in six games, Antigo shut out six opponents and allowed just a field goal in another game. The Robins surrendered only 35 points and gave up just 114 yards a contest during the regular season. They blanked D. C. Everest and Wisconsin Rapids by identical 8-0 scored and recorded 6-0 wins over both Merrill and Wausau West. A fifth shutout was over Shawano, 32-0. Marshfield was limited to a field goal in n 8-3 loss to Antigo.
Antigo’s remaining victims were Wausau East, 34-12 and Rhinelander, 26-12. A regular season ending 19-8 triumph over Steven Point concluded Antigo’s 9-0 Wisconsin Valley Conference schedule and qualified the Robins for the first ever WIAA playoffs. They trounced Milwaukee Madison, 36-16, and ended their dream season by upsetting Racine Horlick, 6-0. Randy Zoern ran 10 yards in the first period for the only touchdown of the game and a pass interception by Terry Grams with 1:41 to play sealed the win.
The historic victory put the finishing touch on an incredible five year dynasty during which AHS won 49 of 50 games, including playoffs, losing only to Rhinelander in 1974.
Thorpe was an all-state quarterback and defensive back of the year and Gordy Schofield was coach of the year. Also on the Wisconsin Valley All-Conference first team were Seis, Pat Bradly, Joe Mattek and John Payant.
1976 was indeed a memorable season in Antigo High School football history.