High School Football

A century of Belleville football

The first team at Belleville Township High School, circa 1916. The team’s first game ended in a 0-0 tie, then it captured the program’s first victory against McKendree College at Lebanon.
The first team at Belleville Township High School, circa 1916. The team’s first game ended in a 0-0 tie, then it captured the program’s first victory against McKendree College at Lebanon.

It all began with a 0-0 tie against Edwardsville in 1916. One hundred years later the wins, the losses and, mostly, the names spell out a great high school football tradition in Illinois.

The Belleville Township High School District 201 split into two schools in the 1960s and gave birth to a new tradition on the East end of town, which fans and alumni are celebrating as well. The two teams — the West Maroons and East Lancers — clash at 1 p.m. Saturday with a special celebration of their shared heritage. Alumni players, cheerleaders and former coaches have been invited and will be recognized during the game and with a reception following at Fischer’s Restaurant, next door to the original campus.

Here are some highlights (and a few lowlights) from 100 years of Belleville Township High School football:

Belleville Township High School/Belleville West 100 Years Of Football

1916

FIRST HOME FIELD: North End Park on North Illinois Street

FIRST GAME: 0-0 tie against Edwardsville

FIRST TOUCHDOWN: Kurt Leuschner scored the only points of the entire season on an 85-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in a 20-6 loss to Collinsville.

1917

FIRST WIN: 7-0 over McKendree

1919

VENUE CHANGE: Maroons move to Belleville Township High School Field

1923

FIRST WINNING SEASON: 7-4, including five shutouts. Maroons scored 238 points, better than all bunt a handful of teams in school history. Not until 1942 did BTHS reach that total again and then it took until 1962 to surpass it a second time.

FIRST SOUTHWESTERN CONFERENCE: League was formed in 1923 and included Belleville, Collinsville, Alton, Edwardsville and Granite City. After various incarnations, the league currently includes Alton, Belleville East, Belleville West, Collinsville, East St. Louis, Edwardsville, Granite City and O’Fallon.

1927

FIRST THANKSGIVING DAY GAME: The annual tradition of playing East St. Louis on Thanksgiving Day began in 1927. The Flyers dominated the series overall and won the first Turkey Day game 24-0.

1929

FIRST UNDEFEATED SEASON: 9-0, won the Southwestern Conference title.

BIG WIN: Maroons edged East St. Louis 9-6 in a game moved from Thanksgiving to Nov. 30 because of a muddy field. Estimated crowd was 10,000.

1935

COOL UNIFORMS: Maroons had alternating styles with horizontal stripes on the front of the jersey that looked something like a skeleton’s bones, along with other jerseys that included a full vertical stripe pattern.

1937

STONE WALL DEFENSE: Belleville (8-1-1) posted nine straight shutouts, one a 0-0 tie against Alton, and did not allow a touchdown until East St. Louis scored twice in a 12-6 victory over the Maroons to end the season.

1938

THE STREAK: Maroons won 16 straight games, including a 10-0 season in 1938 led by future Millikin University and Canadian Football League Hall of Famer Virgil Wagner. Beat East St. Louis 21-7 in 1938 before a crowd of 7,000 and Wagner was part of Belleville’s first win over East St. Louis, its first undefeated season and its first Southwestern Conference title.

VENUE CHANGE: Home games played at Belleville Athletic Field while Township Stadium was under construction.

1939

STREAK OVER: Alton snaps Belleville’s 16-game win streak with a 20-7 victory over Maroons in Week 7.

1940

VENUE CHANGE: Maroons play first game in new Township Stadium against Cathedral, more than 4,200 fans showed up.

1941

MR. TOUCHDOWN: Running back Dick McElvey had quite a career with the Maroons and a was a threat to score every time he touched the ball on running plays or punt and kick returns. He returned three punts for TDs against Madison in 1941. For his career, McElvey had 43 TDs, scored 272 points, ran for 1,739 yards. He also threw six TD passes, had six TD receptions and returned two interceptions for TDs.

1942

THE BLOWOUT: Maroons ran for 699 yards and threw for another 127 to rack up 827 yards of offense in a 128-0 victory over Sparta in the season opener. Nine different Belleville players scored TDs led by four from Dick McElvey. McElvey had 24 TDs in 10 games in 1942.

1944

MR. GOALBY: Future PGA Masters champ Bob Goalby played quarterback for the Maroons from 1944-46.

1957

INSTANT OFFENSE: Jerry Russell scored three touchdowns in 4 minutes, 38 seconds of the third quarter in a 49-6 win over Cathedral.

1958

WAIT TIL NEXT YEAR: Maroons go 0-10 and are shut out five times while being outscored 229-50.

1961

MR QB: Gary Kombrink era begins at quarterback. The future Missouri quarterback’s big year was 1962, when he accounted for 1,521 yards of total offense while running a potent option attack.

1962

THE UNBEATENS: Belleville goes 10-0 and wins the conference, wrapping up the season with a rare 40-6 victory over East St. Louis. The defense had four shutouts and allowed more than one TD in only one game on a team that some still consider the best in Maroons history.

1963

SO CLOSE: Only a 14-10 loss to Assumption in Week 2 kept the Maroons (10-1) from posting back-to-back unbeaten seasons. They did win a third straight SWC title and stretched the string to four with a co-championship in 1964.

SO GOOD: Jim Goodwin had 197 yards rushing and four TDs (223 yards of offense overall) in a 35-12 win over Collinsville.

1964

THE STREAK: As usual, East St. Louis snaps a long winning streak as the Flyers ended the run of consecutive Belleville victories at 18 with a 26-14 Thanksgiving Day win.

MR. TD: Clyde Kuehn had 13 TDs on the season, 12 on run plays.

1966

NAME CHANGE: Belleville Township became Belleville West with the city split into two high schools.

1967

FAMILY TREE: Bill Mauser, whose brother Gary Mauser would later play quarterback for the Maroons, eventually became Belleville’s all-time leading rusher before playing at the University of Missouri. Gary Mauser broke several passing records with the Maroons in the 1970s before playing at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and McKendree. The Mauser brothers’ father, Bill Mauser, was a halfback at Belleville from 1943-45.

1968

ZERO: Cahokia’s 21-0 win over Belleville West marked the Maroons’ first shutout loss since the 1960 season finale against East St. Louis, an impressive 80-game scoring streak.

1969

CELEBRATE: Maroons (10-1) score a school-record 367 points with quarterback John Bunch (14 TD passes) and running back Rich Caravia (11 TDs) leading the way. Future Olympian Tom Stock is a lineman on the team.

HELLO NEW RIVAL: In the first varsity football meeting between Belleville East and Belleville West, East won 28-8 and the Lancers went on to a 10-0 season while the Maroons finished 10-1.

THE BELL: In the 50th anniversary of the Maroons game vs. East St. Louis, with the winner gaining control of the “Victory Bell” presented by Southern Railway, West won 13-12 and a brawl broke out as the Maroons tried to claim the traveling trophy from near the grandstand at Parsons Field. Fans from both sides eventually became involved and reports from that time indicated that order was restored when an off-duty East St. Louis police officer fired two shots into the air. The Victory Bell was somewhere in East St. Louis for several weeks before being found and returned to Belleville West.

1971

AERIAL DISPLAY: Gary Mauser throws 16 TD passes in an 8-2 season. Dale Greiman’s 39 pass receptions were a school record at the time.

1973

RUSTY LISCH ERA: Future Notre Dame and NFL quarterback Rusty Lisch begins his career as a starter at West with nine TD passes, including four in one game against Lincoln for the 9-1-1 Maroons. Lisch was originally a running back before being converted to quarterback.

1974

NO TURKEY: 1974 marked the first time since 1926 when the Maroons did not play East St. Louis on Thanksgiving Day (except for a postponed game in 1929). East St. Louis has dominated much of the all-time series against Belleville and Belleville West and had a whopping 53-15-3 advantage from 1916 through 1984 while shutting out the Maroons 35 times in that span. Belleville West defeated the Flyers in 2014 and 2015 before losing 52-0 this season.

1975

FIRST STATE PLAYOFF GAME: Belleville West defeated Sandburg 27-19 in its first playoff game before losing 14-7 to Willowbrook in the second round. Kicker Doug Dobbs was successful on 27-of-28 extra point tries and booted six field goals that season.

1976

BEST MODERN ERA TEAM: Maroons went 11-1, won the conference and reached the playoff semifinals before losing a 13-10 heartbreaker to Glenbard West. Quarterback Joe Young tossed a school-record five TD passes against Collinsville and Kirk Sonnenberg was an all-state linebacker.

1984

PASSING STAR: Future Belleville West Athletic Director Mark Lanxon closed out his quarterback career as the school’s all-time leader (at that time) in completion percentgage for a season (67-for-107, 62. 6 percent), career pass completions (167), career passing yards (2,270) and career TD passes (24).

1985

HIGH WATER MARK: Coach Bruce Arnold’s third straight 8-2 season marked the last time West would win eight games in a season until Ric Johns coached West to an 8-2 mark and playoff berth in 2008.

2002

VENUE CHANGE: Belleville West plays its final season as the home team at Township Stadium, which would be torn down and renovated into the future home of Lindenwood University in Belleville. The new field gain notoriety with its unique maroon and gray striped color scheme, earning it the name “The Candy Cane.” Belleville West moved to its new field at its new campus in 2003.

2013

END OF AN ERA: After playing each other since 1933, Belleville West played its final game against Althoff (formerly Cathedral) and delivered a 53-20 victory over the Crusaders.

2014

SECOND ROUND: Belleville West reached the second round of the playoffs before losing to Mt. Carmel 24-6. The Maroons have made it past the second round of the playoffs only once in school history, when the 1976 team reached the semifinals.

All-Time Record

524-392 (.572 pct)

Information compiled by Norm Sanders and Todd Eschman of the News-Democrat staff along with George “Bill” Nold’s History of Belleville West Football book

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