(Note: My fourth book, "Dusty, Deek, and Mr. Do-Right: High School Football In Illinois," published by University of Illinois Press, is currently available online through University of Illinois Press, Borders, Barnes & Noble and Amazon and at your local bookstore. To my knowledge, it is the first book ever written on the subject. So I wanted to cover everything> I wrote 150,000 words. The publisher wanted closer to 100,000. So, regrettably, I had to delete several stories from the final manuscript. Beginning a few weeks ago and continuing for the next several weeks, I will print those stories here. I hope you enjoy them--and the book, too.)
Bob Frisk, the retired assistant managing editor/sports at the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, has been covering high school sports in the northwest suburbs for 50 years. He loves being around high school kids. He has no interest in professional sports.
He has watched his newspaper grow from a weekly that covered only Arlington Heights and Palatine to a daily that covers more than 100 high schools had has five zoned editions for high schools. The circulation has grown from 30,000 to 150,000.
"High school is a special experience," Frisk said. "Kids and coaches appreciate you being there. You feel you are welcome. The atmosphere is different. You realize how important high school sports is to communities. Now I enjoy being around the grandchildren of guys I covered years ago. It keeps me young, talking to old coaches and athletes."
Frisk has covered many great athletes, coaches and teams in the last six decades. But he will always have a special place in his heart for his alma mater, Arlington High School, which closed in 1984. It was one of the saddest days of his life, next to the death of his wife. He still remembers the way it was.
"We had incredible school spirit," he said. "We had great crowds for athletic events. The homecoming parades through downtown Arlington Heights were big and people lined the streets to watch the floats go by with the king and queen.
"Needless to say, Arlington Heights was a much smaller town in those days. It was a very close community and so many things revolved around the high school and its activities. It is tragic that the school was closed and that a city the size of Arlington Heights has no school named for it."
Arlington won 13 state championships in five different sports during its 62-year history. But the football program triggered more interest. Jack Grose produced several outstanding tams in the 1930s, Al Allen coached an unbeaten team in 1966 and Bob Walther was 36-11-2 in six years, including unbeaten teams in 1968 and 1970.
Red Koelling, Norb Rohlwing, Ozzie Aldrich, Bill Robinson, Bill Beckman, Bob O'Hagan, Augie Mayerck, Augie Krause, Dick Winterbauer, Johnny Sujack, George Bork, Mike Dundy, Steve Allen, Kim Markshausen, Steve Conley, Todd Somers, Paul Tollefson, Jim Ulrich, Scotty Douglas, Tom North.
The best players? Dundy, Allen, Dougas and North were Frisk's personal favorites but Bork went on to achieve more glory as a Little All-America quarterback for Howard Fletcher's great teams at Northern Illinois in the early 1960s. Later, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Allen set school passing records that never were broken. Dundy went on to play on Illinois' 1964 Rose Bowl team with Dick Butkus and Jim Grabowski.
Arlington produced four unbeaten teams in its history but Bus Ormsbee's 6-2 finisher in 1959 that featured Bork and Dundy might have been best of all. They lost to Hinsdale by one point and to Maine by six on back-to-back weekends.
Arlington and Hinsdale, coached by Harvey Dickinson, both were 6-0 and highly ranked. The two teams scored three times in the first 1:59. On the first play, Bork threw a 72-yard touchdown pass to Dundy. Vic Dutkovich scored on a 56-yard run on Hinsdale's first play from scrimmage. Then Dundy returned the kickoff 87 yards for another touchdown.
Arlington led 26-13 with 8:42 to play and 26-20 with 4:12 remaining. But Hinsdale drove 76 yards in the last minute to score with eight seconds left on a pass to Dutkovich. And they converted the extra point to win 27-26.
"Easily, the most devastating loss I can remember," Frisk said. "This reporter had trouble getting over that one. What hurt that team was a lack of depth because Arlington sent a second group of juniors to Prospect, which had just opened. If the split hadn't happened at the time, Arliington would have probably gone unbeaten."
Dundy still recalls two plays from the Hinsdale loss. On fourth-and-one at Hinsdale's 40, Bork called a dive play to Dundy. But he bobbled the ball, Dundy had to wait for it, never got into the line and Hinsdale gained possession with 1:04 to play. "If we make the first down, we would have run out the clock," Dundy said.
"The last touchdown was a pass to Dutkovich. It was like slow motion. I was the safety and Gene Dahlquist was the defensive back. He was covering Dutkovich and I was playing center field. I couldn't run fast enough to get over to help Gene. It was the most devastating loss I ever experienced."
After the Hinsdale loss, Bork said he drove back to Arlington and sat in the stands and pouted. "We had a great athletic run in 1958-59. If we won, we ran a victory flag up the pole. Assistant coach Bob Scott would run around the football field and run the flag up the pole for a week," he said.
"There was a great atmosphere. We had 823 kids in our graduating class. There was an electricity around the school. One of the big differences was kids weren't as mobile as they are today, not as many jobs or cars. There was more togetherness. The kids were into the high school community. There was more of a sense of unity than today."
The 1966 team was led by Allen, running back Steve Conley, 6-4, 240-pound tackle/linebacker Kim Markshausen, receiver Dave Lockwood and sophomore tackle Paul Tollefson.
In 1968, Tollefson and Jim Ulrich were senior leaders in the line. Todd Somers emerged as an outstanding runner and passer at quarterback. Running backs Dave Ewart and Denny Meacham each rushed for 600 yards. They were dominant, crushing Fremd 60-6, Prospect 34-0, Glenbard North 47-6, Maine West 26-0 and Forest View 32-0.
The 1970 team was led by Scotty Douglas, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards, and quarterback Terry Ormsbee, son of former coach Bus Ormsbee. In a duel of unbeaten divisional leaders, Arlington trounced Prospect 35-7 as Douglas rushed 27 times for 249 yards. It was one of the most memorable games in Mid-Suburban League history, if only for the pregame hype and the presence of a crowd of 7,000.
Enrollment swelled from 101 in 1922 to 2,235 in 1956. After a renovation in 1980, the school board announced that two of the eight high schools in District 214 would be closed. Arlington was one of them. The last class graduated in 1984 and the school building was sold to Christian Liberty Academy.
"When I heard the school would be closed, I was numb," Dundy said. "Clearly, it was the oldest school. There were newer schools in the district. But Arlington had tradition, the building, the gym, the setting, the atmosphere. To me, tradition was being crushed in favor of contemporary new schools that never will have the kind of tradition that Arlington had."
"It's a melancholy thing to walk up the steps at old Arlington, like a little boy," Bork said. "The building is there and memories of what you did there are still there. But the school is gone. Physically, it is there. But it really isn't."