JAY DAVIS: Kicking season off with a little football history

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I was set to tell you that this is the 99th season of Tiger football. It is, but it isn’t.

I’ll explain.

The Tigers played their first season in 1915. They went 1-5 that year with a win over McLaughlin and two losses each to Timber Lake and Lemmon.

In 1916 the Tigers went 0-2.  They lost to Timber Lake and Lemmon, but the rest of the season was suspended by an unfortunate incident that happened in Timber Lake. What that incident was I don’t know, I could not find any more information.

Then came the war years. The team did practice in 1917, but they did not play any games. The 1918 season is not even mentioned in the old Tribunes.

Coach Fred “Bat” Nelson took over the squad in 1919 in what seems to have become the first official season in Tiger football history. Bat was a good coach. The Tigers went 3-0-1 in 1919. After playing to a 0-0 tie with Ipswich, the Tigers beat Faulkton 54-0, Ipswich 9-0 and Aberdeen 41-0.

Bat went on to have quite a run with the Tigers. They went 4-2 in 1920 and 4-0-1 in 1921. That team tied with Pierre and beat Aberdeen and Milbank by a combined score of 88-10. Word about how good the Tigers were must have made it over to the eastern part of the state, because the following news article was in the Nov. 24, 1921, Tribune.

GROTON REFUSES TO PLAY AT MOBRIDGE

“There will be no football game at Mobridge Thanksgiving Day, this however, through no fault of the local team. The Mobridge football team, Coach Nelson and Supt. Van Walker were very anxious to have the game with Groton played here, according to the schedule, and regret very much that the Groton team could not be made to live up to the agreement.

“Groton has been trying to cancel the game for a week or more and Mobridge refused to have the game cancelled, demanding that the Groton team live up to their promises. Groton made every sort of excuse and none would be taken. Then they started making unfounded accusations about violations of rules, etc. The state athletic board was appealed to and the board decided that Groton did not have any legitimate cause to cancel and threatened to put them out of the association. In spite of this, however, they refused to play the game.”

The Tigers were even better in 1922 when they went undefeated for five games, beating Timber Lake 65-0, Pierre 16-0, Selby 119-0, Mitchell 21-6 and Milbank 95-0. After the season was over, Sioux Falls was the only other team in state with an unblemished record. Sioux Falls challenged Mobridge to a state championship game. Of course that meant the Tiger players had to get on a train and make the long trip to Sioux Falls. It took three days. When they game was finally played, Sioux Falls took advantage of the weary travelers and won a 27-0 game.

In 1922, Nelson and his charges had a successful 6-2 season, but they went 1-4 in 1923, a man named A.E. Anderson had taken over the coaching duties.

Getting back to where I started this ramble, Tiger football started 99 years ago, but there have not been that many seasons played. If we go back to the two seasons played before 1919, this is the 97th year of Tiger football. Dating from the 1919 season this is the 95th consecutive season for the Tigers.

By my count the Tigers passed the 450-win threshold last fall. The Tiger all-time record stands at 451-314-19. We’ll see how many wins the 2014 Tigers can add to that total starting Friday evening when the Linton-HMB Lions come to town.

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