In August 1966, the members of the 1966 Almont varsity football team assembled to get their equipment, playbooks and practice schedules. As a group they expected to have a very good season. Two years before, while together on the junior varsity, these young men had a six win and one loss season. The only loss was to Armada in the infamous “First and Seventy” game. The only thing that could impact these high expectations was the possibility of injuries.

Even before this meeting the injury bug had bitten the team. Our two starting tackles–both offense and defense –had attended a football camp and came back with injuries. Loni Herr had a mild concussion that would clear in about ten days but Wayne Tessmer had a lower back injury which would last all season. Wayne’s injury limited him to playing only on defense.

During training camp both starting offensive guards hurt their knees. Left guard Don Millikin had a mild sprain but right guard Paul Bowman’s injury was more serious. Paul’s injury limited his ability to pull and lead runners on the power sweep–our primary offensive play. Paul, like Wayne, was initially limited to playing defense.

The team won its first two games without any more major injuries. The third game against Anchor Bay was a David and Goliath game. Almont’s offensive and defensive lines average 155 pounds and had to play against players that the Almont Times-Herald referred to as the “Green Bay Packers”. Anchor Bay’s interior defensive line had players weighing 235, 245, 255, and 285 (probably actually over 300).

There were several unusual aspects to this game. Almont twice stopped Anchor Bay from scoring from the one-yard line with a first down. Almont led at halftime 12 to 7. Near the end of the third quarter, Anchor Bay took the lead. The teams were then informed that there were less than five minutes left in the game. With no scoreboard, time had been kept on the field by an official who lost track of the time. Anchor Bay won 14 to 12.

During the next game against Memphis, the team lost its starting quarterback, Al Currey. Al ran a sweep around the right end and had his collarbone broken when a player landed on him. John Bacholzky took over as quarterback, and we still won.

The next week during practice we worked on installing a “halfback pass play”. As John Schulte set up to pass, his calf was stepped on and the skin “split” like what happens in a boxing match. Coach Hill took him to Community Hospital for repairs. When he came back, Coach Briggs had the team crawl across the practice field looking for the piece out of John’s leg. There wasn’t anything missing from John’s leg. His leg cramped and opened up the split. John got stitches and was out for a couple of weeks.

The Anchor Bay and Memphis game resulted in a number of bumps and bruises, which limited the availability of a number of team members. Against Brown City, a kick-off team made up of healthy players allowed Brown City to run the kickoff back for a touchdown. We ended up winning easily but Paul Bowman sustained a neck injury, which would limit him the rest of the year.

The next game was against Armada, and it did not go well. We lost 26 to 7. The bigger loss was right tackle Alan Brooks who suffered a fractured ankle. Coach Hill tried to get him to “walk it off”.

The next week the team beat Dryden without any more significant injuries. The next game was to be at New Haven, but the weather caused the game to be cancelled. It snowed about five or six inches, then it rained but the snow didn’t melt, and then it froze. The field conditions were unsafe. Armada and Memphis played on the Armada field and had multiple leg injuries.

During this week off, the problem with Wayne Tessmer’s back was finally diagnosed as cracked vertebrae in his lower back, which would pinch a nerve causing his back to spasm. Wayne was out for the last game.

The week of the Imlay City game (the Chester Marcol game), Eric Nielsen was involved in an altercation with a couple Imlay City players and was prevented from playing. He had a couple black eyes.

The Imlay City game started with us temporarily losing our quarterback. An Imlay City blitz resulted in John Bacholzky having a bloody nose. Once they got the nose to stop bleeding, John came back in and threw a touchdown pass to tie the score. However, John also suffered a concussion and didn’t return. John Schulte took over as quarterback. Coach Briggs used Paul Bowman and Jim Wade as messenger guards to get the plays into the team. A late Imlay City touchdown, won the game for Imlay City.

From the early high expectation, the team ended the season with a record of five wins and three losses and a group of players nursing injuries.

Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or jrwade49@ gmail.com or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.