It was a far different time in many ways in the fall of 1967. And that included high school football in the Quad-Cities.
There were no football playoffs in Iowa or Illinois. The Mississippi Valley conference included Moline, Rock Island and East Moline and schools like Cedar Rapids Washington and Dubuque, Davenport West and Central, among others.
And out of that wide field emerged a Moline team that went undefeated, the last Moline football team to do so in the regular season.
Members of the team on hand to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that undefeated season, were honored at halftime of Saturday’s Class 7A playoff game at Browning Field between the Maroons and Chicago Mount Carmel.
The attendees enjoyed reminiscing about the team that went 9-0 and only allowed 42 points on defense the entire season.
The team had great speed in the backfield, former Moline football and wrestling coach, Paul Carther said.
“We had great speed and great size,” said Carther, a junior on that team who started at defensive tackle and played some on offensive tackle, too. “Of course, we had great coaching, and the players all bonded and got along well.”
“We had a lot of speed,” agreed Mike Collins, 67, who came from Bloomingon for the event. “Every spot had a superstar in it.”
The late Harley Rollinger was in his first year as head coach, taking over a team that went 5-4 the year before. A former jet pilot, he came from Webster City, Iowa.
“It was night and day,” Collins said of how much different he was from the previous head coach. “Rollinger was calmer. He had better plans; his schemes for offense and defense were just advanced over what we had been doing. We had been doing the same thing for years.”
The backfield included the likes of Steve Williams, a speedster who got a scholarship and played at Alabama for Bear Bryant, Curt Anders, who Collins believes would have been a Big Ten player were it not for major injuries, and fullback Randy Anderson, who would later play for Northwestern. Several of the players were on Moline’s state record setting 880 relay team.
The defensive line included Collins, Carther and Jim Gisel, who was about 6-foot-4 and 280, Collins said.
“Our defensive line averaged about 240 pounds,” Collins said. “And back then that was a lot of weight.”
Collins said one of the strongest defensive linemen was Ken Coverdill, who passed away in recent years.
“I think he weighed 160 pounds,” Collins said. “He was our nose guard, but boy, he was awesome.”
Another player Collins fondly remembers from that defense was monster man, Arnie Ibsen, who went on to become a Moline police officer.
“They gave out helmet skulls when you got the best hit,” he said. “And I think his was loaded up. His job was to rotate back and forth and see where he thinks the play is going to go and go for the run.”
Rollinger introduced the position by telling players, “'the monster man is the biggest, baddest, fastest, meanest player on the football team. Is there anybody like that?' Arnie stood up and said, ‘that’s me.’ And nobody even challenged him,” laughed Collins.
Other players included Chris Moen, who became a doctor, and his brother, Tim, a sophomore, who split time with Dave Rowell at quarterback. “They were very good,” Collins said.
Also on hand Saturday from the team was retired attorney, Bob Ruud, along with Anders, and Bill Murray, Dan McConaghy and Mike VanAcker.
“We had a great combination of seniors and juniors that year,” said Ruud, who played linebacker. “We had some really powerful running backs and some great linemen. A lot of guys from the class went on to play Division I and II football. Just a good chemistry of guys.”
The players got behind Rollinger, Ruud said. “We just really thought with his leadership and the talent we had on the team, we had a real chance of leaving a real mark of a record there.”
There were no playoffs, but a major highlight included beating Cedar Rapids Washington, the top team in Iowa, 27-7, for the conference title. Washington was ranked as high as No. 2 nationally.
“As far as we were concerned, when we played Cedar Rapids Washington for that last game, that was our state championship right there,” Ruud said.