As Chris Anthony watched Pleasant Valley’s football team throttle Bettendorf last month from the TouVelle Stadium bleachers, the memories came flooding back.
In particular, Anthony was reliving his senior season of 1996 — the Spartans’ last and only other Mississippi Athletic Conference championship, an undefeated regular season and an appearance in the Class 4A state semifinals.
Anthony, who went on to a successful playing career at Iowa State and seven years of Arena Football, was PV’s top receiving target.
“We had good talent, but more than anything we had a really tight-knit group of guys,” said Anthony, in his third year of medical school at the University of Iowa. “We showed up and played hard for each other.”
Now 16 years later, PV has a team with an opportunity to duplicate that magical season.
The Spartans, already with the MAC title secured, can finish 9-0 with a road triumph at Burlington on Friday night.
“We haven’t done what they did yet,” said PV coach Rusty VanWetzinga, who was a fifth-year senior at Augustana and helped as an assistant coach in 1996. “That team made a great run in the playoffs and was probably one of the best teams Ed (Morrissey) ever had.”
The Spartans knocked off Bettendorf and Davenport Assumption in the playoffs before faltering to eventual state champion Iowa City High in the semifinals, 38-6.
Like the 2012 edition, PV had a junior quarterback in Trent Mausser.
It had four players earn all-conference accolades on both offense and defense in Anthony (receiver/defensive back), Brian Schertz (offensive line/defensive line), Bill Fairman (end/linebacker) and Eric Clark (punter/kicker).
Anthony and Schertz went on to serve as captains at Iowa State and Northwest Missouri State, respectively.
“We had a lot of talent and really good leadership,” Morrissey said. “I think the coaches could have left practice and we still would have had good practices.”
Behind a physical and rugged defense, PV opened that season with victories over North Scott (12-7) and Bettendorf (21-13).
“The coaches never let us settle or rest on our laurels,” said Anthony, who had more than 700 yards receiving that year. “It was one of those things where it just kept building the whole year and the community got behind us.
“We never felt satisfied.”
It topped Bettendorf (13-6) and Davenport Assumption (21-14) in the playoffs before running into an explosive Iowa City High program.
“(City High coach Larry) Brown told me later in passing it was the most talented team he had ever had,” Morrissey said. “That team was pretty special. Our guys were special, but unfortunately we ran into them.”
While PV has racked up eight consecutive wins by at least three touchdowns, VanWetzinga said it’s difficult to compare the two squads.
The 1996 team led the MAC in total defense, allowing more than two touchdowns just twice in 12 games. The offense ran primarily a wishbone attack with Mausser, halfback Kevin Hansen, fullback J.R. Kundert and slot backs Bill Fairman and Matt Thoene.
“That team wasn’t very flashy, but they had some good, tough wrestlers on that team,” VanWetzinga said. “They just got after it and were able to neutralize a lot of offenses.
“They were bigger up front than we are now, but I think this team has a little more speed.”
Anthony concurred after witnessing the 38-0 trouncing over Bettendorf.
“The skilled guys are extremely quick,” he said. “They were like a nasty group of guys, flying around and hitting people — and that’s a compliment to them.
“It made me proud to watch my alma mater play and play as hard as they do.”
Anthony is eager to see this year’s postseason run unfold for PV, which can snag the top seed in the eastern half of the state with one more win.
“It is cool to see this group of kids do it again,” he said. “It makes you remember everything we went through. It is a great accomplishment.
“The type of things I learned from that season stay with you throughout life — whether it is in arena football, medicine or the health scene. It is about a commitment to excellence and discipline.”
Sept. 6 – North Scott (W, 12-7)
Sept. 13 – Bettendorf (W, 21-13)
Sept. 20 – Davenport Central (W, 41-0)
Sept. 27 – Burlington (W, 21-7)
Oct. 4 – Muscatine (W, 27-8)
Oct. 11 – Davenport North (W, 49-20)
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Oct. 18 – Davenport West (W, 38-6)
Oct. 25 – Davenport Assumption (W, 14-7)
Nov. 1 – Clinton (W, 31-7)
Nov. 6 – Bettendorf (W, 13-6)
Nov. 11 – Davenport Assumption (W, 21-14)
Nov. 16 – Iowa City High (L, 38-6)
Aug. 24 – Davenport West (W, 49-6)
Aug. 30 – Davenport Assumption (W, 41-7)
Sept. 7 – Davenport North (W, 58-7)
Sept. 14 – Bettendorf (W, 38-0)
Sept. 21 – North Scott (W, 28-3)
Sept. 28 – Muscatine (W, 41-20)
Oct. 5 – Davenport Central (W, 41-12)
Oct. 12 – Clinton (W, 35-0)
Oct. 19 – at Burlington