On Oct. 7, 1898, the Ottawa and La Salle-Peru football programs met for the first time and – from the newspaper accounts that tell the story of a rough and tumble game that day – time hasn’t changed much when the Pirates and Cavaliers get together on the gridiron.
Of the thousands of young men who have worn either the Crimson and White or the Red and Green for the first 122 games, players from each side have etched their names into the lore of the rivalry with their play.
Friday night at King Field there is a good chance a few of this season’s players accomplishments also will be remembered in years to come.
Here’s a dive into history and a recounting of some of those interesting matchups in years ending with the number two, viewed a decade at a time.
The early years
The teams met twice in 1912 with La Salle-Peru winning 22-6 and 41-3. In 1922,
The Cavaliers exploded for a 40-0 win with Bob Billard, Tadge Jagelski, Connie Reinhardt, Marine Fazio, Jay Ryan, Al Hasse and Baxter all scoring touchdowns. It’s the fourth largest margin of victory for L-P in the series and third highest by shutout.
In the final game of the season on Armistice Day (Nov. 11) and in a snowstorm, just 500 fans braved the elements to watch coach Dean Johnson’s Cavs topped Bob McKay’s Pirates 14-0 at King Field. L-P’s Leonard “Sheik” Kazynski scored on a 1-yard TD run in the opening quarter, Charles Koss sprinted to a 97-yard score in the second and a blocked punt rolled out of the end zone for a safety in the fourth. The Cavs outgained the Pirates 411-47, with Phil Brovelli posting 104 yards on 19 carries. L-P finished the season 9-2.
L-P’s all-state running back Eddie Bray had suffered an ankle in preseason practice and was expected to miss the season opener against Ottawa. In a scoreless game with under five minutes to play, Bray somehow convinced coach Albert “Butch” Nowak to let him go in for one play. A few minutes later, “One-Play” Eddie Bray – who went on to play at Illinois – was running around left end for an 81-yard TD with Bill Liebe’s PAT run giving the Cavs a 7-0 win. Ottawa drove to the L-P 13 in the final minute, but a bad snap was recovered by L-P to end the game. L-P finished the season 7-0-2 and the Big Eight Conference champions.
In the season opener at King Field in front of 4,700 fans, despite L-P holding a 212-30 advantage in total yards, the teams played to a 7-all tie. It is one of five games in the series ending in a deadlock. Ottawa grabbed the lead midway into the first period when Dick Shipman returned an interception 41 yards for a score – Mike Formhals adding the PAT boot. L-P, after a handful of goal line stands by the hosts throughout the first three quarters, finally pulled even a minute into the fourth when Cy Hervatic (114 yards rushing) scored on a 26-yard screen pass from Bob Hughett – Jim Brooks adding the PAT kick. Ottawa finished the year 7-0-2, the first unbeaten season since 1934.
Ottawa scored three touchdowns in the second half to defeat L-P for the first time at King Field since 1948 in a 20-14 victory. The Cavs led 7-0 at halftime on QB Dave Sobkowiak’s 5-yard keeper and PAT run. The Pirates’ opening drive of the second half ended with a 2-yard TD run by John Price, then five minutes later Tom Stevenson (nine carries, 129 yards) scored on a 42-yard screen pass from sophomore QB Dan Battles – Art Barth adding both PAT kicks. Stevenson added a 62–yard score early in the fourth, while L-P’s Ron Sell found the end zone to close out the scoring. Ottawa stopped L-P’s final drive near midfield. Sobkowiak finished 12 of 24 passing for 174 yards, while L-P held a slim 232-231 margin in total yards. The Pirates’ win was the start of a perfect 9-0 season which extended their victory string to 26 games and gave them a fifth straight NCIC Northeast title.
With both teams having new coaches – L-P’s Joe Marini and Ottawa’s Ralph Nelson – the Cavs’ 20-16 triumph was just the second in the series since 1961. The Cavs grabbed a 12-0 first quarter lead on TD runs from Terry Hopps (two yards) and John Skibinski (nine yards). The Pirates took a 16-12 lead after a 6-yard run from Steve Dobberstein (Bob Kistenfeger’s pass to Joe Zidow for the two-point conversion) right before the half and a sneak by Don Sutherland (Kistenfeger to Ed Alderman) with just over a minute to go in the third. L-P scored what proved to be the winning points with 10:28 to go on Hopps’ run from the 7 and a 2PT pas from QB Tim Voss (84 passing yards) to Mickey Carey (four catches, 71 yards). Skibinski - who rushed 33 times for 190 yards - went on to play at Purdue and at one point of his professional career was in the starting backfield for the Chicago Bears with Walter Payton. Hopps finished with 100 yards rushing, while Dobberstein posted 111 yards on 20 tries. L-P outgained Ottawa, 400-289.
Despite being sick before the game, L-P’s Eldan Leschewski rushed 16 times for 217 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown – with Ron Weber throwing the key block – in the second quarter to help the Cavs in a 22-13 win in Week 6 at Howard Fellows Stadium. The Cavs’ Bill Goskusky scored on a run from the 6 in the opening quarter and from the 3 in the second. Ottawa QB Mike Cassidy scored on a 11-yard run in the first, while Joel Soltis ran back the second half kickoff 84 yards for a score. Ed Fiesel recorded 15 tackles for the Pirates, while Soltis ran for 134 yards on 17 carries. L-P held a 327-271 advantage in total yards and forced an amazing eight turnovers, including six interceptions.
Coach Tom Jobst’s Ottawa squad scored 13 points in a 46 second span in a 22-7 win over the Cavs at King Field in Week 8. It was the Pirates fifth straight win in the series. The Cavaliers struck first early in the second quarter on an Eric Robertson (99 yards passing) to Joe Legrenzi 17-yard TD pass to cap a 11-play, 80-yard drive, but it was all Pirates from there. On the ensuing drive, Ottawa QB Mike Hollenbeck completed a 22-yard TD pass to Kevin Price – Shane Hallam adding the PAT kick – before Kyle Windy intercepted a pass – one of three he had in the game – to set up an 18-yard TD run by Jake DeWalt. Dewalt, who rushed 25 times for 110 yards, added a TD run from the 1 in the fourth, while Windy posed 17 carries for 99 yards. Craig Renz tackled Robertson in the endzone in the final minute for a safety to finish the scoring - Renz and Wayne Johnson each recorded three sacks. Ottawa outgained L-P 291-124, including 248-25 on the ground. The Pirates dedicated the season to Ben Chalus who was killed in an automobile accident just before the season started.
The Ottawa defense allowed just nine yards rushing in the second half in a 32-0 victory over the Cavs in Week 8 at King Field which clinched a second straight NCIC Northeast championship and a spot in the IHSA playoffs. It is the fourth largest margin of victory for Ottawa in the series and third most via shutout. The Pirates – coached by Tim Jobst – took the lead for good in the opening quarter on Garin Harcar’s TD run from the 2. In the second, a 15-play, 80-yard Pirates drive ended with QB Brett Lockas hitting B.J. Armstrong for a 25-yard score before T.J. Ahearn made 18-0 with a 2-yard lunge jst before halftime. The hosts scored twice in the second half on a John Cameron 7-yard run and a Mike Alvarado 34-yard TD pass to Jimmy Thrush. Harcar finished with 112 yards on 17 carries, with Ottawa holding a 309-113 advantage in total yards. It was Ottawa’s first back-to-back conference titles since the ‘70 and ‘71 teams coached by Bill Novak.
Coach Trent Swords’ Pirates held off a late charge by Joe Sassano’s Cavs at Howard Fellows to earn a 21-19 Week 8 triumph to stay undefeated on the season. In the opening quarter, Ottawa grabbed the lead on a 57-yard TD run by J.D. Bryant (eight carries, 66 yards), while L-P’s Taylor Thompson plunged in from the 1 to make it 7-6. Alex Hartman (six carries, 74 yards) had a 25-yard run in the second gave the visitors a 14-6 lead at halftime. With seven minutes left in the game, Ottawa QB Will Hoffman hit Cody Stokes for a 15-yard TD pass - Tristan Cunha adding his third PAT kick to make it 21-6. L-P scored twice in the final four minutes on TD passes by Zack Cinotto to Brandon Pawlak (25 yards) and Clay Vaini (nine yards) but came up just short. The hosts led in total yards 270-269, with Cinotto completing 18 of 37 passes – five each to Pawlak (80 yards), Thompson (61) and Vaini (34) – for 218 yards. Ottawa, which held L-P to 52 yards rushing on 30 carries, were led on the ground by Michael Hermosillo’s 94 yards on 18 tries. Ottawa, which had four tackles for loss by Cyrano Rayfield and three by Jacob Vanda, finished 11-1 on the season, winning its opening two Class 6A playoff games.