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‘A healthy level of dislike’


GREEN BAY – Thousands of players have participated in the historic Green Bay East-Green Bay West football rivalry in its 100-plus years of existence.

The two most famous players are perhaps East’s Curly Lambeau and West’s Arnie Herber — both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Lambeau, one of the co-founders of the Green Bay Packers in 1919, starred at East just a few years earlier.
He later coached at his alma mater from 1919-21, compiling a 14-4-3 overall record.

Lambeau coached the Packers and East at the same time from 1919-21.

In 1964, Lambeau was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a coach — for his work with the Packers, where he helped the club win six NFL championships.

The quarterback Herber played at West in the mid-1920s.

He played for the Packers from 1930-40 and helped the club win four NFL championships. He was also a three-time NFL passing yards/touchdown leader.

Several other famous players have played in the East-West game, but most of the combatants have been your average high school student-athlete — living out their passions on the gridiron.

The Press Times caught up with four former players — two each from East and West — and got their thoughts about their playing days, the rivalry and the current state of affairs at each respective school.

Bob Fisher – East
Bob Fisher, a 1970 East graduate, was a chiropractor for 30 years in New Jersey before moving back to the Green Bay area in 2008.

The 70-year-old Fisher played in the 1968-69 games and said he still has great memories — and a few memorable moments — from his playing days.

“In 1968, we had some good players, but we didn’t win many games,” he said. “We played West in the last game of the season at Lambeau Field, 10 months after the Ice Bowl, and they were expected to beat us. That game started slowly for us — we began with a three-and-out and punted. West blocked the punt for a safety out of the end zone, then they returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Just like that, it was 8-0.”

Fisher said head coach Gene Bray calmed the team down.

“We got a touchdown after that and then scored another time in the first half,” he said. “I didn’t play much my junior year, but I kicked. I got in for two plays that game (at Lambeau Field) and kicked both extra points.”

Fisher still has the kicking shoe he used to kick those extra points hanging on his wall.

“Our defense made a tremendous goal-line stand in the second half to stop West,” he said. “Glen Gore — the star of the goal-line stand — got kicked in the head and was woozy. They brought the stretcher out, he got up and put himself on the stretcher — everybody on the sidelines laughed.”

East hung on to win, 14-8.

Fisher said after the game was even more interesting.

“We had to get a police escort back to East because somebody — it was West’s homecoming — set their float on fire,” he said.

Fisher said Bray was a great coach.

“He was tough and demanding but fair,” he said.

In 1969, Fisher became a starter.

“Before the ’69 game, I think most of the games with West were played at the end of the season,” he said. “That game (at City Stadium) was the opening game of the season. It was a beautiful day — we had a strong team.”

Fisher kicked the first extra point in a 25-6 win.

That 1969 team finished a perfect 8-0 and was ranked No. 3 in the state at season’s end behind Oshkosh and Fond du Lac.

“I think we had five shutouts, and that was the last perfect team at East,” Fisher said. “We had a tough game against Green Bay Preble at the end of the season. They didn’t have a home stadium at the time, so they played their home games at City Stadium, too. We were the visiting team in our home stadium.”

Fisher spoke at his 52nd class reunion June 15 and compared the phrase “illegal border crossing” in 1970 to today.

“I was the master of ceremonies,” he said. “I said, ‘In days of local yore, an illegal border crossing took place when a rabid band of Red Devils faithful would breach the mid-span of the Walnut Street Bridge to exchange pleasantries with their crosstown rivals and have an intellectual debate, spiced with four-letter words and fisticuffs over who would prevail the next day in our little skirmish called the East-West game.’”

Like other alumni, Fisher said it pains him to see the struggles of East today.

“I know (current head coach) Levi Nelson fairly well, and I know he and his staff are doing a great job,” he said. “Levi is on the right track.”

Jim Anderson – West
Jim Anderson, born and raised in Green Bay, was a 1961 West graduate.

“At that time, West was pretty dominant,” said Anderson, who played offensive guard. “The three years I was there — two with the varsity — I don’t think we lost a football game.”

In those days, Anderson said the rivalry with East was intense.

“If you lived on the west side, you didn’t cross the bridge — unless you were looking for a fight,” he laughed. “There were some pretty good boxing matches on both sides of the river.”

Although Anderson said the rivalry was heated, it was probably already on the decline compared to earlier years.

“Honestly, at the time, I think it was more heated for the city than it was for the players — that’s from my perspective,” he said. “I remember the games (vs. East), but I can’t even tell you the scores.”

In 1959 and 1960, while Anderson was playing varsity, West won both games played at Lambeau Field by scores of 17-0 and 43-14, respectively.

Dating from 1942 to 1962, the Wildcats won 18 of the 21 games played.

Anderson, now 79, played under head coach John Biolo, but his position coach was Earl “Mike” Miller.

“Mr. Miller wanted the linemen to be the first on the field for practice and the last ones off,” he said. “He was a great guy and later became head coach at West. He was pleasantly persistent — that was Mr. Miller.”

Anderson said it also pains him and his former teammates to see what’s happening at West today.

“It doesn’t seem right,” he said. “I don’t know what the answer is — is it 8-man football or moving to a different conference? Many city schools across the state are suffering. New families with kids moving to the area are flying right over East and West, but they’re great schools.”

Dan Dugan – East
Dan Dugan, a 1990 East graduate, lived in the Boston area for 18 years but now resides in Miami.

Dugan was an all-conference first-team quarterback during his junior and senior year and played under head coach John Kolstad on the 1988-89 teams.

Dugan was also the Green Bay Metro Player of the Year and an all-state nominee his senior year.

“The program was in good hands with Kolstad,” Dugan said. “It was a tight-knit crew, and Kolstad was great at building teams. Being a quarterback, I wanted to throw the ball 40 times a game, but we only threw it about 20 times — we had a balanced team. We passed it more than most teams back in those days.”

In 1988, West bettered East, 14-12, while the ’89 game was a barnburner — an overtime victory for East, 28-27.

“We won that game in overtime on a 2-point conversion,” Dugan said. “West was even with us during those times — we split with them my two years on varsity. They had some good players.”

Dugan said the rivalry was intense but there weren’t many shenanigans.

“It was a healthy level of dislike amongst the two teams,” he laughed. “Taking the bus to the east side of town my senior year after the game, at one point, coach Kolstad had the bus driver stop the bus – we all got off and did double-jacks while we chanted, ‘Blood makes the grass grow green.’ It was in the spirit of the game. It was an emotional rivalry, and both teams took it seriously.”

Dugan said he understands the difficulties both schools are going through.

“It’s difficult for all the alumni (to see what’s going on),” he said. “I’ve thought, ‘What can I do to help?’ Maybe as an encore career, I could somehow get involved in the program. It’s hard to watch your alma mater struggle like it is. Growing up on the east side, it was a big part of who I
am today.”

Ronald Cecchi – West
Ronald Cecchi, the current offensive coordinator for West, played for the Wildcats in the mid-1980s.

With quarterback Bud Keyes – who was drafted by the Packers in the 10th round of the 1988 NFL Draft — under center, West was dominant during that time.

“Right around that time, we won four consecutive conference championships — we were a powerhouse,” said Cecchi, who played under head coach Earl “Mike” Miller. “East was just as competitive as us. They’d shut down the bridge leading up to the game — there was lots of trash-talking.”

Cecchi, who also had four boys go through the football program at West, said when it came to the East game, it was a hard-hitting affair.

“During my senior year, I was in on special teams,” he said. “I took out their running back. You could hear the collision throughout the stadium, and my facemask was turned sideways. I knew some of the guys from East, but once we got on the field, it was all blood. Afterward, we were buddies. Whoever won that game had bragging rights for the year.”

Cecchi said open enrollment has “really hurt West.”

“I know kids who should be playing at West, but they’re playing at (Green Bay) Southwest,” he said. “They live a block away from West — it’s a constant battle. When I played, we had 100 kids in the program.”

Under first-year head coach Drew Brusoe, Cecchi believes the program is heading in the right direction.

“These kids haven’t laid down — they keep fighting,” he said. “We’ve gotten rolled over in a few games, but they haven’t quit. I think we’re close to turning things around, but we need the numbers to increase.”

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