1960: 0-7 Truckee’s last year in the Nevada A
Coach Farley has moved on from Truckee High as he is not in the 1960 yearbook. Again another coaching change equates to a tough season for the Wolverines. Coach Pendergast was Truckee’s coach in 1960. After the best season Truckee’s ever had it was backed up with one of the worst. Truckee played pretty much the same schedule as the year before with the exceptions of Manogue and Fallon dropping off the schedule. Coach Pendergast actually apologizes to the seniors in the yearbook saying, “…we are sorry for the seniors sake that the season was so dismal.” The JV write up in the yearbook at least talks about the team winning games but the Varsity only talks about being close in games and that the players improved. Coach Pendergast also mentions that there were only five returning players from the 1959 team which would have an enormous impact on their record. So, again an inexperienced team combined with a coaching change is difficult to overcome and the Wolverines go 0-7.
It was Pendergast’s only season as coach of the Wolverines. I’m not really sure of the situation but Pendergast was more of a basketball coach. So, maybe he just filled in for a year until Truckee could hire someone. Farley might have left last minute. Hard to say.
One positive thing about 1960 was that Truckee moved to a new field east of the High School in a lot between the Baseball field and the old Middle School (SMI). What is now the Soccer Field. I-80 was being constructed in 1960 around the same time as the Olympics and the old field was on the other side of what is now I-80. This would make the former field a lot less convenient.
Truckee would play on this new field its next 14 years. Just North of the field was Smart’s Caféteria, which is now Zano’s and formally the Pizza Junction. The Smart Family has a long history in Truckee. Reg Smart Sr. was the president of the School Board through the mid 50’s and stayed an active member of the Board into the 60’s. Reg Smart Jr. was a Senior in 1960 and made the Nevada First Team 1A All North Team as a linebacker. His brother Brian would later play and coach for the Wolverines. Brian Currently runs the family restaurant in Down Town Truckee called The Wagon Train which I believe is the family business which was originally smart’s Cafeteria. Brian Smart has been extremely generous over
the years to our football program and players. Known as the Jersey deal, players were allowed to eat all the food they could stack on a plate for just 5 dollars. Brian’s boys, Ryan and Kurt, are also Truckee graduates who currently are coaching in the Pop Warner program following in their father’s footsteps. Both will be mentioned later in their playing days. A lot of the business either moved downtown or went out of business when I-80 was finished. Highway 40 was the old route to Reno and travelers were forced to come through Truckee. Once I-80 came in the travelers were past Truckee in a blink of an eye. One of these businesses was Smart’s Caféteria. The 1960 team featured 26 players and 11 players were seniors. However, only 5 letterman from the following year played football, so the team was very inexperienced. Pendergast was Truckee’s 4th coach in just 9 seasons. South Tahoe won the Nevada A State Championship in 1960, so I would doubt if Truckee beat South Tahoe in 1960.
1961: 1-7 record
Ken Holback becomes Truckee’s 5th coach. Coach Holback would coach for just two seasons but they were pivotal as Truckee moves into California to play their games. Carson and South Tahoe are the only Nevada schools on Truckee’s schedule in 1961. It appears that Truckee is playing independent again. They have a mixed bag of teams from different levels and no designated league games. It looks to be a mix of Nevada A, Feather River League, and the old Pioneer league. There is no record of wins and losses but based on the JV schedule it looks like Truckee played 7 games. In this order: Colfax, Quincy, Carson, South Tahoe, Wheatland, Portola, and Del Oro. Considering that the highlight of the year was a close loss to Wheatland, I am assuming Truckee might not have won a game in 1961. Apparently Truckee held Wheatland to their lowest point total of the year holding the Pirates to 23 points. Wheatland was ranked 6th in
Superior California and was very strong. The following week Truckee played the Feather River League Champions, the Portola Tigers. Truckee was ahead late in the game. But the Wolverines got trapped deep in their own territory in the 4th quarter and threw an interception. Shorty after the pick, Portola scored the winning touchdown. A heart breaking loss. Truckee’s one and only win might have come against South Tahoe. There is an exchange of the “Big Game” trophy which means Truckee either beat South Tahoe in 1960 or they beat them in their Homecoming in 61. As stated before South Tahoe won the Nevada A Championship in 1960. So, I will make the assumption that Truckee beat South Tahoe in 61′ (for now). Though if Truckee beat South Tahoe, I think Holback would have stated that the highlight of the year was their one and only win over Rival South Tahoe. But he chooses to talk about two close losses instead. The coach expected his team to win and therefore it was not a highlight in his opinion. I was able to talk to Butch Smith, who was the starting QB on this team as a sophomore. Butch explained that both coach Holback and coach Pendergast were extremely humble men that would never gloat. So what they said about their team in the yearbooks might not reflect their team’s record. Also talking with Butch he could not recall wins and losses. When I asked him if this team won any games he replied, “I would be very surprised if this team had a losing record.” But after walking through his team’s schedule with him he could not recall many of the match ups. He did not feel comfortable stating whether they won or lost certain games. In fact after listing off the teams Butch said, “maybe we did have a losing season.” I feel confident that Truckee beat South Tahoe in 1961 and at this time I will stick with Truckee’s record at 1-6. Butch Smith did confirm that Truckee was playing independent during this time and he also stated in the three years that he played at Truckee they were never part of a division. It is hard to assume and the yearbooks in the early 60’s so far are not helpful at the Varsity level. The JV
Football team on the other hand, had scores for every game and they actually had a pretty good season. Their record was 4-2-1 and both of their losses were very close games with Colfax (7-12), and Wheatland (12-20). Another reason I think the Varsity at best won one game. Truckee goes 1-6 and is competing independently as far as I can tell. Did Nevada kick Truckee out of the State or did Truckee choose to leave? That’s my question to the Alumni of the early 60’s. What happened? Also, by 1961 the Red pants are gone but Truckee is still wearing a Red helmet. However, according to Butch Smith, coach Holback bought new helmets for the receivers that were fluorescent orange. Butch said they threw the heck out of the ball when Holback was the coach. Doug Baxter is Truckee’s first member of the Hall of Fame. Doug was a Halfback and a very good talent according to John Besio who was in 8th grade at the time but had a brother in the program. Besio got a chance to watch Doug play and had this to say about some of the players in the early 60’s:
“ I remember watching Doug Baxter play football. He was an amazing running back. I can understand why he made the Hall of Fame. Other players that stand out in the 60’s… Butch Smith..running & back quarterback Athlete of Year. 1963-64. Steve Besio running back Hall of Fame football 1963-64. Greg Moore Hall of Fame Athlete of Year 1964-65. Joe Straub Athlete of Year 1962-63.”
With a JV team that was coming off a good year and some young talent with valuable experience, the Wolverines had high expectations going into the 62 football season. This team had a really good backfield. Four of the backs on this team are in the Truckee Hall of Fame as a Football player or as an Athlete of the year. The 1962 team did not lack talent and they played hard. Truckee came out of the gates swinging in game one and they start off the year by shutting out Lincoln 6-0. It was a good start to the season but unfortunately it would be the last game the Wolverines would win all year. In their second game they would play a tough hard fought battle verses Quincy but lost 18-12. This was the second match up with Quincy in our history and the Trojans beat us for the second year in a row. After this close game the Wolverines
were shutout 3 straight games starting with a 0-26 loss to Colfax. The next week Truckee would lose to Carson at home 0-13. But the sophomore, James Moore, had a good game capturing the player of the game award. In week 5 Truckee faced off with South Tahoe in the “Big Game”. The Wolverines lost 25-0 and had to return the “Big Game” trophy. The series now at 3-3-1. South Tahoe at this point was very strong and Truckee after having success playing in Nevada is struggling with their new California schedule. The teams Truckee is facing have much higher enrollments and have very strong football programs. In week six Truckee faced Highlands High school. A school on the outskirts of Sacramento and again Truckee lost but at least scored a TD making the score 6-27. Then Truckee had to play Wheatland who was coming off a really good season and the Wolverines lost 20-40. In the last game of the year Truckee lost to Del Oro 14-35. Truckee scored just 58 points all year and clearly struggled offensively regardless of having a very talented backfield. There is not a lot of information about this season but the coach said spirits were high throughout the year regardless of their struggles. The JV team had a much more promising year going 3-4 and giving some hope to the future. Joe Straub a long time local was a halfback on this team and was voted into the Truckee Hall of Fame in the spring of 1963.
1963: 4-3 Truckee could be in the Pioneer League in 63 most likely Independent
Long time JV coach, Guy Wilson, takes over as Varsity coach and serves as coach for 3 seasons. Coach Wilson was Truckee’s 6th coach and he was having some success with Truckee’s new schedule. While the Varsity’s record the past two seasons was 2-13 the JV team and coach Wilson recorded a 7-6-1 win loss record. Coach Wilson looked to have the same success at the next level and he did. Truckee captured their first winning season since 59. Butch Smith a senior on this team stated before that Truckee played Independently all 3 of the years he played football. Though he did mention the coaches talking about getting ready for the Pioneer league the following season. Truckee played roughly the same schedule they did the year before with some adjustments in what week they played each team. The yearbook for the 63′ season had very little information for any sport but I was able to track down some scores from Mike Ray who works for the Auburn Journal. Mike played against Truckee in the late 1960’s when he attended Colfax High School. The JV team played very well the past two years against this particular schedule and that paid off as Truckee put together a strong season before joining the Pioneer League in 1964. Truckee started off the season with a strong win against Lovelock beating the Mustangs 26-13. The Wolverines would then faceoff with Live Oak in a tough matchup. Truckee won in a close game 7-6 putting the Wolverines at 2-0. Truckee would finally meet up with Wheatland in week 3 and the Pirates were a strong program during the 60’s. Though the Wolverines were outmatched they battled Wheatland and lost 13-33.
Truckee played Lincoln in week 4 and the Wolverines were able to get back on track. Truckee dominated Lincoln shutting them out 40-0. This put Truckee at 3-1 heading into the “Big Game” and Truckee won 7-0. Truckee ended up with the “Big Game” trophy last putting the rivalry at 4-3-1. Truckee, now 4-1, was looking strong but they had two very strong opponents to end their season. They would first faceoff with Del Oro in a very contested battle. The Wolverines lost a heartbreaker 12-14. Then to finish out the 63 season the Colfax Falcons beat the Wolverines soundly 6-26. This team had 34 players on it and 20 of them were juniors. Also, the Wolverines would go back to a white helmet in 1963. Steve Besio was a standout halfback who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the Spring of 1964. Steve, the brother of John Besio, wore number 20 and was a good all around athlete. Butch Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Baseball player, Basketball Player, and he was Truckee’s athlete of the year. He was also the senior class president. Butch was a three year starter on Varsity and was the jack of all trades. He would go on to be an educator and coach for many years in Hawaii. He also was a teacher and coach for Truckee in 1999-2002. This 1963 team was very strong and would send Truckee into the Pioneer league with some momentum.
1964: 4-4 record (League 3-3) first win over Del Oro
Truckee joined the Pioneer League in 64, which consisted of Colfax, Colusa, Del Oro, Wheatland, Lincoln, Live Oak and Truckee. It is the first time since 1960 that Truckee would be part of a division. Colusa, Wheatland, and Colfax were all ranked in the top five of northern California. Truckee goes 4-4 and proves to be a team to take serious going forward. In 63′ you could see that Truckee is adjusting a little to their competition.
Truckee’s numbers are increasing as the Varsity suited up 38 players and the JV suited up 43. We would love to have these kinds of numbers here in the 2000’s. On this team was junior RB John Besio a Truckee Legend. After graduation Besio went off to college at UC Davis. He got his teaching credential and came back to his hometown where he was a teacher for 30 plus years. He made a huge impact on a lot of Truckee kids throughout the years and was a major influence on my life and me getting into coaching and teaching. Mr. Besio has been kind enough to go back into time and fill me in on the things he remembers as a Truckee Football player:
Looking back at my junior year (1964-65) our record as you indicated was 4-4. The good news was that we won our last three games including the powerhouse Del Oro. >>>>NOTE Del Oro’s football stadium is very similar to Surprise Stadium…. The teams have to walk down a large stairway to get on the field. In fact our stadium may have been inspired from Del Oro’s stadium.
In 1964 three of Truckee’s four wins were shutouts. Truckee started off with a tough loss to Loyalton 6-13. Truckee had not played Loyalton in many years and in the 50’s developed quite the rivalry. The first football game Truckee ever played in was against Loyalton and got destroyed 0-60. Though the score was much different the outcome in 64 was the same as Truckee lost their first game of the season. The next game Truckee played at Colfax who was a top rated team. Truckee hung in there and for most of the game the two teams were locked at 6-6. But in the end it was the Falcons who came out on top 6-13. Truckee starts off the year 0-2 and it is looking more and more like years past. However, the Wolverines just played two really good teams in very close matchups. The following week Truckee played Live Oak and shut them out 26-0. The Wolverines were trying to ride the momentum into the next week when they were to play Wheatland in their homecoming game. Wheatland came out very strong and went up on Truckee big at halftime. Truckee’s, Greg Moore, exploded in the second half taking over and bringing Truckee within a touchdown. However, Truckee ran out of time and lost 18-26. This was the turning point in their season. Though they were 1-3, they knew they were better than their record. They were going to need every bit of confidence the following week as they were taking on Colusa. Colusa did not underestimate Truckee and shut them out 0-26. Colusa was 1964’s Pioneer Champion. Truckee was 1-4 going into their last three games and they could have easily gave up. But that is not in a Wolverine’s nature and Truckee went on a run winning all three of their last games including a blowout win over Del Oro 31-6 as Mr. Besio explained above. The game versus Del Oro was originally scheduled to be played in Truckee. However, the snow was falling and had no signs of stopping. With threats of the game being canceled, Truckee decided to load up and bring the game to Del Oro, and that they did crushing them 31-6. It would be the first time the Wolverines beat Del Oro and a memorable one. Interesting that Del Oro couldn’t make it to Truckee but Truckee made it to Del Oro. Truckee’s bus drivers are not scared. It seemed like it took an awful lot of snow to get a snow day when I was growing up. The game was played on November 14, so I can see why the snow was falling. That is currently around the time we play in the Semi-finals and it seems like just about every year we host a playoff game in the snow at Truckee. During their end of the year win streak Truckee also beat Lovelock 26-0 and Lincoln 13-0. If you take out the two losses to Wheatland and Colusa, the 1964 defense only gave up 34 points. Not too bad but Colusa and Wheatland both put up 26 points.
Though it would be years off, the move back to Nevada would make a lot of sense as the Del Oro type incidents increased over the coming years. The 1963 & 1964 football teams was one of very few bright spots for the football program in the 60’s. They had two really close games in the beginning of their season losing to Loyalton 6-13 and losing to Colfax 6-13, which at the time was a perennial power. If things would have gone slightly different in those two games Truckee could have made a run at the division. Greg Moore was the QB of the 1964 football team and was voted into the Hall of Fame for the 64-65 school year. Greg Moore was noted as a standout player by John Besio and he was a 3 year starter on Varsity. Moore was voted into the first team All-League at RB. Roger Spitsen was a first team D-lineman and Steve Davis was a first team Linebacker. Getting 3 players on the first team was quite the accomplishment considering 12 out the 22 players were from Colusa and Wheatland. It also appears that there is a hint of Black in Truckee’s uniforms. Hard to tell being a black and white photo but it looks like there is indeed black.
Guy Wilson’s last year as coach. Wilson was a popular teacher and coach that also worked in the counseling department. He was an inspiration to the youth of Truckee. He coached Truckee Football for 8 to 9 years and had a 10-14 Varsity record. This was John Besio’s senior year. According some sources Truckee had multiple winless seasons but now that I’ve found more resources it looks like just 2 winless seasons. Talking with Mr. Besio he recalls his senior year as being a down year:
Our coach was Guy Wilson and assistant Bert Greene and it was their last year of coaching. I am not sure but it is quite possible that our football team was winless this year. As a senior, I should have remembered such a season. The fact that the scores were not put in the yearbook and the coaches retired after this year leads me to suspect that we might have gone winless. Also our Outstanding 6’5″ quarterback,Steve Felte, was out for the season with a broken leg.
With Steve Felte out with an injury it was Greg Schwartz who would take over at the QB position. Greg’s family was new to the area. They moved to Truckee from Michigan and it appears that Greg adjusted well as he was a team captain and leader of the 1965 team. Schwartz also got it done in the classroom as he was the valedictorian of the class of 66. So, not surprising that he was successful and caught on quick. The coaching staff at Truckee has found that there is a direct correlation to GPA and championship football teams at Truckee. The 65 football season was a major disappointment after the team experienced some success the previous 2 seasons. Their less than desirable season had nothing to do with numbers as Truckee suited up 35 Varsity players. Truckee as mentioned before was playing in the Pioneer league in 1965. The Wolverines Schedule went as followed: Foothill, Loyalton, Corning, Colfax, Colusa, Del Oro, Wheatland, Lincoln, and Varden. Truckee opened the season was a tough loss to Foothill 0-6. In week 2 Truckee would get back on track beating Loyalton 12-6. In week 3 Truckee had a setback losing big to Corning 12-34. However, the Wolverines were able to beat Colfax in a tough matchup 14-6. Truckee started the season 2-2 and looked to be a strong team but things started going downhill. Truckee’s Homecoming game was vs Colusa. Truckee lost in a heartbreaker 12-21. According to the yearbook there were some bad calls that did not go Truckee’s way, nothing new! If Truckee beats Colusa in this close match up their season could have finished out much different. The close loss sent the Wolverines in a tailspin. The next week Truckee lost to Del Oro 26-40. The following week Truckee was shutout by Lincoln 0-13 and then finished out the year with bad loss to Vanden 12-40. Vanden was a bigger school from Fairfield and Truckee was outmatched. Some good news for Truckee in 1965, John Besio was voted in as a 1st team All-League RB and Jack Dunaway was a first team Lineman. The 60’s have not been kind to the Wolverines at this point and they desperately need some success going forward.
Coach John Prida comes from a new school in Reno, Wooster, to become Truckee’s 7th coach. Another coaching change and Truckee’s numbers were down. Prida is a Nevada native coming from Pershing County. He graduated from Lovelock in 1958 where he has 3 Varsity Letters in Football, Basketball, and Baseball. After high school John Prida started for 4 years at Cornerback for the University of Nevada. He got his teaching credential and then his masters in administration in 1964. He started his career at Wooster and then made his way up to Truckee in 1965. He spent two years at Truckee and I am sure had some influence on the hiring of college teammate Dale Landon. Prida made his way back to Nevada with a short stent at Incline High School and then off to Yerington where he would be become a High school Vice Principal. In 1977 he became Yerington’s High’s Principal and eventually would become the principal at both the Middle School and Elementary School in Yerington. He retired from the Lyon County School District in 2003. On March 27th 2014 John F. Prida was inducted into the NIAA Hall of Fame for his influence over the years out in the Yerington community. Unfortunately his time in Truckee was not the most successful as the Wolverines struggled to win a game under him.
The Varsity suited up 25 players. The JV had a more promising turnout suiting up 35 players. Ernie Marier is voted into the hall of fame. Ernie wore number 64 so this is the first lineman voted into to Truckee’s Hall of Fame. There is not a lot of information about this season but Besio made some quick comments:
The next year 1966 – 67 is a year likely that could have gone winless under coach Preeda. I based this on looking at the talent of the Junior class of the 1965-66 year. It was not a very athletic group of players. The 1967-68 year one of my best friends Henry Frates was on a Dale Landon team that I believe was co-champions in the Pioneer League. Dale Landon began coaching during the 1967-1968 season. I remember hearing about Coach Landon. He was well respected and had the ability to really motivate the players. According to this timeline, only two years could teams have gone winless back to back.
So, Truckee has another tough season in the 60’s and since joining California is really struggling having only won 12 games in 7 years. I have Truckee at 12 wins and 44 losses from 1960 through 1966. This is speculation on my part but it is a real possibility. There is rumors out there that Truckee didn’t win a game for 4 years straight in the 60’s. I never found this to be accurate. The truth is
that Truckee had at least 2 seasons in the 60’s when they did not win a game and there’s a good chance that it’s actually 3 seasons. None of those seasons were not consecutive. My research shows that Truckee was 0-9 in 1960, 0-8 in 1966, and 0-8 in 1969. Years in question would be 1960, 1961(1-6), and 1969. Truckee had 7 years where they had losing seasons and that’s a fact. It would be great to find old newspaper clippings that someone has been holding on to. (Recently I received newspaper clippings with scores and season standings from the Auburn Journal) Regardless the 66 season was filled with disappoint once again. Based on these comments from Head coach Prida the team most likely did not win a game:
“If points were put on the board for desire, hustle, enthusiasm, and never give-up attitude, this year’s Tahoe Truckee High School Football team would have never been outscored. I am extremely proud of the boys for the way they conducted themselves, both on and off the field, during this most difficult football season.” J. Prida
Besio mentioned above that this team was lacking athleticism and it was also short on numbers. This team suited up just 25 players to face a very tough Pioneer League schedule. This team did have the speedster Ron Smith, Butch Smith’s little brother. Ron had very good speed and was a junior in 66. Ernie Marier is also worth mentioning as he would be a Football Hall of Fame inductee at the end of the school year. He was a 3 sport letterman. The days of success in the Nevada League are long gone and far from the memories of the many local Wolverine Fans as they struggle to compete in California.
In 1966 Truckee opened the season with a loss to Quincy 7-20. Then Manogue is back in Truckee’s schedule and the Minors dominated Truckee 6-31. In week 3 was beat by Corning for the second straight season 12-40. Colusa dominated the Wolverines 7-34 in week 4. In week 5 things did not get easier as Truckee would fall to Lincoln 6-28 and then the Wolverines were shutout by Del Oro 0-39. In week 7 it was Wheatland’s turn to shut out Truckee 0-48. In Truckee’s last week of the season they were crushed by Colfax 12-39 putting the 1966 Wolverines to rest. Truckee scored just 50 points in 66 and gave up 279. This might have been the worst season Truckee ever had. After competing in the Pioneer league and things were looking up, Truckee had back to back seasons of absolute struggle. However, things were all about to change!
1967: 5-2 Pioneer Co-League Champions
Every season of every team has moments, memories, and stories to be told. But then their are seasons and teams that have just a little bit more to them than a story. So, when I really started digging into the Truckee Wolverines of the 60’s it became very clear that the story of this decade was the 1967 football team. There is very little, again, in the yearbooks about this season. But there are witnesses around to tell their story and one of those witnesses was the head coach of the 67 Wolverines Dale Landon. Dale Landon was hired after another dismal season, and became Truckee’s 8th coach and the 5th coach for the Wolverines in he 60’s. The Wolverines are coming off Back to Back seasons of not winning a game. Also going into the 67 football season, Truckee had only won 7 games to this point in the whole decade of the 60’s. I like to call the 60’s the Dark Ages for the Football program. The 60’s have had the least amount of information in the yearbooks and theWolverines produced the least amount of wins. I have talked to 3 players from the 60’s and they have struggled to come up with details. Though they have had some great stories. But in every Dark Age emerges the light and this 1967 team is that light for the decade.
When a program struggles year in and year out with coaching change after coaching change it is hard for players to want to come out and play football. This was the case for the 67′ team. Coach Landon comes to Truckee fresh out of college. He was a starting Linebacker for the Nevada Wolf Pack and actually spent a year coaching at Nevada after he graduated. When he saw the opening at Truckee High, he took on the challenge. And a challenge it was. Only twenty-one players came out for football in 1967 and getting Truckee their first win in four years was going to be a tough task in the very competitive Pioneer Division that Truckee had now been playing in for 4 years. Coach Landon not only helped the Wolverines win that first game, they had their first winning season since 1959, and won a League Championship. According to sources Colusa was the League favorite heading into the 1967 season. Truckee played Colusa in opening game of the year and Colusa was a heavy favorite. The Wolverines had different plans a beat Colusa in very convincing fashion. This surprised everyone as Truckee had been the doormat of the division most years. Next on the schedule was Colfax, and though they would not be as surprised as Colusa, they would suffer the same outcome. Truckee was off and running having beat two of the toughest opponents right off the bat. At some point late in the year Truckee’s QB, George Franceschini, was injured and would not be able to play against Del Oro. In a battle for the ages Truckee did not have enough fire power and lost 6-7. Colusa beat Del Oro and there was a 3 way tie for first place and that’s why Truckee was Co-Champions. Truckee had just 23 players suited up to start the season and depth came into play. Had their QB not been hurt we might be talking about Truckee being the outright Champion! My search for more information on this season will continue. As for now we will have to live with a couple photos and this interview with Dale Landon just before he passed away. Ken Roberts a Wooster graduate has been a Truckee local for some time and has been a part of Truckee football in recent years as two of his boys have come through. Ken spoke with Dale Landon just weeks before he passed away and Dale had this to say about Truckee Football:
In 1967 Dale Landon took over the head coaching job. Dale, also known as Dixie, had been a standout linebacker at the University of Nevada and had worked for one year after graduation as an assistant coach on the Nevada football staff.
Dale says that the head coaching job at Truckee was his first “real job,” and he sure had a challenge ahead of him turning around the Truckee program. Truckee was in the Pioneer League of the California Interscholastic Federation in those days and faced tough teams from Colusa, Colfax and Wheatland. Dale managed to put together a winning season and Truckee became co-league champs with Colfax.
Dale says that he was very hard on the Truckee players and pushed them to their absolute limit, and that they responded well by earning a share of the league title. Some of the exceptional players that he remembers were Butch Sheehan (Patty Sheehan’s brother), Mike Keechler (1968 Hall of Fame inductee) and Curt Wirst, who he referred to as a “cowboy.”
Unfortunately for Truckee, Dale was offered a job after just two seasons and moved on to coaching the offensive line at UNLV and he left to coach at the college level and never coached high school football again. That 1967 season was important for Truckee because it snapped a four-year struggle. Truckee had multiple no win seasons and Dale led his team to a shared league title.
Besides being a great linebacker, Dale was the intercollegiate heavyweight boxing champion while at UNR. He fought briefly at the professional level. Later in life he became the Nevada State Archery Champion and was a fast-pitch softball pitcher and the best handball player in the state of Nevada. Dale came from Getchell Mine, Nev., and graduated from Winnemucca High School.
Today Dale lives in Reno and is currently on a waiting list for a heart transplant.
Interview and Written by Ken Roberts
Dale Landon unfortunately passed away just days after this interview. Interview 12-14-2010.
In the 1967/68 yearbook Landon said this about his team:
“Courage, pride, tenacity and astuteness make a Champion always pressing onward, deleting any pessimistic action in mind and body. To quit was not in the vocabulary of the men that had the courage to stay out for the team. The will to win was prevalent at all times as was the incentive for maximum effort, no matter how strong the opponent.
This year we were fortunate to have twenty-three such people, each one giving one-hundred percent to win. The coaching staff is extremely proud to have been a part of this championship team and are certain that the habits instilled in football will carry on in future years. A man that never gives up will never Truly lose.”
From the Sparks Tribune:
Northern Nevada’s answer to all-around athlete Jim Thorpe died Dec. 26. His name was Dale Landon and he was one of the best athletes ever to attend the University of Nevada, Reno. A muscular, 6 foot 1 inch tall athlete, he was adept at football, boxing, track, softball, handball and squash. Even at 70 years old, before his final debilitating illness, Landon was a daily workout visitor at the Reno Elks Club.
Read more: Sparks Tribune – Area loses great athlete
I guess you can say that 1968 was a disappointment in comparison to the previous year. But in comparison to the rest of the decade the season would be considered a success. Truckee battled numbers again as only 21 players stuck out the season. Even after a successful year coach Landon could not recruit what would be considered a decent amount of players. Throughout Truckee history anywhere from 27-33 players would be a decent amount of players. Getting just 21 players would be disappointing coming off a great year like the 1967 season. But the numbers are the numbers. That is one of the most impressive things about Truckee’s success. We are a small town and a public school. We don’t get to recruit and we rarely get transfers. Yet we compete year in and year out to get into the playoffs and even go far into the playoffs often playing schools 2-3 times larger than us. Coach Landon didn’t let the low numbers effect his attitude towards winning and competing the best they could. The Wolverines had some good players returning in 68′ but the low numbers no doubt had an effect at some point during the season. It sounds like this team competed in every game whether they won or lost. Curt Wurst was a senior and a leader in the team. The team overall had good experience from the year before but just could not reproduce the same type of success. There is no schedule or game breakdown in the yearbook but good sources have lead me to believe Truckee was 3-6, 4-5, or something close to that. Again I will continue to look for information throughout the 60’s.
In the 1968’69 yearbook Landon said this about his team:
“This year’s team experienced many trial and tribulations, on of which was a shortage of players. I was extremely proud of the team this year. Our adversaries were much bigger and stronger but this did not dim the hopes of the team. They fought well at all times and equaled or bettered most of the Varsity records in the history of Tahoe Truckee. I feel that these men are prepared to take the hardships of life without faltering at any moment. A man that never quits never truly loses.”
On this team was Brian Smart who had a brother on the last championship team Truckee had in 59. Brian’s kids would play for Truckee in the 1990’s and in 1993 they were part of a Championship team. It sounds like the 1968 was truly a bunch of Wolverines. Their team was small in numbers and in size. They were playing in a very, very tough division and yet won a League Championship a year prior, which is as far as you could go in the 1960’s. The playoffs started in the 1970’s I believe. Brian himself coached at Truckee from 1987-1993. As I mentioned in the 1960’s portion the Smart family has been in town many many years. They have owned a family restaurant in the area dating back to the early 50’s. Brian currently runs the Wagon Train in historic Down Town Truckee. He takes care of every Wolverine that comes through his door. Meaning he that there is a Wolverine kind of respect between players and coaches and I have never left the Wagon Train hungry and neither has any other Wolverine. Thanks coach Smart! Truckee is really a great community with that small Town atmosphere. It is hard to go any where in Town and not run into someone you know. It is the small town feel and the merchants that make it so great! There is a lot of home town Pride in this little mountain community.
Truckee’s next coach Clark Burton is hired and becomes Truckee’s 9th coach. Truckee would see SIX different coaches through the 60’s and not many statistics were available. The 1969 yearbook might have been the worst out of all the yearbooks. Pictures are not labeled and there is little to no information. This team had 31 players on it but again no information other than that. It does appear that the Basketball team won first place as it is labeled on their team page. So we can assume the football team did not follow up their championship year with another one. At this point there was not much continuity as the Wolverines battle for consistency. They had to move from playing schools their size in Nevada to playing much bigger schools and a much more challenging schedule in California.
1960’S RAP UP
I like to call the 1960’s the “Dark Ages”. I do not mean any disrespect to those who played during this era. I have very little evidence of Truckee’s success, or lack there of, other than a couple years. The information that I do have would indicate that Truckee was not very good in the 60’s with the exception of the 63, 64 and 67 seasons. There are 7 other years where Truckee struggled to win a game and in two of those years Truckee didn’t win a game. Truckee had at least three seasons with just one win. So, it was a dark time for Truckee Football. By word and those who lived through these hard times I have come up with a record for the 60’s that I feel is pretty accurate. Truckee wins 21 games and loses somewhere close to 59 games. Ouch! However, there was hope with Dale Landon as he began to turn things around in 67 but would leave shortly after spending just two seasons in Truckee. Truckee shared a league Title with Colusa and Del Oro. Remember 10 years prior Truckee won a Northern Nevada Title being Co-Champs with Winnemucca. So, this would be the second time Truckee would share a Title. Truckee in its first two decades is 46-98-1. Other things worth mentioning. Truckee got a new Football Field when the freeway came through and moving to California hurt Truckee’s success in football.