Central College coach Ron Schipper receives the Stagg Bowl trophy following the 1974 game.
Central 10, Ithaca 8
Dec. 7, 1974, in Phenix City, Ala.
By Steve Bergum
Enquirer Sports Writer
PHENIX CITY, Ala. — You can gasp, gawk and shake your head all you want over Central College’s win over Ithaca Saturday. But don’t talk upset.
To Dutchmen defensive tackle Mike Street the Stagg Bowl victory was nothing more than the final chapter to a plan he authored nearly seven months ago.
“From the word go we said we were gonna win it all.” Said a mud-covered, but happy Street after Saturday’s game. “When I went home to work after school last summer, the guys I worked with asked me if I played football. I told them, “Yeah, we’re gonna be national champions. Listen for us.”
It was a courageous prediction coming from a 210 pound defensive tackle from Humeston, Iowa (population 600). But when the scoreboard clock at Municipal Stadium blinked zero late Saturday afternoon, it contained the same clairvoyance that has made people like Jeanne Dixon famous.
Actually, the Dutchmen’s defense left nothing to the occult. They simply charged after Ithaca all afternoon in the same manner they’ve hounded opponents all year.
They stopped every part of Ithaca’s publicized offense, with the exception of an occasional draw play. And even those short bomber gains came as a result of Central’s over aggressiveness.
The only time all day the Dutchmen’s defense did falter came late in the game following a short Central punt.
Ithaca took the ball near midfield and drove down to Central’s six yard line before running into a fourth and one situation.
Right then, with just over a minute left to play, the classic confrontation which has been building up all week took place. Ithaca’s vaunted offense, which averaged 48 points a game during the regular season, needed only 18 inches for a first down inside the five.
Central, the tiny underdog college from Iowa, that no one gave a chance, had to make one more deciding defensive play.
When the ball was snapped every one of the spectators, coaches and players in Municipal Stadium knew who would get the ball – Dave Remick, Ithaca’s stocky fullback and leading rusher, who accounted for over 1,000 yards during the year.
Remick carried the ball. He made six inches. And Central College clinched its first national championship in the school’s history.
Dutchmen linebacker Al Dorenkamp, the most valuable player in the Iowa conference this year recalled the situation facing him and his teammates on the critical fourth down play.
“I told the guys in the huddle that this was the reason that we were here.” He said. “I told them the national title was riding on this play. That was all I said. Because I figured if that didn’t fire them up, nothing would.”
Street, looking back on his thoughts at that moment said, “I told myself, ‘This is it. This is what we’ve been working for all year. We’ve come too far to blow it now.”
The peculiar thing about the crucial play was that Ithaca selected Street’s side of the line to run against. That is like trying to tell Ernest Hemingway how to write an ending for A Farewell to Arms.
Street knew seven months earlier that Dave Remick couldn’t make 18 inches in that particular situation. There was no one going to ruin the ending to Mike Street’s story.
After the game, one of the Stagg Bowl officials shook hands with Street and said, “Congratulations, I hope to see you back next year.”
“Thank you.” Street replied politely, “But I’m a senior. I won’t be back next year.”
With Street, Dorenkamp, quarterback Gary Cutler and a horde of others gone, it’s unlikely that any of the Dutch will return next year. Or ever again for that matter.
But the fact remains that the elusive chance at a small college national football title did present itself for a brief moment to Central College.
And the Dutchmen, who were “too small to play with the big boys,” jumped on it like a loose fumble.
It just came naturally, like Mike Street said it would.
Central 17, at Evansville 16
Ithaca 27, Slippery Rock 14
Stagg Bowl II
Central 10, Ithaca 8, at Phenix City, Ala.
Team 1 2 3 4 T
Central 3 0 0 7 10
Ithaca 0 3 3 2 8
Central — FG Street 25
Ithaca — FG Markowick 41
Ithaca — FG Markowick 27
Central — Cutler 1 run (Street kick)
Ithaca — Safety (Urbanek ran out of end zone)