Championship team remembers good old days
By RANDY GONZALES
They knew they were good.
They turned out to be unbeatably good.
The 1988 Victoria High School football team was scheduled to be honored at halftime of Friday's season opener for the 2013 squad. Those Knights of 25 years ago went unbeaten, going 13-0 in claiming the Class 2-1A state championship.
"They're going to honor us at halftime, tell stories afterward," said Darin Dinkel with a laugh; he was a wide receiver on the 1988 team.
Dinkel was one of several players from that title-winning team gathered at the Golden Q Friday afternoon, swapping stories.
"We had expectations of being that good," said Matt Berens, the quarterback on that team. "You always set goals."
Berens and the rest of the seniors on that team were freshmen when Victoria won state in 1985.
"We saw what it took to get to that level," Berens said. "In '88, that was our goal from the get-go."
Victoria ran roughshod over its opponents that year, with just two games in single digits, and none of them in the playoffs. Victoria beat Riley-Riley County 30-6 in the state title game at Manhattan.
"We played with each other since fourth grade," said David Younger, a running back on the team. "I don't know if there were any stars; we just had a lot of good players who played very well together as a team. It was all about the team, not about the individual. That was the big thing."
The Knights were balanced, Berens said.
"We could run the ball, we could pass the ball, we had a good, solid defense, and we just believed in ourselves," he said.
Some of the former players got together for a round of golf Friday morning.
"We're all still very competitive," said Younger, who lives in Colorado. "It's kind of neat to come back. We've all aged, of course."
But on Friday they were remembering the good old days, when the stomachs were leaner and the hair was fuller. The players were reminiscing while sitting around a table at the Q. One story involved running back Darrell Dortland.
Dortland didn't get the ball much in the Knights' 33-0 win over Stockton in the regional game, but there was a reason for that.
Coach Doug Moeckel figured the Knights' next opponent would watch film of the game and wouldn't know about Dortland.
"We went down there, and they knew my number, that's all," Dortland said.
So Moundridge was surprised when Dortland ran for four touchdowns in their sub-state game, a 30-12 Knight victory.
The Knights, who also won state in 1981 in 11-man, moved down to eight-man in 2000, winning state in 2004 and 2006.
"It was a hard adjustment for me to see to go from an 11-man state championship team to see my son have to play eight-man," said John Weber, a split end on the 1988 team. "But you know what? I think it's great, because all the kids get a chance."
Weber thinks this year's team -- which defeated Macksville 58-30 on Friday -- has a chance to make the playoffs, just like the last 11 Victoria teams.
"Honestly, I think we got as great a chance to repeat as a state contender, like we have in the past," he said.
Kevin Klein, a split end on the 1988 squad, still supports the Knights.
"I usually go to every home game and to a lot of the close away games," he said. "I enjoy supporting the kids."
But Friday was about remembering the glory days. And remembering the good times the players shared.
"As we say still to this day, we were close; we were friends," said James Dreiling, an offensive tackle and defensive end on the '88 team.
The players never felt any pressure from the winning streak, which never ended, said Scott Braun, a defensive tackle that year.
"I was confident in our team members, because everybody knew their jobs," he said.
"There really was never any doubt we would be successful."
Jason Robben, a cornerback on that team, would do it all over again.
"I would love to go back and do it again," he said.
"It was a good time, some of the best memories I probably will ever have."