Aurora’s rich sports tradition dates back to golden era

For any football nuts out there looking to soak up a wealth of knowledge of the game, former Aurora coach and administrator Rollie Carter is the man to chat with.
I spent hours talking with the former Aurora coach in working on the stories about the 1968 Husky football team that will be honored with the Golden Anniversary Award from the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame.
Along those lines, there was another good bit of time talking to several players from that year’s team, hearing some old war stories from the gridiron.
There was, however, a common feeling all the players I talked to had toward the award -- they felt it was a representation of Carter and the hard work and dedication he not only put into that ‘68 team, but throughout his entire tenure.
Another common belief that even Carter was on board with was the notion that the mid- to late 60s teams set the foundation that Aurora still lives on today in terms of tradition, values and a sense of community pride. Several former players shared that sentiment, including Mark Gustafson and Skip Tredway.
“A lot of that goes to coach Carter and the culture change he brought not to just football, but Aurora in general and the community,” Gustafson said.
“Something happened 50 years ago that clicked and it just kept going,” Tredway said. “We like to think we helped start that tradition.”
I was curious about that and decided to do even more digging than I originally had planned.
Thanks to the Plainsman Museum and Rod Havens at the school, I dug through various newspapers and annuals from the past 50 years, checking a wealth of information.
It can still be argued that 1966-68 is one of, if not the greatest three-year stretch in the history of Aurora football.
Following a losing season in ‘65, the Huskies rattled off a combined record of 25-2, including back-to-back 9-0 years in ‘67 and ‘68.
It was also argued by several people that I interviewed that the ‘66 team was possibly the best of those three, but an injury to one of its best players late in the year led to back-to-back losses to end the year, preventing three straight undefeated campaigns.
Aurora’s first losing season since ‘65 came in 1972, and the Huskies had three others throughout the 70s. For context, the final year for Carter at the helm was ‘71 before he moved up the administrative ladder to become assistant principal and eventually principal at Aurora.
Beginning in 1978, the Huskies lost no more than three games in any given season up until the 1988 campaign.
The 1991 season was the first 4-5 losing season since 1977, but the Huskies didn’t stay in a valley for long.
Aurora was strong through the mid-90s, losing a state title game to Lincoln Pius 24-7 with an 11-2 record.
The 1997 season was the end of another era in Husky football as 20-year coaching veteran Jack Guggenmos stepped down as the head coach. Guggenmos gave way to another Husky legendary coach -- Randy Huebert.
It didn’t take long for Hubert to continue to storied tradition of Husky football. In 2002, Aurora recorded a 9-0 regular season, its first since the 1968 team did so. That 2002 team would lose in the state semifinals to McCook.
I’m sure the 2008-09 teams haven’t slipped out of the memory bank for many of the Husky faithful, winning back-to-back titles with a combined 21-1 record, including an unblemished 13-0 in ‘09.
Following the two state titles, Huebert compiled a 41-15 in his final five years before he stepped down and moved up to the Class A coaching ranks. Kyle Peterson picked right up where those before him left off with a near perfect inaugural campaign in 2015.
The Huskies qualified for the state title game that year with the likes of three current Division I players, but couldn’t defeat the buzzsaw in Elkhorn South.
In the past 50 seasons, the Aurora football team has combined for a 360-148 win-loss record. That’s a 71 percent winning percentage for those counting at home.
Only eight of the last 50 seasons have ended in a losing record, and five of those were 4-5.
It’s that kind of winning tradition that many believe was instilled in not only the football team, but all sports in general here in Aurora by Rollie Carter and those who made those late 60s teams so great.
It’s not only the football team. Aurora’s signature is all over the state championship history books. The Huskies own state titles in football, boys and girls cross country, volleyball, boys basketball, wrestling, track and field and golf.
Did Aurora have some success pre-Carter days? Sure.
But it’s the sustained and consistent success coupled with the undenyable pride of being a Husky that looms large today.
Through the hours of interviews and research spent on the ‘68 version of the Aurora football team, there was a one-liner that stood out talking about the tradition.
“Tradition doesn’t come easy,” Mark Gustafson said. “There’s a price you pay to build a tradition and then keep it.”
Rent is due every week.
RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net.

 

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