This marked the 75th season of high school football being played at historical Ken Locke Stadium in Knoxville.
The stadium was a WPA (Works Project Administration) project back in 1939. Prior to the current stadium, Knoxville High School football games were contested at the Marion County Fairgrounds.
The stadium was built in 1938 but the first game was played in 1939.
The very first high school game in the stadium was against Pella High in 1939. It was a game the Panthers won 8-0. A crowd of 1,400 was estimated to have been on hand. It also marked the first time the Panthers had played under the lights.
The purpose of this story is to show the many different coaches who worked the sidelines over the years. What their records were and to help pinpoint a few of the teams that achieved at a very high level.
In 75 years of KHS football only three teams went through the regular season unbeaten and two of them were unbeaten and untied.
The 1952 Knoxville Panther football team under the direction of head coach Ray Klootwyk posted the first unbeaten mark over the past 75 years. That team however had one tie on the ledger as they were 8-0-1 overall.
Two years later Coach Klootwyk had a squad that turned in a perfect season of 9-0.
Bill Crozier and Bud Dainty were listed as the captains of the 1952 Panther squad.
Crozier has already been inducted into the Knoxville High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Gordon Hayes and Buster Washington were captains of the 1954 Panther squad.
It should be noted that back in 1951, Dwight Nichols was a Panther captain of a KHS team that was 7-1-1 overall.
Nichols also is a member of the Knoxville High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He later went to school at Iowa State University and was a member of the “Dirty 30” squad that to this day is notorious for their efforts on the gridiron.
In 1958 Nichols was named the MVP of the Big Seven Conference, which the Cyclones were a member of.
The “Dirty 30” squad was the 1959 team that started with 55 players and eventually shrank to 30.
Nichols ended his college career as a first-team All-American. He finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
The 1975 Knoxville Panther football team was also unbeaten at 9-0 under the direction of head coach Marv Sloan.
Bill Awtry and Scott Allen were the captains of the 1975 KHS squad.
Allen has already been enshrined into the Knoxville Athletic Hall of Fame as well as Tim Sloan, who was the fullback on the team and was a linebacker on defense as well as a kicker.
The 1990 Knoxville Panther squad to this day remains as the only team in school history to qualify for the playoffs.
That team was 8-3 overall. The squad was coached by Bob Christy.
In the final regular season game of the 1990 season the Panthers trailed Oskaloosa 20-7 before rallying to win 23-20 to qualify for the playoffs.
Christy was quoted at the time in the Knoxville Journal-Express, “I believe that was the greatest comeback in the history of KHS football.”
The Panthers went on to beat Norwalk in the first round of the playoffs 27-6. Knoxville had seven interceptions in the contest.
Sean Mason was the quarterback of the 1990 team and he is slated to be inducted into the Knoxville High School Athletic Hall of Fame in January.
Glen Huyck and Chris Hudson played on that 1990 squad. Both went into coaching football for Knoxville. Hudson was a head coach for the program from 2007-2009.
Knoxville’s second playoff game was a contest at home against the Harlan Cyclones.
A crowd of 2,300 showed up for the game at Ken Locke Stadium.
A record crowd was expected for the contest, but it was reported in the Journal-Express that the stadium had previously held crowds in the 3,000 to 4,000 range in the past.
Odds and Ends
Other odds and ends that were discovered in the research.
Back in 1943 the Panthers faced Dowling for the first time ever. Dowling went by the nickname of the Irish. Dowling beat the Panthers 34-16.
Also in 1943 the Panthers faced Valley High School in Des Moines. The Panthers won the game 20-13. Only 12 Knoxville athletes played in the game. It earned the Panther team the nickname “the little ironmen.”
In 1940 Pleasantville High School didn’t play the sport of football due to a fire that destroyed the school in February of 1940.
In 1941 the Pleasantville Trojans played their first ever football game under lights in a game against New Sharon.
In 1978 Dick Dunkin ran for over 1,000 yards for Knoxville.
The next 1,000 yard rusher for Knoxville was Grant Grgurich in 2005. Grgurich set the KHS all-time single season record that year with 1,319 yards.
Grgurich had one game where he scored six touchdowns as the Panthers destroyed Clear Creek-Amana in 2005 63-7. The Panthers ran for a single-game Panther mark of 505 yards that night under the direction of head coach Lonnie Powers.
In 1998 the Leisure brothers had a season to remember. Ryan the quarter threw for 13 touchdowns in the year and brother Bryan had 32 receptions. Both were good for school records.
The final game of the 1989 season the Panthers lost to Indianola 28-14. The starting quarter for the Indians was Chris Street.
Street later earned a basketball scholarship at Iowa. He was considered a strong professional basketball candidate before his untimely death while in college.
In 2004 the Panthers were scheduled to face Waukee in a non-district game.
Knoxville football coach Rod Rust coached the Panthers from 1956-58. Rust went on to coach for many years in the Canadian Football League Montreal Alouettes, as well as the National Football League. In the NFL he had stops with the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Giants as well as the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles.
Rust also was a head football coach for the New England Patriots. Rust was best known as a top-notch defensive coordinator.
Dwayne Crozier is also in the Knoxville Athletic Hall of Fame. He played professional football in Canada.
Ken Locke lost his life in 1964 after getting injured late in a game that season against the Pella High Dutch.
Locke passed away on his 18th birthday, Oct. 21, in a hospital in Des Moines following surgery to remove a blood clot from the brain.
The only win on the field for the 1964 Panthers came against Albia 21-7. Knoxville and Pella earned a tie.
Ralph Capitani was the KHS head coach in 1964. Capitani stated that the team took a vote on whether to continue the season or not.
The team elected to continue playing, but Capitani said the spirit wasn’t the same prior to Locke losing his life.