The 1972 Osmond Tigers Football Team: A Stepping Stone for Life
Today they are salesmen, real estate agents, farmers, ministers, teachers, entrepreneurs of all kinds, and much more.
They are fathers, grandfathers, community members, American citizens, and much more.
These men, in their 60s now, got their start and developed their roots at Osmond High School, clad in orange and black with sideburns and mid-neck long hair.
While the forty members of the 1972 Osmond Tigers football team have been out of school for over forty years and have long since gone their separate ways, they share a bond—a foundation that guides them every day.
Of course, the members of the ’72 Tigers are known for their prowess on the football field and in other athletic endeavors, but what they learned in competing together has aided them in becoming successes in life.
Yes, being on a team with a 9-1 record and that won a Lewis and Clark Conference Championship was an outstanding experience for all involved, but the opportunity for the players to play football was more about opportunity to learn about life.
Their example is timeless. It shows the value of competition, the value of life in rural America.
On the field the Tigers were a Class C 11-man team. They were forced to battle together and shine in several close games.
They finished the season ranked third in both the Norfolk Daily News (behind Pierce and Wayne) and the Sioux City Journal, while finishing eighth in the Omaha World Herald and tenth in the Lincoln Journal Star.
They outscored their opponents 254-110, out-gaining them 2,927 to 1672, while holding their opponents under eight points in five of their nine regular season games.
But they weren’t an overnight success.
Their story is actually one where struggle, hard work, and perseverance all came together to create what was one of the best football teams and athletic groups in Osmond High School history.
It begins in the 1960’s version of Osmond where family farms were numerous, industry was beginning to develop and thrive, and the baby boomers were in full force.
This is an Osmond that Dan Morfeld, a senior on the 1972 team remembers candidly.
“Our situation when we were in high school was different from the way it is today,” Morfeld said. “The size of Osmond hasn’t changed much, but there were just more kids around. There were bigger families and bigger class sizes in school.”
Osmond had three schools, the Osmond Community School, St. Mary’s Catholic School, and Immanuel Lutheran Elementary School—both of the religious schools were elementary schools.
Immanuel Lutheran has been closed for several years.
Athletics were becoming more popular as well. Osmond High School added junior high school football the fall of 1968, something that attracted Brett Moritz.
“I had previously been attending St. Mary’s Catholic School, but when the public school started offering junior high football I was an eighth grader, so I started going to the public school.”
As the class of 1973 entered high school, ten of the boys went out for football. These included Pat Clayton, Doug Gansebom, Jim Gibbs, Larry Hansen, Mike Liewer, Jeff Moore, Morfeld, Moritz, Brad Witte, and Bill Zechmann.
Of course Jim Gray, the team’s loud and commanding coach, helped lead his young football team. Gray was assisted by Al Porter and Terry Ourada.
Their campaign began with a 1-8 season in 1969. Most of the players in the class of 1973 group were too young to be on the varsity field as freshmen. So they watched as the team was outshined by bigger, more football-tradition-oriented teams like Class B Creighton and Randolph.
As the school year came and went and the football season emerged again in 1970, the class of ’73 was joined by the class of ’74, which was also an athletically oriented group.
This included Brian Borgmann, Mike Clausen, Chris Engler, Bruce Fuelberth, Allan Gansebom, Lou Hoeppner, Wayne Kudera, Robin Reed, Jim Schmit, and Jon Timmer.
The sophomores played a majority of the reps; however, and their play as well as their record improved (4-5 record).
It wasn’t until 1971 that the Tigers began to see the fruits of their efforts and the emergence of possibility. The Tigers finished the year 5-4 and seemed to gel.
The excitement started to build for Morfeld and his teammates.
“We really started to pick it up in the second half of the season, and we could see that we had potential to be a good team,” Morfeld said.
In ’71 the group began to experience success in all of their athletic ventures (basketball, wrestling, and track and field). There was no one more ready for a breakout season in football than senior Jeff “Moose” Moore.
“We got beat up our sophomore and junior years, and finally our senior year we said, ‘enough of that!’”
By 1972 the team was ripe for a great season.
After back-to-back wins to begin the season (21-14 over Hartington and 21-0 over Wausa), the Tigers lost their only game of the season to Class B Randolph (19-14).
Ironically, this was the turning point in their season: the moment when players and coaches knew they were a part of something special.
Brett Moritz recounted the ride home from the game:
“I remember coming home on the bus,” Moritz said. “We were looking at each other and knew we should have won that game, and that was important because Randolph was one of the best teams on our schedule.”
The Tigers went on to edge Verdigre 28-27, propelling them to a seven-game winning streak and an eventual conference championship.
Moore, a defensive lineman, remembers the game for a bout that he had with Verdigre’s center.
“I remember my coach coming over during pregame to talk to me about Verdigre’s center,” Moore said. “He pointed to him an said that he was going to be tough.”
Moore looked at the center, Greg Bauer, and pondered his coach’s warning but ultimately failed to take it heart considering that the center was an amputee.
Bauer gave Moore a difficult time, plus some. The center had a way of using the remaining part of his arm to pin his counterpart, making it a long night for Moore.
Ironically, the game included another Verdigre standout, junior Terry Viterna, the current head coach of Osmond High School girls basketball team.
OHS routed Coleridge 36-6 before taking on Creighton, a Class B team, which turned out to be one of the Tigers’ toughest tests of the season.
The Tigers outlasted the Bulldogs (who defeated Randolph in the same season) 15-14.
Moritz, a 6’5” 230 lb. lineman who would go on to play for Army, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and then ultimately be drafted by the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, credits this game for when college coaches started seriously recruiting him.
“There were a few coaches from area colleges who came to watch one of Creighton’s linemen that night,” Moritz said, “but I had a solid game and started hearing from them from that point forward.”
The game was pivotal for the team’s conference championship hopes, but would not be their last test during the season.
After defeating Wynot 41-6, the Tigers marched into Winside and drove down the field to score a touchdown on the first possession of the game.
The Tigers felt they would have an easy win, but the Wildcats had other ideas. In fact, they battled the Tigers so hard that Moritz and his teammates had to rise to the challenge defensively.
“We scored the first touchdown of the game on our first possession, and we were looking at each thinking that we were going to win the game easily,” Moritz said. “We spent what felt like the rest of the game on defense struggling to survive.”
As Morfeld remembers, Coach Gray was more than upset with the way the game was going.
“Coach Gray was so mad at us, I think he wanted to kill every one of us,” Morfeld said.
But survive they did, and this led to an anti-climactic regular season win (36-8) over Elkhorn Valley.
They moved on to the post season and a chance to play Walthill in the Lewis and Clark Conference Championship.
The Walthill team had an outstanding regular season and featured a strong quarterback in John Bellar. Dan Morfeld and Jim Gibbs would eventually team up with Bellar at Wayne State College.
The lead-up to the game was full of hype favoring Walthill.
“Walthill was getting so much credit for how much of a good team they were,” Moritz said. “while it seemed like no one was giving us much credit, not even Coach Gray.”
However, when the game started, the Tigers came out aggressively and defeated Walthill 35-14.
Overall, many of the Tigers had great individual statistics as a result of their on-field successes.
Jim Gibbs ran for 1,172 yards and eighteen touchdowns on 178 carries, while Mike Liewer had three touchdowns and 463 yards on ninety-three carries.
Pat Clayton scored eight touchdowns on thirty-two carries.
Robin Reed's golden arm threw for most of the team's 918 yards.
Defensively, the Tigers had an extremely balanced team. They had eight players with over eighty tackles, four of which had over 100 tackles.
Dan Morfeld had 125 tackles while Brett Moritz had 120 tackles. Mike Clausen had 111 tackles and Jeff Moore had 100.
Jim Gibbs had ninety-seven tackles and Mike Liewer had ninety-three tackles. Doug Gansebom finished with eighty-three tackles, while Bill Zechmann had eighty-two tackles.
The Tigers had earned six all-conference players. These were Brett Moritz, Jim Gibbs, Dan Morfeld, Mike Clausen, Jeff Moore, and Marty Kumm.
Moritz was an Honorable Mention All-State player. He also was All-State Top 20. Jim Gibbs was also an All-State Top 20 player. He was voted the school’s Most Valuable Senior Athlete.
The year was capped in style as then University of Lincoln coach Bob Devaney came to the school and was the banquet speaker.
While the season was a magical one for the Tigers and the community, it did come to an end and with it the football/athletic careers of most of the team members.
However a few of the ’72 players went on to play college football. Of course, this included Moritz’s tenure at West Point, as a Husker, and as an NFL player.
Moritz recounted his story about the time he spent at Army, crediting being a subject in an experiment ran by the inventor of the Nautilus exercise machine for changing the direction of his athletic career.
“Our coach was instrumental in remodeling the weight room, and the inventor of the Nautilus exercise machine agreed to donate equipment as long as he could conduct an experiment using us players as his subjects.”
“I thought I knew what hard work was until I had to take part in those workouts,” Moritz said.
As Moritz became an accomplished lineman at Army, he set his sights on transferring to the University of Nebraska. He did eventually do this for his senior year and found his way into the rotation for offensive guard.
Among Brett’s favorite memories as a Husker was his team’s 21-17 victory over the North Carolina Tarheels in the 1977 Liberty Bowl.
The game included future NFL standout linebacker Lawrence Taylor, “Famous” Amos Lawrence (RB), and future NFL linebacker Buddy Curry.
Moritz was then drafted by the Buccaneers in the second round of the 1978 NFL Draft. He was part of the Buccaneers, New York Giants, and Oakland Raiders.
While he may not have been as big as Moritz, Jim Gibbs was extraordinarily talent. He played with Morfeld at WSC.
Mike Liewer also played college football at Fairbury Junior College. Robin Reed, now a teacher at Plainview High School, played football at Yankton College.
It’s fun to look back at who went where to extend their athletic careers, but these opportunities lasted only a brief while and lead to careers for these men in other areas.
Other members of the team included twelve sophomores and eight freshmen.
The sophomores were Mike Bowling, Steve Christensen, Scott Clausen, Dallas Gansebom, Danny Johnson, Doug Johnson, Marty Kumm, Tim Moore, Blake Moritz, Randy Rasmussen, Jerry Schmit, and Phil Stanoscheck.
The freshman class was made up of Randy Boice, Tim Bowling, Dave Fuelberth, Kevin Koehler, Allan Maxey, Marvin Neubauer, Craig Padgett, and Mike Pittack.
The cheerleaders in 1972 were Sandy Padgett Burbach, Vickie Bowling Clausen, Deb Kumm Clausen, Cherrie Geneski, and Deb Lorenz Schmit.
Of the forty Tigers and their coaches six have passed away and are remembered. These include Coach Gray, Doug Gansebom, Larry Hansen, Mike Liewer, Mike Clausen, Danny Johnson, and Marvin Neubauer.
One cheerleader also passed away. This was Deb Kumm Clausen; she was married to Mike Clausen.
Although the surviving Tigers don’t likely wear much orange and black these days (and have long since trimmed or lost their sideburns and neck-length hair), they are spread throughout the country now, living their lives with their families and in their chosen professions.
Regardless of where they live and what they do, they all can trace their roots back to being from Osmond and to learning the lessons that guide them in their daily lives to being Tigers at Osmond High School.