Wednesday marks 20th anniversary of football classic at Johnson Field
NEW ULM – It has been called the best high school football game played at Johnson Field.
Twenty years ago, September 11, 1993, the New Ulm Eagles and the St. Peter Saints met in a South Central Conference meeting.
What fans coming to this game did not realize was that they were going to be seeing the second longest high school football game ever played in Minnesota.
It would last five overtimes before the Eagles stopped a two-point conversion attempt and came away with a 56-54 win.
The longest overtime contest was a seven overtime game between Henning and Sebeka back in 1978.
Rick VanRoekel, who was the head football coach for the Eagles then, said that St.Peter was a team that was one of the top teams in the state then.
“That game was always a measuring stick – how you did against St. Peter was a measuring stick,” he said.
The game was tied 20-20 after regulation when Eagles’ quarterback Ben McAnnich hit wide receiver Brad Weber for a game-tying touchdown with one minute left in the game.
“That was my first overtime game that I was involved in,” said VanRoekel. “Things were kind of new to me – putting the ball on the 10-yard line, what the strategies were. It went back and forth and it got nerve racking. This game meant so much to us.”
The game was won when McAnnich threw to wide receiver Ryan Swenson for a two-point conversion. St. Peter matched that touchdown but was held inches short on a tying two-point conversion run, sending the New Ulm fans home.
“I was more happy for the kids,” said VanRoekel. “I remember the 10 o’clock whistle blowing – the game was already three hours old and we were still playing.”
When the Eagles got back to New Ulm High School, VanRoekel said he remembers the linemen getting out of the bus and they laid on the grass.
“They were exhausted,” he said.
Ron Bunkers was in his first year as the offensive co-ordinator for the Eagles that year remembers after New Ulm tied the game in the fourth quarter.
“[I thought that] this is going to be fun,” Bunkers said. “It was a lot more fun with five overtimes. It was our third game of the year.”
Then St.Peter coach Frank Fredlund remembers both teams having failed chances in the overtime.
“We dropped an interception in the second overtime and then they scored to tie it up,” Fredlund said. “Rick (VanRoekel) was really excited after the win.”
New Ulm then-juniors Chris Peters and Brady Ranweiler and then senior Pete Guggisberg all have great memories of that win.
“It seemed like it was never going to end,” said Peters. “We were two good football teams going at it (both entered that game 2-0). The game ended after midnight. I think that everyone who played in it or watched it remembers it.”
Ranweiler said that New Ulm’s defense held a strong St. Peter offense in check.
“They had three players who were pushing 1,000 yards each,” he said. “You did not think about the overtimes – you want to win. You just bent down in the trenches and held.”
Ranweiler said that after the stop on the two-point conversion that ended the game early Saturday morning, that the win was probably the most exciting football game that he was ever in.
“One, it took so long and in overtime you play just at one end,” Ranweiler said. “We had every high school kid standing around us on the sidelines. It was almost like a backyard football game.”
Guggisberg recalls that McAnnich leading the Eagles on that two minute game-tying drive in regulation.
“Then the overtimes turned in a game in itself,” he said. “We were using the south end of the field. I was playing defensive tackle. They had scored in the fifth overtime and were down by two points. They then ran the same tailback dive for the two-points. Red Schroepfer was the defensive end next to me and he made the tackle. The running back’s helmet was on the goal line but not the ball.”
Guggisberg said that after the game both teams shook hands and teams ran off the field.
“But I stopped,” he said. “We just beat a ranked team in five overtimes. Why are we running? I am tired and I want to enjoy this. This was the highlight for me.”
That year, New Ulm, St, Peter and Fairmont all ended 5-1 in the SCC.