GOSHEN — “Band of Brothers” was a popular television miniseries in 2001, but long before the show was on the air, Goshen High School had its own group of young athletes that identified with that moniker.
The 1959 Goshen High School football team was a squad of players that treated each other like brothers, bonds that are still present nearly 60 years later.
The '59 Redskins were honored at the 15th annual Goshen Gridiron Golf Outing Saturday at Maplecrest Country Club in Goshen.
“One thing that stands out to me about the team was how close we were to each other. We had been playing football together since seventh grade,” Fred Yoder said. “There were 26 seniors on the rosters, but the juniors, sophomores and the one freshman helped out.
“(Sophomore) Jim Marks told me he was amazed how he was treated by the upperclassmen. There was never any resentment to him being on the varsity.”
Another member of the team, Larry Biller, said, “What I liked best about the group was the companionship between the players and the coaching staff. We started playing together in junior high.”
Biller and Yoder developed a relationship playing football together that remains intact to this day.
“We have been together over 60 years,” Biller said. “We have become like brothers. Neither one of us had a brother so we went out in the backyard one day. We cut our wrists, put them together and have been blood bothers ever since.”
The band of brothers banded together to finish 8-1 as seniors and were ranked as high as No. 4 in the state during the season. Goshen defeated Elkhart and Mishawaka, schools the Redskins had not defeated in number of years.
According to an article in The Goshen News going into the 1959 campaign, the team had established a goal on a perfect season.
“We came within about 30 seconds of that,” Biller said.
The only loss the Redskins suffered was a 19-12 defeat at Michigan City. Davie Liebig ran for the game-winning touchdown with :28 left to play.
Another Goshen News article after the post-season banquet featured some comments for Goshen coach Don Yoder. He talked about the extreme desire of the team and their goal of a perfect season. “We missed our goal by about 30 seconds, but I was very proud of my team that night.”
“I would really like to replay the Michigan City game,” Fred Yoder said. “I started at guard and linebacker. In the game, the week before I had been clipped and sprained an ankle. I could barely walk. Coach Yoder decided to only let me play offense. The first play of the game Michigan City ran right over my sport at linebacker and scored a touchdown. I pleaded with coach to let me play defense, but he didn’t changed his mind.”
Coach Yoder was at Goshen from 1942-43 and from 1946-59, compiling a 67-64-12 record.
The quarterback of the '59 team was coach Yoder’s son Jim.
The son shared that you didn’t change the plays he dad sent in, but he got away with it on one game. “The belly play was just coming into football at the time and we ran it quite a bit,” Jim Yoder said. “We were having success with the play in the game. One time I decided to change the call to a pass play. The defense went for the fake play and I threw a touchdown pass to Steve McCann. When I got to the sideline dad wanted to know who changed the play. I told him I did, but we scored a TD.”
The left-handed signal caller went on to pass for 1,728 yards in the season on 115 completions in 272 attempts. He went on to earn the East-Northern Northern Indiana High School Conference most valuable player award and all-state recognition.
The Goshen offense scored 199 points during the season while the defense allowed 78. Goshen had shutouts against Mishawaka, Fort Wayne South Bend Adams.
Jim Yoder was the leading scorer with 32 points, followed by Bill Johnson 30, Tom Hutchinson 25, Dan Berkey and Steve McCann both 24, Steve Ellis 14, Bud Smith and Jim Webb 12 apiece, Jim Marks, Bud Hursh, Larry Widmeyer and Rex Widmeyer each six.
According to Biller, the '59 seniors were undefeated as seventh-graders, eighth-graders and freshmen. As sophomores they went 1-4-4 before improving to 7-3 the following season.
“I remember my dad talking about how the ‘downtown coaches,’ how it was OK to go undefeated in junior high, but the seniors wouldn’t be worth a hoot as seniors. I don’t think we turned out to be too bad as seniors.”
The players came through for each other in high school and that has continued to this day.
“In high school, when someone needed a ride or help of any kind, a teammate or teammates were right there,” Biller said.
Fred Yoder and Jim Yoder shared a story about former teammate Dennis Warstler, who later died from kidney cancer.
“I went to see him and we talked for about two hours,” Jim Yoder said. “One of the things he showed me was a football with '8-1' printed on it that the team had given my dad. Dad had given it to Dennis during his illness. When Dennis died at his viewing were his medals from the Navy, his Goshen G-Man award and the football.”
“After the funeral, Dennis’ brother gave me the ball, because his brother wanted me to have it,” Fred Yoder said.
Besides the Yoder father-son combination there were three dads who each had two sons on the team. DeWayne Widmeyer had sons Rex and Larry, Henry Guipe had sons Dave and Jack and Dr. C.K. Bender had sons Bob and Bruce.
Greg Keim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 326. Follow Greg on Twitter @gkeim_TGN