History will be made this week when the last Lake Mills High School football game is played at Campus Field.
The L-Cats will take on Lodi at 7 p.m. in what will be the final regular season home game of the season and the last one at the field before play moves to the new multi-use outdoor athletic complex at Lake Mills High School next fall.
The field will be used for baseball and as an extra outdoor play area for middle school students and other community uses.
The new field is under construction now after a November 2018, $2.49 million referendum was passed by voters in the Lake Mills Area School District.
According to the late Dr. Roland Liebenow, Football in Lake Mills dates back to 1879, but the first high school team wasn’t formed until 1896.
Members of the first high school team included: George Greenwood, quarterback; Alvin DeMerit and Riley Millard as halfbacks; Bay Mills, fullback; Eugene Hoyt and Harley Black played the line.
During the first season only one game was recorded on Thanksgiving Day against a team from the University of Wisconsin.
Liebenow wrote, “At that time the Leader editor was not favorably impressed with football.”
In successive years the high school team regularly played teams from Fort Atkinson, Columbus, Deerfield, Stoughton, Cambridge and Albion Academy.
In the days before Campus Field the games were played at Fargo Field, a general sports area at the eastern village limits of East Lake Street.
In 1907 the school board allocated $200 to fill in the marshy ground at Campus Field. In the first game Lake Mills beat Johnson Creek 5-0. At that time the west end zone was still an active gravel pit.
In 1921 Lake Mills was undefeated and coached by 1914 team captain Phil Falk. The 1923 team was promoted as a state champion by the Milwaukee Journal after scoring 209 points to their opponents 17 in seven games. At the time the team was known as the “Golden Horde.” Also, in 1923 the field had to be bailed out with buckets after a two-day rain before a game.
Lake Mills joined the Rock Valley Conference in 1927, finishing third, the team was called the “Blue and Gold.”
In 1928 Lake Mills won the first of 13 championships in 25 years in the league.
In 1931 the team was once again called the “Golden Horde.”
In 1933 the first night game was held with Lake Mills beating Evansville 39-0. The team was known as “The Gold.” They won the championship that year.
To go along with the school construction in 1934 Campus Field underwent extensive reconstruction as a part of the WPA project, reconfiguring the field from north/south to east/west.
In 1935 players were required by the WIAA to wear helmets and in 1937 the team was known as the “Golden Avalanche” for several years. By 1946 the team was known as it is today as the L-Cats.
One of the most successful Lake Mills teams of all-time dates back to 1949 when Harley Graf, future Hall of Famer, coached. He returned from World War II and won the RVC Championship using the “Flying Z” offense. The post season banquet held in the now middle school gym was attended by 700 people, 150 buying standing room only tickets. The master of ceremonies was OA Wodke, president of Greenwood State Bank and member of the 1897 football team. Bob Petruska was named All State for the second-year in a row.
In the early 1950s modifications were made to the field including new elevated bleachers and lights. The team also moved to several new conferences in those years.
During the second year in the realigned Central Suburban Conference in 1970 first year coach Bob Petruska’s team went undefeated.
In 1977 Lake Mills moved to the Capital Conference. In 1983 the team was moved to the Eastern Suburban Conference and faced Lakeside Lutheran for the first time.
In 1987 and 1988 the team had back to back undefeated seasons winning the Capital Conference crown. They also won their first three playoff games. The team was then coached by former quarterback Glenn Schuenke.
In the last 10 years the L-Cat football team has seen success including being playoff qualifiers in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Lake Mills won its first home playoff game in 2016 since 1987. Ben Dunkleberger set a school record with six passing touchdowns and 424 yards.
In 2017 the team qualified for the playoffs again, competing in the quarter finals with a 10-2 record. Hayden Iverson broke a state record for receiving touchdowns in a single season at 27 TDs. In 2018 the L-Cats again qualified for playoffs with Adam Moen breaking a school record with seven passing touchdowns.
In 2019 the L-Cats are 4-0 and are headed to the playoffs.