As the decade of the 1980’s came to a close, the little Kickapoo River town of La Farge would experience some rare community unity as three LHS teams had great success. 1989 would be a year to remember in La Farge.
In February of that year, the LHS boy’s basketball team captured a conference championship for the first time in 33 years. The Wildcats, coached by Bob Constalie, won the Ridge & Valley Conference Championship Trophy with a perfect 14-0 record and finished 17-3 for the regular season. The LHS squad was led by Seniors John Hamilton, Clint Howard and Chris Zahm with juniors Joey Niles and Brian Wheeler rounding out the starting “5”. Senior Rod Hendrickson and junior Chet Wilson were key contributors off the bench and Tim Coggins, Cory Shird, Chris Vesbach and exchange student Guillaume Caudebec also were on the team.
The La Farge Wildcat squad was able to clinch the school’s first conference championship since 1956 with a 51-36 win at home over Seneca on February 9. La Farge would finish the season with two more conference wins to conclude the perfect season in the R&V.
The Wildcats kept their dream season going in post-season play by capturing the WIAA regional title with three exciting wins. La Farge opened tourney play with a 65-41 home win over Boscobel. In the regional semifinal game played at Hillsboro, the LHS squad used a miraculous fourth quarter comeback to beat R&V Conference foe Desoto 62-55 in overtime. For the regional final game, the Wildcats would travel to Kickapoo to face the Weston Silver Eagles.
Weston was the two-time reigning R&V champ in boys basketball before the season began, but La Farge pounded the Silver Eagles 61-41 in their first conference meeting played in La Farge. In the next to last game of the season, and the first game after the Wildcats had clinched the conference title, LHS had won at Weston 53-52 as John Hamilton hit a three-pointer from near half court at the final buzzer. Weston fans were sure that La Farge could not win a third time over the Silver Eagles.
But they were wrong. The La Farge Wildcats added a WIAA regional plaque to their season by playing perhaps their best game of the year and pummeled Weston by a score of 76-59. After the game, the La Farge fire trucks were at the ready to escort the champion Wildcats and their fans back into town as the team enjoyed some victory laps around the village.
There was little time to get ready for the WIAA sectional opener. Because of delays caused by earlier snowstorms, the regional final game with Weston had been pushed back to Tuesday night and the sectionals semifinal was to be played on Friday of the same week. Wildcat fans soon scarfed up all of their allotted 700 tickets for the sectional game to be played at LaCrosse Central. The Community Pep Rally held on Friday afternoon served as a great sendoff for the team.
Iowa-Grant High School proved to be too tough for the Wildcats and posted a convincing 76-47 win in the sectional semifinal. (The I-G Panthers went on to pound Fall Creek 80-64 the next night to win the sectional and advance to state.) Regardless, the community of La Farge had gone “all-in” to show support for their LHS Champs! It would be one of several occasions in 1989 when the community of La Farge could come together to rally behind their local teams.
When the weather warmed to springtime, the Wildcat baseball team returned to its championship ways by capturing an R&V Conference co-championship with a 6-1 record. Senior pitcher John Hamilton who posted a 10-2 season record on the mound led Coach Roger Hooker’s La Farge team. Fellow Senior Clint Howard led the team in batting with a .578 average, while Junior Jason Parr batted .429, Hamilton hit at a .400 clip and fellow Senior Chris Zahm hit .388. The Wildcats tied for the league title with Desoto.
The Wildcats kept up the winning ways in the post-season as they swept three games to claim the WIAA regional crown. La Farge beat Bangor 9-7 and Brookwood 19-7 before traveling to far off Pepin to play Pepin-Arkansas in the regional finals. Behind a strong mound performance by Hamilton, who struck out 13, the Wildcats prevailed by a score of 4-2. The following week, La Farge lost to defending WIAA Class C champion Greenwood in sectional play to finish their great season with a 14-3 record.
When the new school year began in the fall of 1989, Wildcat fans would have another championship team to cheer on, but this time it was the girls from LHS capturing the trophy. The LHS volleyball team coached by Gail Hanson captured the first girls’ team trophy in the history of the school by finishing tied for first in the R&V Conference. Led by all-conference players Erika Thomas and Jo Lynn Deaver, the Wildcats tied with Seneca for the R&V title. Other Wildcat players included Emma Bader (team MVP), Beth Rolfe (team MIP), Tine Smith, Kari Shird, Dode Smith, Jonel Kiesau, Michelle Donovan and Kelli Hamilton.
A key win in the volleyball season happened when La Farge traveled to Seneca in early October. The Wildcats were riding an eight match winning streak and had not even lost a set in their previous five matches. A large contingent of La Farge fans made the trip to Crawford County for the matchup between two undefeated R&V teams. In the first game, both teams had leads at times, but La Farge prevailed 17-15 behind a strong serving game. Defending conference champion Seneca then showed what they were made of by winning game #2, 15-0, and amazingly never once lost the service during the entire game. The third and deciding match was close all the way with both teams playing their best. Eventually it went to extra points and when the ball hit the floor for the last time and the scoreboard showed that La Farge had won 18-16, pandemonium erupted from the Wildcat team and fans. It was the first time that La Farge had ever defeated Seneca in volleyball!
A week later, in front of a large crowd in the La Farge gym, the Wildcats clinched a share of the R&V championship by shutting out Ithaca 3-0. Despite a road loss at Desoto the next week, Coach Hanson and the Wildcats were still happy to receive their conference championship trophy. The La Farge fire trucks were out again to escort the historic team of girls back to town and the R&V co-champs and their fans celebrated with a victory party at the village hall.