That 1984 Oelwein team went on to upset 2nd-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock later in the season and finish second in the Northeast Iowa Conference. Despite a loss at Decorah in what was one of the worst-officiated football games in the history of the sport, the Huskies still earned a slot in the state playoffs, which had been expanded from eight to 16 teams that season.
The 1984 Huskies took revenge over Decorah in the first round with a 28-27 win, and advanced to the state quarterfinals before falling to Waterloo Columbus in the UNI-Dome.
What follows is sportswriter Tom Franklin’s write-up of Oelwein’s amazing comeback to open the 1984 season, followed by Oelwein stats straight from the original scorebook.
OELWEIN DAILY REGISTER
Saturday, Sept. 6, 1984
It’s not over until it’s over
Schroeder kick caps incredible finish
By Tom Franklin
Register Sports Editor
Anything can happen if a team doesn’t quit when it’s behind. Oelwein proved that very dramatically in their season opener Friday night at Husky Stadium.
The Huskies rescued victory from what looked like certain defeat, beating West Delaware 16-15 with a furious rally in the final three minutes of play.
It ended with a thrill, as Scott Schroeder drilled a 25-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to bring the Huskies all the way back. The finish was unbelievable, and the stunned look on the faces of the Manhawks and the joy on the Husky sidelines told the whole story.
In fact, many fans — and not just the students — missed the finish as they packed it in early when a win seemed impossible. It isn’t over until it’s over.
“I am very pleased with what happened, and not just the final kick,” Oelwein coach Butch Grob said after the game. “Even if we hadn’t won, I would have been happy because of our effort in the second half. The kids came back and played a great second half and it paid off for them. They didn’t hang their heads and quit. I guess if you persevere enough, things do work out sometimes.”
Yes, it couldn’t have worked out better for Oelwein. There were times they did not play well enough to win, but the fact that they never quit, when many teams would have, makes up for a multitude of sins, and it meant victory.
The game ended with a bang and also started with a Husky rush. On their first possession, they began a muscle march down the field, picking up four straight first downs and moving the ball inside the Manhawk 20.
After a West Delaware time out, three Husky rushes did not pick up the fifth first down and it was fourth and 6 at the 18. Quarterback Rick Hassman tried his first pass of the night, a quick slant over the middle, and it was intercepted. The return went all the way back to the Husky 45 and the first scoring chance was missed.
The Manhawks made two first downs before their drive stalled. They then kicked a 26-yard field goal to go up, 3-0.
A possible Oelwein lead had turned into a quick deficit. And it would get worse as the momentum was all in favor of the Manhawks the rest of the first half.
Though they controlled the play, West Delaware did not score again until midway through the second quarter. The score came on a wild play, as quarterback John Sullivan scrambled away from a Husky rush, rolled right and hit Ron Woeste, who made a fingertip grab for a 30-yard touchdown pass.
It was then 9-0 as the kick was wide.
Oelwein tried to get on the scoreboard before the half, but turned the ball over. Hassman had broken loose on a 30-yard run to the West Delaware 47, giving the Huskies their best field position since their early burst.
But Jeff Nehl, playing hurt much of the game with a back problem, fumbled after a hard hit on the next play and the Manhawks were back on the move with about two minutes left in the half.
They worked the ball down the field and worked the clock and wound up on the Oelwein six with 18 seconds on the clock. Jim Meinert then stepped into the end zone on the option and it was 15-0.
Oelwein looked to be in serious trouble at halftime.
They also looked to be in trouble during most of the second half, even though they were beginning to outplay the Manhawks, who would gain just 22 yards in the second half. But incredibly, the Huskies hung in until their miracle finish.
With 2:56 left in the game, Hassman went to the air and hit Brian Westpfahl for the first Oelwein score of the game and the season. A pass for two points was batted away, and it was 15-6.
It seemed at that point Oelwein had simply scored to give them confidence for the next week. It instead gave them much more.
The defense was very strong on the next Manhawk possession and it became fourth down near midfield. West Delaware lined up to punt, but instead of kicking the ball and moving Oelwein deep into their own territory, they tried a short snap to the blocking back, but he was tackled immediately for a loss.
Oelwein had a chance to score again. Hassman was now forced to throw and he began to click. A shot over the middle to Joe Stasi moved the ball to the seven, and on the next play, Tom Jelinek snagged a pass and ran it in for another score.
Schroeder kicked the point — also an important boot — and it was 15-13 with just 38 seconds on the clock.
An onside kick was inevitable, and it worked perfectly for the Huskies. Hassman’s short bouncing boot hit a Manhawk and was recovered inside the 50. The miracle was starting to build.
Nehl caught a swing pass at the 35 for a first down and there were less than 30 seconds left. Two desperation heaves toward the West Delaware end zone failed and it was third down. Hope was fading.
Hassman then rolled right and fired down the sideline, where Westpfahl, playing gamely on a gimpy leg after suffering a cramp, got open and took the ball away from a defender before he went out of bounds inside the 10.
There were three seconds left, and only one thing to do. Schroeder hurriedly lined up for a field goal, but West Delaware called time out.
There was too much excitement for Schroeder to get nervous during the break — in fact, the time out allowed Oelwein to regroup and get set — and when it came time for the kick he drilled it, high and far over the crossbar. A good snap by Tim Dalton, a quick hold by Jelinek … never a doubt on the kick.
It was celebration time for Oelwein. The win that seemed never to be was in the books. And it was one to remember.
First downs — Oelwein 14, West Delaware 13
Rushes-yards — Oelwein 40-117, West Delaware 35-183
Passing yards — Oelwein 126, West Delaware 69
Passes C-A-I — Oelwein 9-19-1, West Delaware 5-11-1
Fumbles-lost — Oelwein 3-2, West Delaware 1-1
Penalties-yards — Oelwein 3-15, West Delaware 9-65
Rushes-yards — Rick Hassman 11-42, Joe Stasi 6-36, Jeff Nehl 14-33, Tom Jelinek 9-6. Team — 40-117.
Passing — Rick Hassman, 9-19, 126 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int.
Receptions-yards — Jeff Nehl 4-57, Brian Westpfahl 2-46, Joe Stasi 2-17, Tom Jelinek 1-6.
Total team yards — 243.
Interceptions — Brian Westpfahl.
Fumble Recoveries — Drew Cross.
Kickoff returns — Jeff Nehl 3-60 yards (21,24,15), Scott Schroeder 1-13 yards, Tom Jelinek 1-14 yards.
Scoring by quarters
WD 3 12 0 0 — 15
OEL 0 0 0 16 — 16
Brian Westpfahl 22-yard pass from Rick Hassman. (2-point conversion pass attempt failed.)
Drive: 6 plays, 37 yards.
Key plays: Jeff Nehl 10-yard pass from Rick Hassman.
Tom Jelinek 6-yard pass from Rick Hassman. (Scott Schroeder kick.)
Drive: 7 plays, 43 yards.
Key plays: Jeff Nehl 14-yard pass from Rick Hassman on 4th-and-10, Joe Stasi 20-yard pass from Rick Hassman.
Scott Schroeder 25-yard field goal, Tim Dalton snap, Tom Jelinek hold.
Drive: 3 plays, 34 yards.
Key Plays: Brian Westpfahl recovers Rick Hassman’s onside kick, Jeff Nehl 10-yard pass from Rick Hassman, Brian Westpfahl 24-yard pass from Rick Hassman.