It was my first season covering football at the Anamosa Journal-Eureka in the fall of 1996, and I don’t mind telling you, I was a little nervous.
From what I had been told, the Raiders weren’t only going to be good, they were going to be very good. Maybe, even district championship good. Being new to the trade, I didn’t want to mess this thing up from a newspaper standpoint. Especially for new head coach Jeff Alderdyce, who was beginning his second tour of duty for the Anamosa program.
From the first day I called Jeff for an interview, and to just introduce myself as well, I have been a fan. 24 years later, nothing has changed, as I still consider him a friend to this day. Even back then during that initial interview, I knew the program was in very good hands, and Jeff eased some of my anxiety about being the new kid on the block, too.
Little did I, and Raider fans, know what kind of ride they were about to be in store for that fall.
During the track and field season I was talking with (actually I was just trying to get to know) Anamosa senior Ben Schwartz and junior Dan Achenbach (both star sprinters for the Raiders that spring) and wondered with the two if there were enough footballs to go around for the incredibly talented running backs that fall.
Achenbach, a star at the sophomore level for the Raiders just a year earlier, was making the jump to the varsity level for the first time, while Schwartz was widely regarded as one of the shiftiest running backs in all of eastern Iowa. The combination of the two could make the Anamosa offensive backfield lethal, and one of the best in the state.
With senior quarterback Jeff Beck calling the signals, that proved to be precisely correct.
After following the Anamosa team through the ’96 campaign, I quickly realized there was very little I could do to mess up what was one of the most successful seasons the program had seen in quite a few years.
That team just made things incredibly easy on me with the studs they had, and did their fans ever enjoy that phenomenal run to a co-district championship (with Mount Vernon) though the Raiders were eventually left out of the playoffs (just missed out on the tie-breaker by a few precious points).
There were several other very interesting tidbits (as you’ll see on the top of this page and on A12) during that ’96 campaign that still today remain very prominent in my memory, and I hope will bring back some smiles as you read through, too.
Speaking of smiles, going back to Nic Weers’ run to his 400 hurdles state title in the spring of ’96 (classic story on page A12) when Weers was waiting oh so patiently for the results of his state race pacing back and forth around the Drake Stadium infield in Des Moines, I paced with him in the hopes of being able to calm the Raider senior down and try and just let him enjoy the moment.
I failed miserably.
There was only one thing Weers wanted, and there was nothing I could do or say to calm him down.
He wanted that state title, and the minutes and seconds he spent waiting for it to him seemed like hours.
I learned quickly that spring that Weers had a Michael Jordan-like intensity, and a will to win that was off the charts, and he pushed his teammates to try and compete at his level as well.
All good things to those who wait, and Weers had waited long enough. Champion!