Galloway, Elton, Stueve years recalled [UPDATED]Published 3:33am Monday, September 23, 2013 Updated 5:43am Monday, September 23, 2013
Old-timers who attend Fergus Falls Otter football games on Friday evenings not only cheer on current-day players.
For many attendees it’s also an opportunity to go down memory lane from the 1950s to the 1990s when coaches Norm Galloway, Rocky Elton and Don Stueve coached FFHS football.
These three coaches are in an elite class, as members of the Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Fame.
In the fall of 1953 some Otter football players came down with polio. Fergus Falls played an abbreviated season, losing all six games.
The trials and tribulations prompted Galloway and his players to work harder than ever in succeeding years.
It was a tribute to the coaching staff and players that, two years after not winning a game, Fergus Falls went undefeated.
Fergus Falls retiree Gene Donley was a senior quarterback and captain of the 1955 Otter football team that finished with a perfect record of 9-0, under the leadership of Galloway.
His backfield featured two future Division I players, Chuck Weiss (Colorado) and Jack Halland (Arizona).
In the mid-1950s Galloway taught a new football technique called the belly series, recalls Donley.
After taking the ball from center, the quarterback (Donley) would plant the ball in the fullback’s belly and ride with him up the middle.
At the last second, the signal caller took the ball out of the back’s grasp and went around the edge of the defense with it. He could either pitch the ball to a halfback or keep it himself and run up the sideline.
“In succeeding years,” said Donley, “this technique became known as the option offense and later was dubbed the veer play.”
Elton, a 1951 Fergus High grad, returned to his hometown to coach the Otter football team from 1958 to 1962, succeeding Galloway.
The Otter coach had played college football for the Minnesota Gophers.
His 1961 Otter football team finished 7-1, a decade prior to initiation of the high school playoff system in Minnesota. Two star players for Elton were quarterback Barry Johnson and lineman Dick Werner.
Elton’s 1958 team included star running back Tim Cashman who later was a member of two Minnesota Gopher Rose Bowl teams.
The Otter coach later became an assistant at Bloomington. Elton taught history in the Twin Cities suburb and served in the Air Force Reserve.
He returned to Fergus Falls often, and one time flew a plane over the Otter football field on game night while enroute to the Fergus Falls Airfest.
Stueve, a native of Henning who played football at the University of North Dakota, took over as Otter head coach in the fall of 1967, coaching until the late 1990s.
From 1982 to 1987 Stueve-coached Otter football teams were in their heyday. His teams advanced to the state football tournament in 1977, 1986 and 1987.
Stueve coached in Breckenridge, Pelican Rapids and Montevideo before coming to Fergus Falls.
His three sons played football for the Otters.
Richard Risbrudt, another Chamber Hall of Famer, was an outstanding football coach at both Hillcrest Academy and FFHS.
He led the Otters to the state football tourney in 2008.
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This is the time of year to take a drive to Phelps Mill, in central Otter Tail County.
Phelps Mill, located in Section 33 of Maine Township, dates back to 1889 and was designed to produce 60 to 75 barrels of flour per day.
The mill closed in 1939 and during the 1950s a campaign to preserve the building was started by local activist Geneva Tweten. In 1965, the Otter Tail County board of commissioners purchased the mill.
In recent years the Phelps Mill walking bridge was repaired.
That’s a great place to see water going over the dam and a place to take some nice photos to treasure for years to come.