Former Pelican Rapids football player Wes Halbakken and former Fergus Falls football player Gordy Kvern had not met face to face since they battled on the football field 60 years ago on Labor Day evening in Fergus Falls.
They recalled that game in 1959 when they had coffee together during the week, going down memory lane.
Fergus Falls won the game 7-0 on a third-quarter touchdown run by Dale Vance. A year later, in Pelican Rapids, the Vikings won on Labor Day evening on a first-quarter touchdown by George Gorton.
“We respected Pelican Rapids and they respected us,” said Kvern, a 200-pound senior offensive tackle on offense and defensive center for the Otters in 1959.
Back then, 60 years ago, Halbakken was a 185-pound junior offensive and defensive tackle for the Vikings.
In those days, following World War II in the late 1940s, Fergus Falls and Pelican Rapids played each other on Labor Day evening. This held true until the early 1960s.
Kvern was named captain for the North team in the Minnesota high school all-star football game played against the south team at Parade Stadium in the Twin Cities. Also on the north team was Otter quarterback Tom Glorvigen.
The battle in Fergus Falls 60 years ago Labor Day evening was a classic contest between the Otters and Vikings.
Pelican Rapids was driving toward the end of the first half, led by quarterback Walley Scheer and halfback Gorton. They were stopped on the Fergus 11-yard line on an outstanding defensive tackle by Otter Ed Darby.
The winning Fergus Falls touchdown came in the third quarter and was scored by Vance. The Otters were on the Vikings 30-yard line.
Otter head coach Rocky Elton called for the play, “Zorro Left.” This was a wing-back reverse with the right end pulling and leading the play up field. Vance scooted to the endzone untouched.
To this day Elton, a resident of the Twin Cities, recalls that Pelican Rapids, coached by Jerry Olson, was very athletic, competitive and were good sportsmen.
A year later, when Pelican Rapids defeated Fergus Falls Labor Day evening on the Vikings’ home field, the Vikings coach was Don Stueve. He went from Pelican Rapids to Montevideo and then to Fergus Falls where he coached the Otters after Elton had moved to the Twin Cities.
Olson had moved to Hoople, North Dakota, northwest of Grand Forks.
A few teammates of Kvern, in addition to Vance and Darby, were Dick Werner, Barry Johnson, Gary Eide and Pete Van Dyken.
Halbakken played with teammates such as Brian Emmel and Doug Nord, in addition to Scheer and Gorton.
Statistics revealed just how close the Viking-Otter game was 60 years ago, Labor Day evening in Fergus Falls in 1959. Pelican Rapids had a narrow lead in first downs, 10 to 7, with the Otters leading in rushing, 137 to 127.
Pelican Rapids led in passing, 55 to 6.
Back then Pelican Rapids had a junior and senior high enrollment of 612 students, with 107 in the senior class.
Kvern later farmed east of Fergus Falls and Halbakken farmed east of Rothsay.
Longtime fans of both teams still recall those Labor Day classics between the Vikings and Otters in football in the years after World World War II, from the late 1940s to the early 1960s.