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The First Winning Streak: 1958 - 1959 - 1960

At present time, THE FIRST STREAK’s exact start date (as well as anecdotal records of the time period) is unknown, but what is known is that the groundwork for “The First Streak” actually began in 1957, a mere seven seasons after the inception of the Bettendorf Football program.  That season, Bettendorf went 7-2 and won the first conference championship in school history as members of the relatively new Illowa Conference.  Setting the tone that would last for the next fifty-plus years, Bettendorf’s defense was ironclad as it only allowed 90 total points.  On offense, the Bulldogs racked up 1,425 total yards—best in the state—and at season’s end then-head coach Merrit Parsons was honored by being named the Quad Cities “Coach of the Year.”  To say the least, the Bettendorf Football program was now on the map.

In 1958 with high expectations surrounding the program, Bettendorf raced through the season 9-0 to not only net the first undefeated football season in school history, but also captured the Illowa Conference crown for the second consecutive season.  The Bulldog’s defense, spearheaded by sophomore linebacker Stu Sparling, was balanced by Bettendorf’s single wing offense led by quarterback Don Gray (1,088 rushing yards, 755 passing yards, 10 TDs).  Gray was complemented by spinback Dave Cox (1,156 rushing yards, 680 receiving yards) and both players earned All-State recognition as the Bulldogs had the number one rushing and scoring offense in the state of Iowa.  Cumulatively, Bettendorf outscored their opponents, 306-95, and such that, were ranked #10 by the Iowa Daily Press Association in its final poll.

The 1959 campaign proved to be just as successful as the ’58 season as Bettendorf again sliced through the season unbeaten to a 7-0-1 record while lengthening “The First Streak” to 16-straight wins.  Bettendorf’s offense, anchored by tackles Dale Dexter and running back Scott Rocker, again out gained their opponents by amassing 2,544 yards of total offense while scoring 193 total points.  The defense, yet again anchored by Stuart Sparling and his team-leading 55 tackles, limited their opponents to only 1,152 yards and 70 total points and eventually wound up as the 10th best defensive squad in the entire State.  The only setbacks—if one would call them that—occurred in Week #5 when the Bulldogs tied Newman, 12-12, and one month later the last scheduled game of the season against Assumption was cancelled due to a blizzard.  Nevertheless, Bettendorf again captured the Illowa Conference Championship—their third in a row—while finishing the season ranked #12 by the Iowa Daily Press Association and both Rocker and Dexter were named to the Des Moines Register All-State football team.

The 1960 season not only dawned a new decade upon the Bulldogs, but also new opponents as Bettendorf became members of the newly-formed Little 6 Conference and their schedule consisted of such teams as Burlington, North Scott, Muscatine, and Davenport Assumption—all who would become rivals of Bettendorf for decades. 

Soaring anticipation also surrounded the program and that anticipation was exceeded as Bettendorf’s offense mercilessly outscored their opponents, 381-98, to set a new school record for scoring 42.3 points per game that still stands today.  Offensive tackles Steve Grossman and John Hartung, along with center John Cain, paved the way for halfback Rocker’s 959 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.  Sparling, for the third season in a row, led the team in tackles with 54 and was aided by the stout defensive play of defensive back Bud Reiselt.  To say the least, no one even challenged the Bulldogs during the entire season.

The Bulldogs finished the ’60 campaign with a perfect record 9-0 not only for the second time in three years, but also with their fourth-straight conference championship.  As well, their unbeaten streak now stood at 26-straight games.  In all, seven Bulldogs earned All-State honors by the Des Moines Register and included 1st team players Rocker and Grossman, 5th team performer Sparling, and Honorable Mention competitors Cain, Hartung, Reiselt, and Jim Dilts.  Additionally, Grossman earned “Quad City Lineman of the Year” honors and Parsons was named by the Des Moines Register as “Coach of the Year.”  Furthermore, nine Bulldog seniors who had played together since 7th grade—Tom Johnson, Gary Rinehart, Rookie Barretto, John Brooke, Cain, Rocker, Grossman, Sparling, and Reiselt—capped a football career in which they never lost a game in five years.

However, the most notable and impressive accomplishment was the United Press International naming of Bettendorf as the “Mythical State Champions” of Iowa.  Of course, it wouldn’t be until 1972 that an actual playoff system was implemented in Iowa (and not until 1981 that Bettendorf would outright win their first state championship) but regardless, the U.P.I.’s crowning of Bettendorf in 1960 will always belong to that squad who will forever be known as the “Original State Football Champs of Bettendorf.”  Unfortunately, the 25-0-1 unbeaten streak ended with the ’60 squad as Bettendorf lost the 1961 season opener to Cedar Rapids Regis, 10-21.