Wausaukee and Crivitz players shake hands after Saturday’s game in Crivitz. It was Crivitz’s centennial celebration, and the Rangers and Wolverines have been arch-rivals for generations. <br><i>EagleHerald/Jody Korch</i>
Wausaukee and Crivitz players shake hands after Saturday’s game in Crivitz. It was Crivitz’s centennial celebration, and the Rangers and Wolverines have been arch-rivals for generations.
EagleHerald/Jody Korch
CRIVITZ - For as long as they've played football in Crivitz and Wausaukee, they have circled one date on the calendar.

The Crivitz vs. Wausaukee game has always been the game of the year for each community, whether it's football or basketball. Saturday, Crivitz celebrated the 100th anniversary of its high school with the Crivitz Wolverine Tailgate Party/Crivitz School Centennial.

"There always was one (rival) even when I was a kid," said Crivitz alum Kim (Hanson) Wakayama. "It wasn't Coleman, it was always Wausaukee."

The Wolverines capped the celebration with a 55-6 win over Wausaukee that was uncharacteristic of the aged series. The games have nearly always been a lot more competitive.

"It's a great rivalry and whoever wins, the kids get bragging rights for a year," said Crivitz alum Ken Dama. "If you want the true meaning of sports, it's a Crivitz-Wausaukee basketball or football game. It's one of the best sporting events you could go to because you've just got kids playing for pride for their community."

The Wolverines and Rangers haven't battled on the gridiron in all 100 years. Dick Francour, a 1947 Crivitz High School graduate, recalls that there was no football during World War II.

Pete Ninnemann, who has been on the sidelines for nearly a half-century of Crivitz-Wausaukee games, is no longer the Wausaukee head coach, but he's still a Ranger assistant. Roger Lanich, Wausaukee High School Class of 1967, played for Ninneman's first Wausaukee team. Lanich has seen the rivalry first hand ever since.

"I think it's special because people plow each other really well," Lanich said. "You get pride in beating the other team. I think there's respect between both teams."

There are a lot of bonds between the U.S. 141 archrivals. Wausaukee's Beau DeLaet and Crivitz's Ben Fischer - two of the best athletes in the M&O Conference, are close friends.

"Everybody knows each other even though you're two different towns," said Pat Schlies, who played at Wausaukee from 1986-89. "You always wanted to beat Crivitz because they're your close neighbor."

Both schools have had great teams over the years. Pat Edlbeck and Grizz Taylor starred for the Rangers in the late-1970s. Steven Stumbris, Adam Tadisch, Mike Philipps and Garrett Roush starred for Wausaukee 13 and 14 years ago.

Duane Hartkopf excelled at Crivitz five seasons ago. Bill Myers and Gary Crandall coached excellent Wolverine teams in the 1980s and '90s. Steve Petraski was one of the school's best-ever players.

But when you talk about Crivitz football, the discussion begins and ends with Pete Banaszak, who went on to star for Oakland Raider world championship teams.

"He wasn't the fastest guy in the world, but probably the toughest," Francour said.

Banaszak never would have caught the eye of college recruiters if Crivitz quarterback A.J. Kotecki didn't hand him the ball. The 1961 Wolverines finished unbeaten in the M&O.

"The seniors on that team, we played all the way from freshman on," Kotecki said. "It all came together our senior year."

The Crivitz-Wausaukee rivalry may be spirited, but it has been clean.

"We didn't go stealing each other's mascot or anything like that," Crivitz alum Tom Kertesz said. "Actually I developed a lot of good friendships, and it was a friendly rivalry. We'd get up there a lot and they'd get here, and we'd give each other a hard time."