The football schedules of early Nebraska teams sometimes matched or mismatched-high school and college teams and paired both with teams organized by other groups such as the YMCA and other athletic clubs. In 1895, for example, the University of Nebraska numbered among its football opponents not only college teams, but the Omaha YMCA, the Omaha University Club, the Sioux City Athletic Club, the Denver Athletic Club, and the Des Moines Athletic Club.
At least one contest in late 1895 matched a college with a high school team, with the result reported by the Grand Island Daily Independent on December 9, 1895, under the headline “Too Much Beef.” “Those who faced the storm to witness the football match between York College and the local High School elevens,” said the Independent, “were treated to an exhibition where beef and strength was pitted against science. Under the existing circumstances, beef won.
“When the opposing teams lined up the difference in their size and weight was rather ludicrous, but the struggle which followed was by no means so funny and the lightweights made their big opponents earn every inch of the ground. As an example of the difference in weight, York’s centre weighted 195 pounds, while the High School’s centre weighed barely 170 pounds. The visitors averaged fully twenty pounds per man heavier than the home boys.
“Time being called Grand Island took the ball and kicked off. York got possession and began the tactics which eventually won them the game-rushing through the line. They played their big full back almost continuously thro’ the line. It was next to impossible to stop their heavyweight when once started, as the ground being covered with snow afforded no foothold whatever. . . . After ten minutes intermission [at half time] play was again resumed and it was then that the local boys surprised their weighty opponents by stopping their fierce rushes with but a yard gain and frequently no gain at all.” But the game still ended with the score: York, 18, and Grand Island, 0.
Grand Island supporters found some consolation: “The visitors are unanimous in their admiration of their light opponents and say that they played them a much harder game than did the big Hastings Y M C A team.” [The Hastings team had played a practice game with the University of Nebraska at Hastings on October 5.] The high school boys deserve great credit for the plucky game they put up against almost insurmountable odds. They are perhaps as strong a team as can be found in the state, weight being equal.
“There is only one feature about the match that the boys regret and that is they did not make expenses by about $20.00, and the businessmen will be called upon to make up the deficit. The inclemency of the weather kept the attendance down materially, and the businessmen will no doubt see that the boys lose nothing by their venture.”
(Photo: John Nelson’s black and white photograph on a postcard of football players. NSHS RG3542.PH:097-04)