Zam Driver Turned Writer

The 1990 HunTel Hustlers would go onto play a large role in the success of the 1990s Blair boys soccer program. The team was coached by Dean Olsen and Larry Hayes.

I love to pat myself on the back, so here's the latest.

The “A Look at Times Gone By” series of stories has been a hit. I think it took awhile to gain traction through March, but since then I've gained more and more feedback on the stories detailing the history of Washington County sports. I dug through the archives and made phone calls, but I need to send a major “thanks” to Debbie Kellogg, who got me started with her research here at Enterprise Media Group.

One of the largest responses to these “Times Gone By” sports stories came last week when we looked back on the first Blair High School soccer teams of 1991.

The Facebook comments and emails rolled in and I've learned quite a bit about the whole story of 1990s BHS soccer. A major point of conversation was the efforts of the 1994 boys team against Creighton Prep in the state semifinals at Omaha Bryan.

The Bears moved to 17-0 that day when they upset the top-ranked team in the state, 1-0. Mike Gleeson scored an overtime penalty kick at the 92:10 mark. He sent the ball to the upper right-hand corner of the goal, which was just out of the reach of Prep keeper Travis Babel.

A handball call on a Jeremy Kies' kick set up the game-winner. Frustrated with the call, the Junior Jays — despite being down two players to red cards — got off three shots in the time that followed, but Jason Wendt notched saves on two of them, while the other missed its mark, to earn the clean sheet.

According to our reports, many considered the win one of the school's biggest in any sport. Again, according to reports, Blair players kept cools heads and won, while the Jays played physically and verbally taunted them in defeat.

“We're talking about the number one team in the state here,” Bears coach Todd Wick said at the time. “We have to feel good about it.”

BHS would lose in the finals that year, 5-0 to Omaha Burke, but they couldn't be kept from “state champion” status for long. Wick's squads won it all in 1998 and 1999, but their success didn't appear out of nowhere, which is why there will be more soccer history stories to come.

The deeper Blair soccer story of the 1990s starts with the Huntel Hustlers club team and coaches like Larry Hayes, and builds to club teams like the Blair Thunder who competed at the highest levels in Nebraska youth soccer. Brian and Brett Brown, Ryan and Jason Wendt, Travis Mann, Cory Ray and Matt Thomas all deserve mention when we get down to it.

And we will.

Unfortunately, it won't be anytime soon as our sports schedule fills back up. I'll largely be preoccupied with today's athletes, but that doesn't mean “A Look at Times Gone By” will be coming to a close altogether. I've decided to keep them going, though the focus may be more specific so I don't use up too much ink.

Don't worry, though. I'll go in depth on Blair soccer again one day. After all, we've got a lot of ground to cover.

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