Coach–Near the top rank of high school basketball coaches in Nebraska, his 612 victories certainly illustrate the strength of his advice to young men on the hardwood. An early example came when he was coach of the Stanton High School Class C basketball varsity and had to devise a method of defending some of the best all-state players to date in that class at the state tournament. The boys from Stanton High won the 1964 Class C basketball championship by following his good advice by neutralizing 38-point a game scorer Kurt Lauer and Gibbon in the state tournament final. Twenty years later, Coach Fred Letheby was at the winning helm when Madison High School won the 1984 Class C1 state boys basketball championship.
Official. Bill Lewis began officiating basketball in 1961 while he was in junior high school and rose to become the Nebraska School Activities Association’s Supervisor of Officials. An intramural referee at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Chadron State, he continued to officiate after becoming a teacher. He worked the state basketball tournament from 1975 to 1979 and 1983 to 1987, and worked state championship football games in 1977-1979. He was named NSAA assistant director and the supervisor of officials in 1988, conducting rules meetings, assigning officials for tournaments and playoffs, conducting camps and clinics and observing and evaluating officials. He retired in 2004.
Coach–Some years ago Blair High School was named by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the outstanding high schools in America. The high quality of their faculty, including such skilled athletic coaches as this gentleman is part of the reason for such a high appellation. Coach Lehl was at the gridiron helm for 233 football victories, making him high on the list of winning coaches. In 1973 his Blair High Bears won the number one ranking in Class B and in 1988 his boys won the Class B state playoff championship. The students at Blair High School have been fortunate to have a faculty to look up to, and Coach Mike Lehl stands tall on or off the field of play.
Inducted with officiating partner, Dan Newmyer.
They officiated together for 40 years, so they will be inducted into the Hall of Fame together. They began officiating basketball while students at Doane College in the late 1940s and they retired in the late 1980s. They began officiating football games with Hall of Fame referee Dick Thompson in 1956. They officiated at the state basketball tournament from 1964 to 1968 and refereed the 1984 Shrine Bowl football game. They also worked many state football playoffs and small-college games.
Athlete. His blazing speed while at Mitchell High School and the University of Nebraska made the highly-respected Red Littler into a true legend. For three consecutive years until his graduation in 1937, he led the Tigers of Mitchell High to Class B State Track & Field Championships. At the close of this 1935-36-37 period, the accomplishments at the state meet were compared of all classes and Littler’s times helped make Mitchell High School the grand champion in 1937. His 9.6 in the l00-yard dash and 21.3 in the 220-year dash are still high on the all-time lists. A versatile football player, his team lost only one game in the three years when Gene was in the backfield. His teammates at NU described him as a mighty tough runner. In his senior year with the Cornhuskers behind at a Big Six Meet, he anchored the last leg of the mile relay in the winning event to wrap up the 1942 Big Six Conference title in the clocked time of 46.5 seconds. He ended his career as a successful track coach at both Beatrice and at Tenafly, New Jersey.
Athlete. 1964 graduate. Kurt Lauer enjoyed the best basketball season in Nebraska history, leading the Gibbon Buffaloes to their second straight state runner-up finish in the 1963-64 season. A 6-foot-8 post player and an outstanding shooter, he set the state record with 956 points (38.2 points per game). He scored 59 points in a single game, netted more than 50 points in five games that year and had six more games of 40 or more points. He established a career state tournament scoring record with 205 points (34.2 points per game). He finished his high school career with 2,247 points. He played collegiately for Nebraska and Hastings College.
Coach. During the 1940s and 1950s, the subject of high school football in Nebraska could not be discussed without a tip of the hat to the great Grand Island High School Coach Jerry Lee. A career of 25 years included a record of 101-23-5. The number of undefeated teams he coached at Grand Island was outstanding: 1947, 1948, 1953 and 1958. State championships with these fine teams included a span once of 28 consecutive games without a loss. He was selected as the North All-Star head coach in the first Shrine Bowl Game of 1959. In addition to his success on the gridiron, he was also a knowledgeable track coach. Wins alone do not tell the whole story. A former player of his stated, “His coaching went beyond the playing field. Because of his expertise, I was able to accomplish more than I had ever dreamed.”
Dave Lebsack earned the Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald’s Athlete of the Year awards in 1962 after earning nine letters at Lincoln Northeast in football, basketball and baseball. An all-state quarterback, he led the Rockets to a 9-0 record and the state ratings championship in 1961. He started from the first game his sophomore year and had a reputation for being a ball-handling wizard. He also earned all-state honors in basketball where the Rockets won the Class A state title in 1962. Lincoln Northeast was 19-2 that year, losing two games Lebsack missed with a strained knee. He averaged 22.4 points per game in that state tournament. In baseball, Lebsack was known as an outstanding catcher.
Journal Star 4/6/2012
There were no clever nicknames for Dave Lebsack.
Not “Smoothy” or “Slick” or even “Lethal Lebsack.”
And there were certainly plenty of opportunities. Lebsack quarterbacked Lincoln Northeast to the 1961 Class A state football ratings championship (there were no playoffs until 1975), then helped the Rockets to the 1962 Class A state basketball title. He was all-state in both sports and earned Journal Star athlete of the year honors in 1962.
Lebsack, one of Lincoln’s most decorated athletes, died Tuesday at the age of 67. Memorial services will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. David’s Episcopal Church.
“From the late ‘50s to the mid-‘60s, every kid in northeast Lincoln wanted to be Dave Lebsack,” said Jerry Motz, a longtime friend and teammate at Northeast. “I was one of his close friends and I wanted to be Dave Lebsack.”
Lebsack was a charter member of the Lincoln Northeast Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted in 1991, and he was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
Lebsack guided Northeast to a 9-0 record in football his senior year and was a three-year starter at quarterback. He missed the first four games of the basketball season (the Rockets went 2-2 without him) after an injury during football required surgery. The Rockets won 17 straight games after he came back to earn the title, with Lebsack averaging 22.4 points a game in the state tournament. He was also a standout catcher and earned all-city honors in baseball.
“I can see a gifted athlete who made sports look ever so easy, especially handling the football in a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t fashion,” said Conde Sargent, who covered Lebsack’s career for the Journal Star and named him athlete of the year.
“His value to Northeast athletics was never more noticeable than his return from a football injury to the basketball court. With Dave, the Rockets stepped up a level and won the state championship. He lifted that team.”
Lebsack accepted a scholarship to play both football and basketball at Nebraska, but transferred to Nebraska Wesleyan during his sophomore year and graduated from there in 1969.
“He was a class act. He never left northeast Lincoln,” Motz said. “He’s an icon out here. He’s one of the people who laid the groundwork for all the rich tradition we had.
“He treated his opponents with respect. There was no trash talk. And in return, everyone respected him, too.”
Lebsack is survived by his wife of 47 years, Sharon, daughter Lindy and her husband Doug Bonnett, son Scott and his wife Christie, granddaughter Haley, and sister Donna Spence, all of Lincoln, and sister Judy and her husband Harlan Hoy of Waverly.
“He was very humble and shy. The only thing he cared about when he stepped on the field of endeavor was to win,” Motz said. “I’ve seen a lot of high school quarterbacks in this town, and there’s no one who was better.
“He wasn’t the fastest and he couldn’t jump the highest. All he did was win.”
Reach Ryly Jane Hambleton at 402-473-7314 or email@example.com.
Athlete. A 1981 graduate of Albion High School in Boone County, she was the first athlete in Nebraska high school girls’ track and field to win a gold medal in the same event each year of her high school career, 1978-1979-1989- 1981. She bettered her own initial mark in the high jump from 5’8” her freshman year to a record 5’10” her senior year. She was also a double gold medal winner on occasion in the long jump. She held the all class state record in the girls high jump up to 1987. The Class B marks of Sue (Lind) Nelson at the state track & field meet and through the season are still high on the all time list.
Coach. Ted Larson’s teams were always on the run. As a head coach at Lincoln Southeast, Larson’s teams won 24 state championships from 1983 to 2001 – 13 in girls cross country, 10 in boys cross country and one in boys track. The girls cross country team put together a streak of nine straight state championships from 1989 to 1997. In 1992, the Knights boys and girls set scoring records at the state cross country meet, one of five years his teams won both state titles. The national Coach of the Year in 1995, he also coached two years at Lincoln East and two years at Waverly before moving to Southeast. After 2001, he became the first cross country coach at Lincoln Southwest, adding another conference championship (his 28th) and an individual state champion (his sixth) before retiring in 2008.