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Today's Tidbit... Peru State Football 1908-1910
Football Archaeology has run a handful of stories about football at normal and teachers' colleges in recent months that covered:
Each resulted from an RPPC or schedule that caused me to dig into the team's story. Readers are fortunate today because I managed to string together RPPCs of the 1908, 1909, and 1910 teams from Nebraska State Normal. Most called it Peru Normal then, and it is now Peru State College and plays NAIA football. I first acquired the RPPC of the 1908 team and have used it to illustrate the exterior pad stage in the development of shoulder pads. I later came across RPPCs of the 1909 and 1910 teams, so I grabbed them to make a set. As it turned out, there are several fun nuggets about Peru's teams during the era.
The first nugget is that the 1908, 1909, and 1910 teams had different coaches, which was not unusual then. Their coach in 1907 and 1908 was Lewis Scherer, who started at right guard on the University of Chicago's 1905 national championship team. Although Scherer graduated before the forward pass became legal, he was an early advocate of its use.
Scherer's 1907 team claimed a disputed state football championship (excepting the University of Nebraska, to whom they lost 53-0). Many teams claimed championships back then, and things were exceptionally muddled in Nebraska because a handful of colleges drafted a conference constitution but never ratified the document. As Peru prepared to play Bellevue late in the season for the effective championship, they contested the eligibility of Bellevue's star player, who enrolled after the deadline mentioned in the constitution. Unable to resolve the dispute, they canceled the game, leaving both schools to claim the championship.
The 1908 team also claimed part of a four-way championship, despite winning only one game against a conference opponent. However, they started the season by losing to the Cornhuskers by 25-0, so they felt better than they had after the 53-0 loss the previous year.
More important for our purposes is the yearbook listing the 1908 roster, including the players’ weights. It shows the team averaged 155-odd pounds, with the average boosted due to Swenson, the center who stands next to the coach on the right. Swenson outweighed everyone else by 34 or more pounds. Other than Swenson, these were not big people, and neither was Coach Scherer, who, as mentioned, started at guard for the national champion three years earlier.
Coach Scherer left after the school year, and Peru hired E. M. Burnett, who had played at Nebraska the two previous seasons. However, he was hired not until early October, three days before their first game. After losing their first two games, they tied the next one and won their last four.
The coach in 1910 was Alpha Brummage, who captained Kansas' 1903 team before having successful stints coaching Ottawa (KS) and William Jewell.
After losing to Nebraska 66-0 in the opener, they returned home to the Oak Bowl, which sits in a natural amphitheater on campus and remains their home field today. When it opened in 1901, there was not enough space for an entire football field, so they played on a shortened field with one set of goal posts. (The rules under which they played are unknown.)
The 1910 season was the first in which Oak Field had stands allowing fans to sit comfortably and enjoy the rest of the season as the team went 2-1-2 against small college competition. Unfortunately, Coach Brummage left after his first year to take over at VMI and, later, Kentucky.
That is all we have for today, but if I ever come across an RPPC of the 1907 or 1911 Peru teams, we'll also find a nugget to share about them.
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