OTTUMWA —For the first time in a long while, the 1963 Ottumwa football team graced Schafer Stadium where the players and coaches were honored Friday during the heralded squad's 50-year reunion.
The members of the mythical team with the unblemished 9-0 record entered Schafer Stadium behind this season's incarnation of the Ottumwa Bulldogs. New school met old school to pay homage to the copious amount of accomplishments the '63 Bulldogs compiled on the gridiron 50 years ago. After they entered the stadium to rousing cheers from the Ottumwa faithful the former Bulldogs settled into their reserved seats in front of the press box. When halftime arrived, the coaches and players were officially introduced to heartfelt applause from the crowd.
"It was awesome, it really was," former Ottumwa player Doug Piper said. "The planning they had for the whole thing was just awesome. It was quite a deal."
What really stuck with former Ottumwa player Dennis Emanuel was the warm reception he and his teammates received from Ottumwa's students.
"They were so nice," he said. "They gave us a standing ovation. It was so moving. The student body was just awesome."
The venerable old team had plenty of time this past weekend to wax nostalgic about the potpourri of memories that were sandwiched into that magical 9-0 season.
"We all got to spent time together and tell lies and the whole nine yards," Piper joked.
"We went over a lot of old times," Bob Wilkerson said. "Everybody had a good time."
At one point during the weekend, Wilkerson said 15 to 20 team members, including their head coach Gary Grouwinkel, powwowed at his house to reminisce about old times.
"They stood around and told stories for quite a little while," he said.
After the Bulldogs of the yesteryear got to watch the Bulldogs of today pick up a 28-17 victory over Marshalltown, the '63 version of the Bulldogs met up at Appanoose Rapids Brewing Company to keep the night going.
Aside from getting to enter the stadium behind the football team and being introduced to the crowd at halftime, the 1963 team also was given a tour of the Ottumwa Field House by Ottumwa Athletic Director Tom Kopatich.
"He gave a really great synopsis of OHS football and some of the history of it," Emanuel said. "The field house is beautiful. It was great."
Emanuel said 70 people — 35 actual players and other people affiliated with the football team (family members, fans, etc.) in some fashion — attended the game. And, on Saturday, the players and coaches gathered at the Bridge View Center for a reunion program. Grouwinkel and his coaching staff Bill Kramer and George Magrane all spoke to the team during the program.
"They all had something to say and it was pretty neat," Piper said.
Emanuel said about 80 people showed up for the reunion program.
"We had some come from as far away as Texas," Wilkerson said. "It was just a good time. the town was good to us, too."
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