The 1972 Minnesota high school football season was historical since it was the first year state champions were crowned in five classes. The large schools were in AA, followed by A, B, C and Nine Man. The first school to win the Class AA football title was the Minneapolis Washburn Millers, unbeaten in 60 straight games.
The Millers faced the Moorhead Spuds in the Class AA final at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. The game was also televised locally on Channel 11, then known as WTCN and viewers got to see Ross Baglien score three touchdowns to lead Washburn to a 26-8 win.
Washburn, under the leadership of head coach George Wemeier, entered the championship without losing a game since 1966. Their last loss was to the Richfield Spartans.
Baglien, the son of former Edina High School boys basketball coach Duane Baglien had a big day, running 25 times for 100 yards and adding 69 on two completions. He also found the Met's end zone three times. Millers quarterback Steve Sagedahl threw a touchdown pass to Greg Klette to solidify the state title and extend their then record setting winning streak to 47 and unbeaten streak to 60. The streak, according to mshsl.org, included two ties. There was no overtime prior to the state tournament era.
Washburn's 1973 season opened on August 31 against the Patrick Henry Patriots in front of 3,000 fans at Parade Stadium. The Millers were up 7-0 until the Patriots Tom Borgen scored a touchdown and two point conversion to give Henry an 8-7 lead. Washburn had a chance to win the game but like the title of a late 70s Johnny Mathis/Deniece Williams song it was "too much, too little, too late" as they fumbled at the Henry seven yard line. Game over. Streak over.
Wemeier summed up the loss to the Patriots to Minneapolsi Tribune reporter Bruce Brothers.
"I think the pressure of the streak got to us in a tight game like this."
In the aftermath of the Millers record setting run, Wemeier would lead the Minneapolis school to another state championship in 1977, the last by a City Conference school. He would leave Washburn in 1984 to become an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota. He would also serve as an assistant at Augsburg, St. Thomas and Hamilne before returning in 2007 as the offensive coordinator.
Today, the Washburn football program is led by Giovan Jenkins, who coaches one of Minnesota's top players, running back Jeff Jones. Jones has verbally committed to Minnesota and the key to the Millers earning the top seed in the Section 3AAAAA tournament.
Also, the state football playoffs have expanded to six classes and the Millers record winning streak was broken by Stephen-Argyle Central, with 76 wins from 2003 to 2008. But 41 years ago, when the state football tournament was in its infancy, Minneapolis Washburn was truly a champion.
Examiner's Note: sources for this article included The Minneapolis Star, The Minneapolis Tribune and mshsl.org