Gary Schleper

Gary Schleper was named the 1981 Shakopee football team’s MVP.

Shakopee has qualified for the 2019 Minnesota State High School League State Tournament. The last and only other time the team has played a football game at the state tournament was in 1981 and back then, the team was called the Indians.

Shakopee entered the 1981 season like all teams with high hopes of making the state tournament despite the team coming into the season with an inexperienced roster after many players from 1980 team graduated.

That season, Shakopee earned some big early wins and built on that momentum to win the Suburban West Conference and reach the Class A state tournament.

The Indians started the season 2-0 as they defeated Mound-Westonka 14-12 to open the season and followed with a 22-14 win against Buffalo in week 2.

The third game of the season might be the game that gave the team confidence to go undefeated in the conference.

They played Orono in that game and lead 22-6 at halftime. The second half was all Orono as they battled back to tie the game at 22-22 late in the fourth quarter.

After Orono tied the game, Shakopee responded with a long fourth quarter drive that ended with the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of the game and a 30-22 win and a 3-0 record.

That momentum carried into the next two games for the Indians as they whipped Glencoe 21-0 and Waconia 24-0.

Shakopee improved to 6-0 with a 14-8 win against Chaska which saw Joe Vaughan knock down a Chaska pass in the end zone in the final seconds of the game to preserve the win.

That win set up the matchup of the season as Shakopee and No. 1 ranked Hutchinson meet up for the conference title at the Shakopee home field.

Back than you had to win your conference to qualify for the region playoffs and the game between Shakopee and Hutchinson would determine the Suburban West Conference Champions.

In a back and forth game, Shakopee edged Hutchinson 31-29 on a late field goal by Gary Schleper. According to news reports, Schleper drilled a 30-yard field goal with 3:17 left to give Shakopee a 31-29 lead.

The Shakopee defense stopped Hutchinson in the final minutes to clinch the victory, the conference title and a trip to the region playoffs.

Before the playoffs started though, Shakopee still had two non-conference games left on its schedule.

After Shakopee defeated Hutchinson, St. Peter jumped into the No. 1 spot in the state rankings and that’s who Shakopee would play in the non-conference game.

St. Peter defeated Shakopee 27-0 to drop the Indians to 7-1 on the season.

There was more game left on the schedule against Eden Prairie but that game was cancelled because the Eden Prairie teachers were on strike that year.

For the region playoffs, Shakopee played the West Central Conference champs Sauk Centre in Sauk Centre. That game was almost moved to Shakopee as Sauk Centre’s teachers were on strike at that time.

The winner of that game would qualify for the Class A state football tournament.

The game was tied at 0-0 after three quarters.

Shakopee trailed 10-7 after Sauk Centre scored with 5:42 left in the game. Shakopee won the game when Mark Spanton scored a 1-yard touchdown with 55 seconds.

In the Class A state quarterfinals, Shakopee hosted Albany and had a tough time getting anything going as they lost 14-0. Shakopee had minus-14 yards rushing in that game.

After the loss, head coach Dale Vaughan was quoted by the Shakopee paper, “Any time you’re conference champion you can’t be that sad. They won more games than any Shakopee High School team has ever won before.”

St. Peter would go on to win the Class A state championship with a win against Hermantown in the championship game.

After the season, Schleper was named the team MVP.

Spanton, Kent Thielen, John Selsvold and Joe Vaughan were named Suburban West All-Conference.

The 1981 conference title was the first conference title for Shakopee football since 1973.

Sports editor

Todd Abeln has been the Shakopee and Jordan sports editor for more than 10 years. He enjoys highlight big accomplishments and competitive games. Todd also enjoys golf, softball and watching his kids play baseball, soccer, hockey and basketball.

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