It’s been 40 years, but Jeff Tracy can still name just about every teammate he went to battle alongside.
Tonight, the former Dubuque Hempstead offensive lineman will get a chance to reminisce with many of them back where everything came together.
Hempstead will mark the 40th anniversary of the Mustangs’ 1979 state championship team with an alumni reunion during tonight’s game against Davenport North.
Other former Hempstead players are welcome to join the reunion. The 1979 team will have its state championship trophy re-presented at halftime.
The Dubuque Eagles Club will host a post-game social for former players.
“The Eagles Club is nice enough so we can have the reunion, not just with the ’79 team, but with everybody,” Tracy said. “Last year they did something like this and it was so exciting to see Tom Rusk, and these guys like Al and Mark Hartung, that were just unbelievable football players. We looked up to those guys. We obviously won the state championship, but that’s why we did, because we wanted to play like those guys. It’s kind of awe-inspiring to see and talk to those guys.”
The event, organized by Dave Baker, is important to the program, said Hempstead coach Mike Hoskins — a 1977 Hempstead graduate who played on the ’76 squad.
“Since I’ve taken over the position, I have attempted to get the alums back involved,” said Hoskins, who is entering his fourth year as the Mustangs’ head coach. “We’re getting better at it. I haven’t done as good a job as I probably should have done, but I felt disconnected from the program for a lot of years. And so do a lot of alums.”
Hempstead, coached by Bob Timmerman, finished the 1979 season 10-2 and beat West Des Moines Valley in the Class 4A championship game, 28-9.
“It was a pretty special team. We just had chemistry,” Tracy said. “We got beat by a couple teams, Cedar Rapids probably had a better team than us. They beat us 20-0 in the regular season and then we came back and beat them in the playoffs barely. It was just dog eat dog the whole way.”
The Mustangs had lost to Barry Alvarez-coached Mason City, 15-13, in the 1978 title game.
“Right then and there, we all came in the locker room and said we need to finish this, because we’re not satisfied with what happened,” Tracy said. “We felt like we let down the seniors at the time. For some reason, that just burned at the back of my head, and I think for everybody it was the same way. We just had that drive all year long.”
While he will be busy with the game, Hoskins is still excited to see some of his former teammates.
“I know all those guys, and they were a pretty good football team,” he said. “We were pretty good, they were better.”