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Perry Doney, revered coach at Groton High

For some Groton High School graduates, the name of Perry Doney brings back memories of great fooball times in Groton.

Doney was a coach and teacher at Groton high School between the years of 1935 and 1942. He taught history, 1938-39, and algebra, 1939-42. He not only coached football in 1938-39, he also coached basketball, with Groton placing second in the northeast conference, after two heart-breaking one-point defeats; baseball, undefeated at the time the annual was printed, with three games and a tournament to go; and track, which was offered for the first time as a major spring sport.

There was no mention in the 1938-39 school year of another coach or assistant coach. Doney had his hands full coaching all four sports. By the 1939-40 school year, there were two assistant coaches, A.W. Lenhart and R. McVay.

Bob and Marvel (Green) Johnson, and Doraine (Benson) Green, former students, said he was dedicated and tough, but well respected. "He was very strict with his athletes," said Green, who married one of the former football players, Manley Green, who was team captain in 1941.

"He was a really good coach," said Emery Sippel. "But you better know your plays." He said Coach Doney held "chalk talks," explaining fooball plays on the chalkboard and expecting everyone to know them. They took home several pages of team plays to memorize.

"He was a good coach," said Harvey Dorfschmidt. "He was very good to me."

Bob Pray Sr. said, "He was a tough cookie."

"He was respected, but a tough ol' coach," said Marvin Fliehs, Cogswell, ND. "All he wanted was for you to tow the mark."

The Groton Tigers of 1938 closed their season with the most successful grid year in the Tigers history. By bringing Groton its firs conference championship, the Tigers defeated all their rivals and had one of the very few undefeated records of the state. The highlight of the season was the field day the Tigers had swamping their old rival Doland, 33-0. They also beat Britton 12-6, Redfield 12-6, Ipswich 24-12, Clark 27-6, and tied with Webster 6-6.

Coach Doney's team brought home the conference championship in 1939, for the 2nd consecutive year, which setup the most enviable record in the history of the school. They wound up the 1940 season, with the conference championship for the third straight year, which was a record, since no tream had ever repeated more than twice in the conference race at that time.

In making their most commendable record in 1939, the Tigers held the opposition scoreless in all but two games, and outscored their opponents, 149 points to 25 points. Groton outscored Aberdeen Juniors (31-0), Britton (19-0), Redfield (20-0), Ipswich (26-0), Clark (13-6), Doland (13-0), and Webster (20-19).

Some lettermen on the 1939 squad were Matt Rock (Jr., tackle), Emery Sippel (Jr., end), Terrence Abeln (Jr., guard), Lyle Potter (Jr., left halfback), Robert Dombrowe (Sr., quarterback), Lynn Bowles (Jr., fullback), Lyle Blair (Jr., sub) and Jim Honey (Sr., tackle). Some of those who played on the 1940 and 1941 squads were Wally Schaller, Kenneth Schaller, George Alberts, Harvy Dorfschmidt, Marvin Fliehs, Robert Fliehs, Gerald Rix, Irvin Fliehs and Manley Green.

The Tigers inauguarated their new lighted field (1939) with the first game fo the season by rounching the Aberdeen Juniors. Up to this time, all games were played in the afternoon. Groton was the only one in the northeast conference at the time to have lights.

Groton opened the 1939 conference schedule on the home field under the lights by remaining unbeaten at Britton's expense. "In the third quarter, (Matt) Rock broke through a strong Britton forward wall and blocked a punt, putting the ball over the goal line, where (Terrence) Abeln fell on it for a touchdown.

1939 comments: "Coach Doney's Tigers ruined Redfield's perfect homecoming by handing the Pheasants a stinging 20-0 shellacking."

"Groton's opponents tasted their first blood, when Clark came to Groton and scored the first six points scored on the Tigers this year (1939) in the game "Jungle Day" night, under the lights.

"In a sensation-packed game at Webster on Armistice Day, Groton won 20-19 in a titanic, close struggle with the Bearcats. The Tigers clinched their second consecutive conference title. Groton's third touchdown came when Fick, Webster's safety man, fumbled one of (Lynn) Bowles' punts and (Emery) Sippel fell on it on Webster's 12-yard line, from where Bowles carried it over.

After Coach Doney brought Groton its 2nd consecutive championship, the Board of Education of Groton named the football field after him, calling it DONEY FIELD. At a victory banquet, following the greatest football season, the major award winners received gold footballs and Coach Doney was presented a jar of dirt from the field named in his honor.

"As far as I'm concerned that is official," said Groton Mayor Gerald Rix, former student of Doney, about the football field being named DONEY FIELD, as reported in the 1940 school annual. "He was a good teacher, tough, but a good teacher," said Rix. "He was protective of his athletes."

The 1940 Groton squad won the third conference race by winning all northeast conference games over Britton 22-0, Redfield 14-0, Clark 6-0, Doland forfeited, and Webster 25-6.

The 1941 season had some skeptics. When the Aberdeen Sophomores scored the first touchdown of the first game of the season, the faith in the team hit a new all-time low. Groton rallied to push over four touchdowns to win 27-6. Their next adversary was Britton, a team to be dreaded... powerful, fast and invincible. Everyone who thought the local boys were going to meet their Waterloo, were pleasantly surprised. Groton's offense was clicking and the game was won 33-7.

According to all predicitions, Groton was again in for a definite trimming in the game with Redfield at their homecoming. The papers didn't give the Tigers a chance. "Marv Fliehs became a regular dreadnaught on two legs and twice as tough." Everyone was elated when the Pheasants were whipped, 13-6, putting Groton on top in the conference race.

The first loss for the Tigers, after 19 consecutive wins, came when they went against Milbank at their homecoming, losing 7-14. This put Milbank in the lead for the conference title. The tigers went on to win over Webster, 6-0, to end the season 2nd in the Northeast Conference in 1941.

Perry Willard Doney was born July 31, 1908 to Frank and Tomena (Hornseth) Doney at Hector, Minn. He had one brother, Lyndon.

Perry graduated from Hector High School, then he graduated from Northern State College, Aberdeen, SD, in 1932, with a BS degree in Physical Education, Mathmetics. He also received credits from the University of Minnesota.

He was united in marriage to Madelyn Jung, June 12, 1945, who died in July 1972. They had two daughters, Eloise, who married Carter Stroud, and Carolyn, who married Roger Dullum.

He married Helen Hagemeister, December 6, 1975. She had three daughters, Susan, Carol and Sandra.

By the time Perry retired in June 1973, he had taught and coached athletics for 40 years in South Shore and Groton in South Dakota, and Canby, Wood Lake and Hector in Minnesota. He received a State Coaches Merit Award in 1971. He was named to the Northern State College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1973. Perry coached every sport during his coaching years in five different towns, ending his career as Athletic Director in his hometown of Hector, Minn.

Perry died suddenly and unexpectedly May 26, 1989 in Hector at the age of 80.

Sources: Groton High School annuals 1939, 1940, 1941; NSU Athletic Hall of Fame; and "News Mirror" newspaper of Hector, Minn.

- Kathy Sundermeyer