HINCKLEY – Denny Wiles walked out onto Hinckley-Big Rock’s soccer field Wednesday evening, a field he never had the chance to play on.
Standing next to current senior Jared Madden, Wiles, a member of the first H-BR soccer team in 1970, still was amazed at how far the program had come in 40-plus years.
“We didn’t have any of this. None of this existed,” said Wiles, a 1971 graduate of the school. “There were no fall sports so there was no reason to have lights or anything else. It was very different.”
Wiles was honored along with the rest of H-BR’s soccer alumni before the Royals’ Little Ten Conference game against Hiawatha. It was the 1,000th boys varsity soccer game in H-BR history.
More than 30 former players came out to watch H-BR (10-2, 3-1 Little Ten) defeat Hiawatha, 10-0, including 10 alumni who played during the 1970s.
Four of the five players to score more than 100 goals in H-BR’s history – current senior Bernie Conley, Kevin Schmidt, Justin Stiles and John Thurow – were among those in attendance.
“It’s community; it really is,” Wiles said. “We still get together for reunions. We still come back. Generation after generation, people hang around.”
Wiles played only one season as a senior at H-BR. The Royals had seven games that season, often against much larger schools, and went 1-4-2. Wiles, a goalkeeper, said his claim to “fame” is giving up the first goal in H-BR history.
That first team helped start an impressive soccer tradition at H-BR that includes five Elite Eight appearances and 20 Little Ten championships. The win over Hiawatha brought the school’s all-time record to 720-223-57, good for a winning percentage of .748.
“I always tell them the first practice, there’s a tradition here,” H-BR coach Paul Taeuber said. “There’s a tradition of winning, and they need to continue that.”
Taeuber took over the team in 2008 from Larry Peppers and Dan Wallenberg. Both of them are still around the program, something that Taeuber and many others think is unique to H-BR.
“It’s special when you had the consistency they did, two guys coaching for 30 years together,” Taeuber said. “Seeing the lineup I had to look over and say ‘I wonder who he’s related to’ because so many of them have parents that played here that played under Doc and Wally.”
The emotions of the pregame ceremony seemed to have no negative effect on H-BR as the Royals scored six first-half goals, including the first three by senior Zach Michels, on their way to an easy win.
The commemorative t-shirts sold at the game had “The First One Thousand” written across the front and there was little doubt among anyone in attendance that there would be another celebration honoring the next 1,000 H-BR soccer games.
“It was really nice. There’s a lot of people here and everyone was excited for this game,” Madden said. “It’ll be fun to come back. See our kids, maybe, come back and play here.”