Buckley-Loda High School “Rockets”

Buckley-Loda High School
1952 – 1990

The History of Buckley-Loda High School

The towns of Buckley (population 593) and Loda (population 419) are located in eastern Illinois in southwestern Iroquois County. The two towns and their solo high schools are featured on this site.

In 1952, the townspeople of Buckley and Loda agreed to pool their resources and created the Buckley-Loda School District. Buckley-Loda High School served the two communities and the surrounding farm kids for nearly four decades. In the late 1980’s, dwindling enrollment and financial stress took their toll. In 1990, the folks of Buckley-Loda agreed to consolidate with nearby Paxton High School.  This effort created the Paxton-Buckley-Loda School District. In Buckley-Loda’s last year of existence the enrollment had dipped to under 100 students.

The Buckley-Loda High School building was located in Buckley and is pictured above. The building is still in use today as a private school, Christ Lutheran High School.

Buckley-Loda High School Quick Facts 

Year of Buckley-Loda consolidation:  1952

Year closed:                                    1990

Consolidated to:                               Paxton-Buckley-Loda School District

Buckley-Loda nickname:                   the “Rockets”

School colors:                                  Blue & Gold

School Fight Song:                             “We’re Loyal To You, B-L High”

Illinois Loyalty” Fight Song Tune

                                                                        Lyrics provided by an anonymous source

                                                      We’re loyal to you BL High
To your blue and your gold BL High
We back you to stand,

                                                      ‘Gainst the best in the land
For we know you can stand BL High!


So basket that ball BL High
We’re backing you all BL High
Our name is our chief defender,

                                                     On boys for we expect a VICTORY

                                                     From you BL High!

Buckley-Loda Regional Champions
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Basketball 1960-61
1988-89 Rocket Basketball–Regional Champs
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courtesy of Carol Krumweide


The Buckley-Loda High School Rockets were an extremely competitive group of athletes. The boys of Buckley-Loda competed in basketball, baseball, and track.  Football may have also been offered at one time. The girls competed in basketball, volleyball, and track. Conference affiliation included the Iroquois Conference which can be reviewed on the “Great Conferences” page of this site.

Boys’ Basketball

Buckley-Loda High School had some very successful seasons in boys basketball. They also had great community support. Regional Championships were won in 1961 and 1989 (the year prior to Buckley-Loda’s closing). One former athlete, John Hill, wrote and had this to say about the 1960-61 Regional Championship experience while playing for the Rockets:

“After winning the 1961 Regional Basketball Tournament, each town of Loda and Buckley celebrated with a long line of cars going from Rantoul, IL to Buckley. Police escort, fire engines, businesses opening up late at night. Wonderful experience and show of support.”

I don’t know about you, but the scene from “Hoosiers” (the line of cars on a two lane road) runs through my mind when I read John’s words.

1952-53   19-  7                                             Coach Max Smolinske

1953-54   17-  7                                             Coach Max Smolinske

1954-55   13-13                                             Coach Newton Brown

1956-57   14-13                                             Coach Herb Kaufmann

1957-58   17-12                                             Coach Herb Kaufmann

1960-61   17-  8      Regional Champions      Coach Ron Booth

1961-62   12-11                                             Coaches Ron Booth & Bob Sutton

1964-65   13-13                                             Coach Bob Sutton

1973-74   14-  9                                             Coach Steve Sanders

1974-75   21-  4      Nice Record!                    Coach Steve Sanders

1977-78   15-  9                                             Coach Walt Simmons

1979-80     9-13                                             Coach Dave Hopper

1982-83   11-10                                             Coach Dan Denton

1985-86   14-10                                             Coach Paul Kastner

1987-88   18-  9                                             Coach Paul Kastner

1988-89   20-  8      Regional Champions      Coach Paul Kastner

1989-90                 School’s Last Season        Coach Mark Portwood

Boys’ Baseball

The Buckley-Loda Rockets knew their way around the ball diamond as well. One District Championship and THREE Regional Championships were won by the Rocket diamond men. One Regional was won in the 1988-89 school year to go along with their already earned Regional basketball title. Team records and coaches names are not currently available for these or other great B-LHS teams.

1953-54              District Champions

1974-75  18-  4    (good record)

1978-79  17-  7    Regional Champions

1979-80  20 – 4                                          Coach Dave Hopper
1980-81              Regional Champions
1988-89              Regional Champions

Scott Garrelts & Mark Scheiwe
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Two of Buckley-Loda’s better-known athletes (as members of the Buckley Dutch Masters’ semi-pro team)
As you can see above, these two players were Buckley-Loda graduates that wound up playing later with the Buckley Dutch Masters of the former Eastern Illinois and Danville Twilight Leagues. Scott Garrelts and Mark Scheiwe were part of a special Rocket baseball team that made the towns beam with pride in the spring of 1979. Carol Krumweide submitted the following passage to us from the Buckley Sesquicentennial booklet in 2006 about that season.



“Buckley-Loda High School baseball turned out to be something special, starting one spring afternoon in 1978. The 1978-79 team ended the season with a 17-7 record, but that wasn’t the whole story. Buckley has always been a baseball town, so it was not unusual for a lot of fans to show up for the high school games. These games were going to prove to be a little different especially for Scott Garrelts and Mark Scheiwe.

It all started at a baseball game between Wellington and Buckley-Loda. Wellington had a good pitcher by the name of Jeff Sollars and a major league scout was in attendance at the game. As luck would have it, in that game Buckley-Loda pitcher, 16 year-old Scott Garrelts struck out 22 batters in a seven-inning game. The extra man who struck out was necessary because of a passed ball, allowing a runner to reach first base. Needless to say, the pro scout took notice. Following that eventful game, the word got around and for the rest of the spring as well as the next year, there were numerous pro scouts as well as college coaches in attendance at the ball games. Not only did the scouts take an interest in Scott, but Mark Scheiwe who was also a pitcher for B-L. It was reported that 17 major league scouts were in town during the season to watch the two of them pitch. Fans showed up in record numbers also. It was hard to imagine that pro scouts would be paying this much attention to two baseball players from as small a high school as Buckley-Loda.

In the June major league free agent draft, the dream of every baseball player was attained when Scott was drafted in the 1st round by the San Francisco Giants and Mark went in the 15th round to the Chicago Cubs. As a side note, Jeff Sollars, the Wellington player; was drafted in the 11th round by the St. Louis Cardinals, but decided to attend Bradley University. 

 Scott went on to have a 9-year career in the major leagues mostly with the San Francisco Giants. Mark encountered arm problems and was never able to play in the major leagues, but did continue his baseball career with the Buckley Dutch Masters.”

Boys’ Track & Field

The Rocket thinclads had one male athlete earn all-state honors at the IHSA State Class A Track Meet. His great accomplishment is listed below.

1980-81       Dana Bentz           200 Meter Dash            8TH Place!

Girls’ Track & Field

The Lady Rockets were great competitors as well. Mona Martin saw to it that the lady tracksters of Buckley-Loda High would have something to be proud of from the State Meet as well. Mona became B-LHS’ most decorated track athlete with medals in the shot put during three consecutive seasons in the early 1980’s. Her great accomplishments are listed below.

1982-83       Mona Martin           Shot Put            2ND Place!!

1983-84       Mona Martin           Shot Put            3RD Place!

1984-85       Mona Martin           Shot Put            3RD Place!

Great job Mona Martin!!

Girls’ Basketball

The Buckley-Loda High School Lady Rockets competed in basketball as well. Not all of the seasons were of a great many wins, but the program had some great games and moments. Coach Sue Benear led the Lady Rockets from 1973-74 through 1979-80. Coaches Heiselmeyer, Jim Zenner, and Robert Freitag all spent time at the Lady Rockets helm. Coach Bill Sarver led the team from 1984-85 through 1986-87. The only season of a .500 or above winning % is listed below.

1986-87   7-7     Coach Bill Sarver

Girls’ Volleyball

The Lady Rocket netters faired quite well in certain seasons of their existence. Coaches of the Lady Rockets volleyball program included Sue Benear, Pat Meece, Debbie Samuelson, Lynn Saxsma, Dean Brucker, and Robert FreitagCoach Bill Sarver doubled as the volleyball coach from 1984-85 through the 1987-88 season. His records at B-LHS are listed below.

1984-85    9- 6    Coach Bill Sarver

1985-86  11- 6    Coach Bill Sarver

1986-87  14- 3    Coach Bill Sarver

1987-88  13- 7    Coach Bill Sarver

Good Athletes

A lot of really good athletes played for Buckley-Loda High School. Especially baseball players. The ones mentioned below played professional sports or were college starters and played more than two years for a major college team. There may very well be others that did go on to college sports or were exceptional athletes, but to mention all of them at this time would be a great task. Some of those players wound up playing with the Buckley Dutch Masters, a semi-pro team that competed in the Eastern Illinois League for a number of years.

Scott Garrelts would be the most famous as he was a Major League Pitcher for well over nine years & made the National League All-Star team, representing the San Francisco Giants. Mark Scheiwe pitched in the Minor Leagues for the Chicago Cubs, Don Hackerson pitched for University of Illinois, Preston Jordan played center for Illinois State, and Brian Martin was a starting guard for Illinois Wesleyan University.

Famous Graduate

As you can above, a number of notable athletes came from Buckley and Loda. Even though her sport wasn’t offered when she attended Buckley HS, Eunice Wilkening played for the “Redheads” professional girls’ basketball team. In 2006, the town of Buckley celebrated its’ 150th birthday and wrote this passage about her in their sesquicentennial booklet.

“Eunice, who now goes by the nickname Rusty, is a 1958 graduate of Buckley-Loda High School and had a short career as a member of the “All American Redheads”, a professional exhibition basketball team based in Arkansas.

According to an interview in a 1960 edition of the Paxton Record, she stated that as a nine year old, she got a basketball and hoop for a Christmas present. She put it up and just started playing a sport that would give her a chance to be a professional athlete. 

She attended a Redhead’s game when she was in high school and after graduation received a call from their manager who asked her to join the team. The team traveled throughout the country playing against semi-professional, high school, and local talent. The teams they played were composed of men, and they played men’s rules. Women at that time played by “half court” game rules, and did not normally play the whole court game. They played an average of 200 games per season and never won less than 100. As she stated the women won through their skills, not just though the chivalrous default on the part of their opponents. A game was played in Buckley against a men’s team in January of 1960.

She was also an avid softball player in those years and played with the Bradley Comets and the Memphis Diamonds, both amateur teams.” (courtesy of Carol Krumwiede) 

If You Have ANY Information To Share…

…regarding the many successes and accomplishments of Buckley-Loda High School please forward the information to us at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net. You can also write to us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, IL  60631  

Eunice Wilkening
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Buckley-Loda HS class of 1958, member of All-American Redheads

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