Lake County Discovery Museum, Curt Teich postcard collection – Submitted by Gerry Halpin
The History of the Marseilles High School “Panthers”
The city of Marseilles has a very long and rich history, playing a vital part in the growth of Illinois in the early 1800s. Marseilles’ current population is 4,655. It is located in eastern LaSalle County on U.S. Route 6 approximately 5 miles east of Ottawa. If you are familiar with Interstate 80, Marseilles is located on East 24th Road three miles south of I-80 at exit 97. One nickname given the town by the locals is “Matchtown” because of the former match factory located there.
The history of the town is evidenced by the number of historical transportation routes that run through it. Marseilles is located along the banks of the mighty Illinois River, once a vital link to the western United States from the east. In the 1800s, there was a need to build a direct link from Chicago and Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. A result of that effort was the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which also runs thru the middle of town. The later 1800s saw the need for railway transportation from Chicago to the western and southern parts of the United States. The Rock Island Railroad originally ran tracks through Marseilles until that railroad went bankrupt around 1980. Those tracks are currently used by the Iowa Interstate and CSX lines. The CSX railway has trackage rights, due to the result of a merger of the C&O and B&O railroads. Add to this the smaller Gum Creek on the east side of town and the Long Creek on the west side of town and Marseilles had plenty of reasons for folks to visit, live, and make a good life for themselves.
Marseilles High School
Photo from 1940s
The school system in Marseilles has a long and storied history. Marseilles’ first school was built in 1835, while the first high school classes were taught in 1868. It is known the high school served the community proudly until 1990 when, for various reasons, the high school was deactivated. The high school-aged students of Marseilles now attend Ottawa High School. The old high school building now serves as Marseilles Elementary and Junior High School.
Marseilles High School Quick Facts
Year opened: 1868
Year modern building opened: 1936
Year of merger with Ottawa 1990
Now used as: Marseilles Elementary & Junior High School
School nickname: the “Panthers”
School colors: Red & Black
School Fight Songs: Marseilles Loyalty & Panther Fight
1) Marseilles Loyalty (used until the early 1960’s, sung to the Illini Loyalty)
We’re loyal to you, Marseilles High
We’ll ever be true, Marseilles High
We’ll back you to stand
‘Gainst the best in the land
For we know you have sand, Marseilles High
So smash that blockade, Marseilles High
Go crashing ahead, Marseilles High
Our team is our fame protector
On, boys, for we expect a
Victory from you, Marseilles High
Marseilles, Marseilles, Marseilles!
Fling out that dear old flag of black and maroon
You have your sons and daughters fighting for you
Like men of old, on giants
Amid the broad, green fields that nourish our land
For honest labor and for learning we stand
And unto thee we pledge our heart and hand
Dear Alma Mater, Marseilles High!
2) Panther Fight (written by former band director Don Sherrard)
(click to play at bottom of the lyrics)
Hail to the Panthers
Raise the black and red.
With the colors flying o’er us
Onto victory we’ll be led!
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Steadfast and loyal
Every heart beats true.
And we’ll FIGHT!, FIGHT!, FIGHT!
FIGHT with all our might
Marseilles High, for you!!
The Marseilles High School Panthers were successful on several fronts in their athletic history. Boys’ basketball, football, cross-country, baseball, and track all saw athletes win IHSA hardware. On the girls’ end, volleyball was THE sport for the Lady Panthers. The school also offered girls’ basketball, softball, and track. Over the years, the Panthers were members of several conferences, including the old Vermillion Valley, United, Northeast and were charter members of the Interstate Eight. You can read more about these conferences in the GREAT CONFERENCES page, researched and written by Tom Sikorski. We are also seeking the stories and records of the better teams who may not have won IHSA hardware. According to the IHSA web site, the better successes of Marseilles HS are listed below.
The boy’s baseball team brought home two District titles in the 1940s. They are listed below.
1940-41 N.R.A. District Champions Coach’s name unavailable
1941-42 N.R.A. District Champions Coach’s name unavailable
Marseilles HS Basketball Team
1943-44 Sweet Sixteen (at top)
The Panthers made two trips to the IHSA Sweet Sixteen. Incredibly, both came when Illinois was still in the one class system for the sport. The best seasons according to the IHSA web site are listed below, though we are confident there were many more great seasons enjoyed by the MHS hardwood kids. Dan Owens was the school’s career scoring leader with 1,360 points from 1982-85.
1935-36 N.R.A. Regional Champions Coach’s name unavailable
1943-44 17 – 9 Sweet Sixteen Finalists Coach Ed Rashke
Lost to Anna 55 – 34
1946-47 23 – 6 Sweet Sixteen Finalists Coach John Allen
Lost to Pekin 54 – 47
1971-72 N.R.A. Regional ChampionsCoach Don Brandenburg
The boy’s football team had some excellent success in the late 1980s, making the IHSA 1A playoffs in two consective years and reaching the Sweet Sixteen in one of those years. A great story shared by Kev Varney was that the school was considering dropping the football program following several years of marginal success, including an 0-9 season in the fall of 1984. But the kids of Marseilles HS rallied and the program made an incredible turnaround. Two seasons later in 1986, the varsity finished with a 5-4 record, narrowly missing the playoffs. The next two years brought pride and joy back to the school’s grid iron with the teams making the IHSA playoffs.
Through the early 1980s the Panthers relied on their passing abilities to score points and win games. In a 1982 game against Braidwood Reed-Custer, quarterback Dean Lockas passed for 411 yards, completing 11 out of 30. This is the highest total in school history. Locas went on to accumulate 423 yards of total offense in that game.
In the school’s final season, the Panthers went out in style, finishing with a record of 5-4, Marseilles lost the final game of the season to Argenta-Oreana on a last-second touchdown, and might have qualified for the 1A playoffs that season at 6-3. Coach Tim Jobst led the Panther football boys from 1974-1983. Coach Don Heaberlin brought the pride back for the remainder of the school’s history from 1984-1989. Our thanks to conference historian Tom Sikorski for the following information:
1926 1-1 Coach Frank Stevens (missing two game results)
1927 1-6 Coach Merle Rhines (missing one game)
1928 5-3-2 Coach Wilbur Stevens
1929 1-7 Coach Seaton Van Dyne
1930 1-6 Coach Seaton Van Dyne
1931 2-6 Coach Seaton Van Dyne
1932 4-4 Coach Leland Strombom
1933 1-6 Coach Leland Strombom
1934 2-4-1 Coach Leland Strombom
1935 2-1-3 Coach Leland Strombom
1936 4-4-1 Coach Leland Strombom
1937 0-7 Coach Bill Walters
1938 3-5 Coach Bill Walters
1939 through 1953 No team when Big Vermillion Conference disbanded
1954 4-4 Coach Ivan Hall
1955 6-3 Coach Bob Nixon
1956 8-1 Fox Valley Conference Champs Coach Bob Nixon
1957 2-7 Coach Bob Nixon
1958 5-4 Coach Bob Nixon
1959 8-0-1 Co-Fox Valley Champs w/Oswego Coach Gerald Konetchny
1960 7-1 United Conference Champs Coach Gerald Konetchny
1961 1-6-1 Coach Larry Kane
1962 6-3 Coach Larry Kane
1963 6-3 Coach Larry Kane
1964 7-1-1 Coach unknown
1965 4-4-1 Coach Jim Scott
1966 6-3 Tri-Champs of Northeast Conference Coach Jim Scott
shared title with Dwight & Wilmington
1967 6-2-1 Coach Jim Scott
1968 9-0 Northeast Conference Champs Coach Jim Scott
1969 3-6 Coach George Micheletti
1970 2-7 Coach George Micheletti
1971 6-3 Coach George Micheletti
1972 0-8 Coach George Micheletti
1973 2-7 Coach John Jackson
1974 6-3 Coach John Jackson
1975 6-2 NEC South Champs Coach John Jackson
Lost to Lisle in NEC title game for conference playoff berth
1976 4-4 Coach Tim Jobst
1977 5-4 Coach Tim Jobst
1978 3-6 Coach Tim Jobst
1979 3-6 Coach Tim Jobst
1980 2-7 Coach Tim Jobst
1981 4-5 Coach Tim Jobst
1982 2-7 Coach Tim Jobst
1983 2-7 Coach Tim Jobst
1984 0-9 Coach Don Heaberlin
1985 2-7 Coach Don Heaberlin
1986 5-4 Coach Don Heaberlin
1987 8-2 Class 1A Playoff Qualifier Coach Don Heaberlin
Lost to Bradford 22-19
1988 9-2 Class 1A Sweet Sixteen Coach Don Heaberlin
Defeated Wyanet 22-18
Lost to Walnut 20-8
1989 5-4 Last team Coach Don Heaberlin
1988 Panther Football Team
9-2 (courtesy of Cinda Heaberlin)
1987 Panther Football Team
First MHS team to qualify for state playoffs–courtesy of Cinda Heaberlin
Boys’ Cross Country
The runners of the early 1950s had some excellent showings at the IHSA State Cross Country Meets. The Panthers finished in the top ten three times in the early 1950s, which is incredible, considering the one-class system of the time. That era of incredible success is listed below.
1949-50 Team Finished 8th at State Meet
1951-52 Team Finished 9th at State Meet
1952-53 Team Finished 7th at State Meet
1953-54 Team Qualified for State Meet
Boys’ Track & Field
The Marseilles thinclads also saw athletes win medals at the state meet. Four different Panther boys brought home top finishes over the years, all in the old one-class system. Their successes are listed below.
1913-14 Davis Jennings Discus 3rd Place
1965-66 Dick Leigh Pole Vault4th Place
1971-72 Jerry PitsenbargerLong Jump 2nd Place
1973-74 Dale Majcina 440 Yard Dash 6th Place
The Lady Panthers left their mark on Marseilles and the LaSalle County area in the sport of Volleyball. Led by their incredibly successful coach, Janice Dale, the Lady Panthers were a yearly threat to challenge for a state trophy. In fact, the Panthers made it to the Elite 8 in two consecutinve years in the early 1980s. The Lady Panthers also enjoyed 5 straight 20+ win seasons in the early to mid 1980s. Coach Dale sported an incredible overall record of 215-103 during her 14-year tenure (1974-1988). The great successes of Panther Girls’ Volleyball program are listed below.
Accoprding to the IHSA web site (www.ihsa.org) the Lady Panthers only enjoyed limited success in the sport of basketball. Coach Janice Dale doubled up as the basketball coach following volleyball season from 1974-1985. Coach Robin Linton led the Lady Panthers to a respectable 12-10 record in the 1985-86 campaign. If you have any more information regarding the Lady Panthers basketball program please drop us a line.
1974-75 Coach Janice Dale
1975-76 Coach Janice Dale
1976-77 Coach Janice Dale
1977-78 Coach Janice Dale
1978-79 Coach Janice Dale
1979-80 Coach Janice Dale
1980-81 Coach Janice Dale
1981-82 Coach Janice Dale
1982-83 Coach Janice Dale
1983-84 Coach Janice Dale
1984-85 Coach Janice Dale
1985-86 12 – 10 Coach Robin Linton
From an anonymous fan of the Glory Days website:
“I was a student at Marseilles High School during the mid-80’s; I know during the 85-86 basketball season, the girls basketball team set a record for free throws in a game, and Beth Truty set a record for individual free throws in a game. I have no idea if either of those records still stand. Thanks, I had fun reading!”
****From the IHSA website (www.ihsa.org) regarding the above information, the number in parenthesis at the beginning of each category is the rank ALL-TIME in IHSA history for that category!:
“Most Free Throws Attempted, Game, Individual”
[3.] 29, Beth Truty, Marseilles vs. Braidwood (Reed Custer), Dec. 16, 1985 (24 of 29)
“Most Free Throws Made, Game, Individual”
[4.] 24, Beth Truty, Marseilles vs. Braidwood (Reed Custer), Dec. 16, 1985 (24 of 29)
“Most Free Throws Made, Game, Team”
[9.] 33, Marseilles (33 of 42) vs. Braidwood (Reed Custer), Dec. 16, 1985
“Most Free Throws Attempted, Game, Team”
[32.] 42, Marseilles vs. Braidwood (Reed Custer), Dec. 16, 1985 (33 of 42)
We are confident MHS offered girls’ softball and track & field. If you are aware of any other sports offered at Marseilles not listed on this site, please send us the information by completing a Guest Commentary form.
Boys’ Football Don Heaberlin 1984-1989 Two Playoff Appearances
Tim Jobst 1976-1983
Ed Konetchny 1959-1960 Two Conference Titles, 15-1-1 mark
Boys’ Basketball Ed Rashke 1943-44 Elite Eight
John Allen 1946-47 Elite Eight
Girls’ Volleyball Janice Dale 1974-1988 Two Elite Eight Appearances
Seeking Further Information
If you have ANY further information you would like to add to this site, please complete a School Submission Form or a Guest Commentary Form. We are especially interested in a photo of other great teams. You may also write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or: