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Nebraska County Countdown 74: Perkins County - Grant Football Was A Terrifying Machine

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The #74 does not appear to be a very fun number, at least at the current time.


From Wikipedia:

Perkins County was organized in 1887. It is believed to have been named after Charles E. Perkins, the president of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad

Note the emphasis above. The good people of Perkins County aren’t 100% sure who their county is named after. This is doubly true because the official county web site links to the wikipedia page as its history page.

I don’t want to be someone to stir up trouble... but that particular Perkins guy doesn’t even show up on the list of famous Perkins. Perkins Restaurant wasn’t established until 1958, and that guy who invented Kool-Aid in Hastings didn’t do that until 1927. Maybe they ran out of names of Presidents and were tired of Civil War generals. Maybe a bunch of cowboys were sitting around one day and decided to draw straws to see who would get the county’s name. “Fried Fred” Perkins won, being called “Fried Fred” on account of all the Peyote he’d done while he was in Mexico, but years later everyone was too embarrassed about it to admit that “Fried Fred” was the rightful winner, so they had to find another, at least somewhat famous Perkins. Lo and behold, Charles E Perkins was the guy they picked. Go figure.

The 2010 census has the population as 2,970. That’s a lot of people considering the other counties we’ve been through. The county seat is Grant.

Here’s something fun. Go to this map, linked from the county website, and zoom out (after asking yourself why there is a In & Out in Grant) and take a look at all the center pivots in that area!

There are four placed in Perkins County listed on the Historical Register:

Grant City Park

Grant Commercial Historic District

Perkins County Courthouse

Venango Public School

What I remember most about Perkins County is Grant football. I had the displeasure of playing against them during their run in the late 70s in which they became the first town to win three consecutive high school championships.

This article about 40 years of Nebraska high school football mentions Grant way too many times. 1975, 1979, 1980, 1985, 1988, 1989 - all championships. There are probably more listed on the population sign as you head into Grant. This article from 2015 lists Grant as having eight football championships.

In my four years of high school, we beat Grant once. My sophomore year we won, 20-6. The other three times we were run over like the Poles in 1939, the next two seasons losing 39-0 and 48-13. Woohoeeeeooo!!!!!

The worst game I remember is a JV game we played in which they scored 50 points in the first half. It was so cold the field was a hard as concrete. I remember trying to open field tackle a guy that was about sixty three times my size. I grabbed him around the waist, and as he was running I just kept dropping down his legs. I didn’t let go, and when I got to his knees I finally tripped him up. Unfortunately, my hand was under his knee and it was squished flat like I was Daffy Duck being crushed by a falling anvil.

We held them scoreless the second half... I think. Their guys later told us they switched and made their offensive linemen play in the backfield while their running backs and receivers played on the line. It’s shit like that makes a guy get counseling later in life. Sometimes when my family is gone, I build a little Lego football field, and use Lego guys as players. Then I stomp on them while screaming, “TAKE THAT GRANT, YOU BASTARDS”. You’d think maybe I’d have gotten over this by now, but no, no, I haven’t.

THE guy most remember from Grant is Bill Jackman. Nice guy, really tall. Won state basketball titles for them, then went on to Duke, then came back to Nebraska and played for Danny Nee from 1984-1987. Look at this from article linked above:

Bill Jackman’s 214 point-scoring record in the Nebraska high school boys state basketball tournament still reigns. He scored 1,768 high school career points, 749 in a single season.


The guy people don’t remember as much was Joel Long. Long was an incredibly gifted athlete. He was their quarterback my senior year. I distinctly remember trying to tackle their fullback, who had the ball when I tackled him, but didn’t when I hit the ground. Option fake. Damn you, Grant. Damn you all to hell.

If I remember correctly, Long had tons of scholarship offers, but had to quit sports because of a medical issue. That was a damned shame.

Perkins County is also home to the tiny town of Elsie. Mom and I used to play dances at a bar there as Mom was a DJ for most of my teenage years. We had exceptional sound equipment and Mom loved music, so we played in bars, at weddings, proms, you name it.

The first time we played at the Elsie bar, some drunk rancher tried to bet me $1000 that he wouldn’t lose a single calf that spring. I was 15. I had not a clue as to what he was talking about. Why he thought a 15-year old kid would have a $1000... I bet you can guess the answer to that.

There was another guy who was Greek, so the next time Mom played in Elsie, we brought the Zorba the Greek soundtrack, and he did Anthony Quinn’s famous dance.

I remember being 15 because I didn’t have a driver’s license. We had a large red 1977 Chevy van with a 400-four barrel carb. It was empty so we could haul our music equipment. Empty, it would fly pretty well. I left the bar at one point and went out driving. After a while, I figured I would be missed so I’d better get back. I pulled into a turnoff and went to turn around, but when I was backing up, I pulled too far into a steep ditch and the van nearly tipped over on its side.

I got out. Had I pushed slightly, it would have fallen over. I was panicked. I couldn’t go forward - I surmised it would slide into the ditch. If I backed up, I was sure it would tip over. Either way, I’d have to explain why I was driving by myself in the middle of nowhere late at night. I made the decision to take my chances. I got back in the van, threw it into reverse and mashed the gas pedal. The van started to tip over, then gripped the side of the ditch just enough that I flew backwards onto the road. I stomped on the brakes to keep from going into the opposite ditch while simultaneously throwing the transmission into drive. I mashed the gas pedal again, burning rubber, and screamed back to town.

Mom asked me where I’d been.

“Just went out for a bit.”

Years later, Mom would comment that the tires on her vehicles seemed to last a lot longer after I left home.

Husker Football Stuff:

74 - Our current player with #74 is Jalin Barnett, an offensive lineman from Lawton, Oklahoma.

Penn State ran 74 plays in last season’s game, gaining 609 yards for a 8.23 yard per play average. They won 56-44. That’s not very pleasant, is it?

Penn State also had a three-play scoring drive of 74 yards. It took :57 seconds, the key play being a 65-yard run by Saquon Barkley. Sigh.

Iowa had the fifth-longest play against Nebraska last season, a 74-yard kick return. Gee, that’s not very pleasant either, is it?

Oh, hey. Stanley Morgan Jr had 74 yards receiving against Iowa, which gave him 986 yards in 2017, which broke Johnny Rodgers’ single-season record of 742 yards in 1972. That’s positive, right?

In 1974, Nebraska went 9-3. Losses were to Wisconsin, 21-20 in Madison, Missouri, 21-10 at home, and (GASP!) to #1 Oklahoma, 28-14 at home. They then went on to beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl, 13-10. They finished #8 in the Coaches Poll and #9 in the AP.

Everyone was disappointed.

Geez, given this ending, I’ve really come to hate the number 74. I hope it has a better year in 2018.