December 21, 1972: The beginning of Esko High School’s record winning streak

On this day south of Duluth in Esko, Minnesota, in 1972, the Esko High School basketball team defeated Sandstone High Schol at home by a score of 75–42. The Duluth News Tribune didn’t write much about the game, just that Esko “routed” Sandstone and that “Dan Antilla tallied 27, Greg Lennartson 16 and Ollie Rahkola 14 to pace Esko’s easy win.” There probably wasn’t really much more to write, for the game’s significance would not come into focus for several years. According to Davis Helberg, that win “was the first of what would be 56 straight home-game victories over the next seven years, the longest such streak in Minnesota state history.” Esko was playing under Coach John Gornick, who took over from legendary basketball coach Coopen Johnson in 1970. (In 18 seasons, Johnson’s teams won 270 games and lost 83.) Helberg continues, “When Rod Johnson took over from Gornick in 1979, Esko hadn’t lost a home game since December 1972. But with four sophomore starters and no seniors, it was inevitable the streak wouldn’t last. It didn’t—Esko lost at home December 4 to Carlton 71–50. Nonetheless, Esko’s streak of 56 consecutive home victories continues to be the state record. (Braham High School fell one game short of it in 2008.)”

The 1974–75 Eskomos contributed greatly to Esko’s 7-year unbeaten-at-home streak. They were 23–0 when they met Cloquet for the district championship in the “roses game.” In front row, from left, are assistant coach Corky Joslin, Bruce Jarvi, Curt Anderson, Greg Lennartson, Shawn Sunnarborg and coach John Gornick. Back row, from left, are manager Tom Lennartson, Joe Campbell, Kevin Bohren, Bob Soyring, Kevin Lindell, Dale Tondryk, Jack Campbell and manager Ken Munter. (Photo courtesy of Esko Public Schools)