Beyke was 2-sport star for Wildcats in 1960s

Herald archives
Ken Beyke’s  final game in a Jasper uniform versus Holland in the 1968 sectional.


Jasper has won only one state football championship in its history, that title coming in 2001.

But the Wildcats boasted some teams with some really good records in the 1960s. Jasper went a combined 27-3 on the gridiron from 1965-67. Those three losses came not in postseason play, but in the regular season.

There wouldn’t be a state football tournament sanctioned by the Indiana High School Athletic Association until 1973, and, thus, fans can only wonder, ‘What If’ when it comes to the number of state titles Jerry Brewer and his Wildcats might have won during the years Ken Beyke was the quarterback.

“It was always tough to get respect, but we were so good,” Beyke said. “I remember rankings, too, our senior year, we were fourth, fifth, sixth in the state. How they come up with that, that’s just their opinion, but it was a little bit rewarding that we would get some notoriety in the south for being pretty good for what we were accomplishing.”

The Wildcats, nevertheless, had some critical pieces on the teams in those days. They liked to run the football, with Beyke getting carries and handing the ball off to Ken Schmidt in the backfield. Beyke also had Alan Dick, who Beyke called, “the fastest guy in Southern Indiana” as a target at wide receiver.

“It was fun to play pitch and catch with him because of his speed, but leading him on a deep pass was a lot different than anybody else because of his speed,” he said. “We didn’t throw a whole lot because we were a power football team.”

Ken Beyke in 1967

Beyke still found himself lucky to quarterback a team loaded with talent. He, Dick, Schmidt and Randy Seger were all chosen for the All-SIAC team in 1967. Beyke went 44 of 86 passing for 761 yards, while adding 173 yards on 23 attempts and three rushing touchdowns as a senior.

Football wasn’t the only sport Beyke excelled in, however. He played basketball his freshman and sophomore years, and was initially going to play his junior year before sitting out the 1966-67 campaign for reasons that he preferred The Herald did not disclose.

The Wildcats went on a run, making it to the 1967 sectional championship without Beyke. Jasper met Holland in the title game that year, with the Dutchmen coming away with a 62-52 victory.

He rejoined the team his senior year, and didn’t talk much about his absence, but didn’t think there was going to be any problems. Beyke worked on taking the ball to the basket and also focused on team basketball by getting his teammates involved.

The Wildcats lost their 1967-68 opener against Washington, 67-56, but after a lot of time off, it took only the second game of the season for Beyke to set a Jasper boys record that still stands today.

Beyke knocked down 20 free throws on Nov. 24, 1967, at Evansville Harrison to help propel the Wildcats to a 74-61 victory. He totaled 34 points — going 20 for 24 at the free throw line — and remains the only Wildcat to make 20 free throws in a game.

He served as the ball handler, and claimed Harrison was always trying to steal the ball. Beyke thought it was a product of taking the ball to the hoop and getting fouled.

“I didn’t think anything of it back then,” Beyke said. “I don’t know that I realized it at the time of the game that I made 20 free throws.” 

Dick added 22 points as the Wildcats went 30 for 39 at the charity stripe. That gave Ed Schultheis his first win as Jasper’s coach, and it was no fluke for Beyke, who was just getting his scoring parade started.

Beyke and Dick formed a dynamic scoring duo that propelled Jasper to a 12-8 regular-season record. The former went on a torrid pace, averaging more than 20 points per game before settling in the teens. He proved to be a viable candidate for the Dubois County scoring title. Dick averaged 18.1 points per game and notched 361 points.

Beyke finished second to Holland’s Don Buse for the county scoring championship. The Jasper senior suffered an ankle sprain, but still averaged 18.3 points per game and 366 points, second only to Buse’s 449 points for an average of 22.5 points per game.

“We didn’t do a whole lot of different sets on offense,” Beyke said. “It was basically with me being a good ball handler, just getting it off the floor and in a set offense, they knew that I was athletic enough that I was going to be able to get a good shot, and if I didn’t, they were just focused on rebounding.

“Alan was a good leaper,” he continued. “He could jump and he set off. He knew how I was going to take it to the hoop and how to get into position. I would sometimes take it to the hoop and not even try to make the shot. I would take shots off the backboard when he was in good rebounding position just to give assists off the backboard for him to rebound and put it back in. We played enough together that we knew each other’s game.”

Once again, however, the Wildcats proved to be fodder for Holland in the sectional. The Dutchmen advanced to the semifinals after getting the better of Jasper, 67-56. Beyke notched 16 points in the game, but it still did not suffice.

“We didn’t know much about Holland, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I wish we would’ve actually played them during the season. That would’ve helped. Not knowing anything about them, really, made it tougher to plan.”

Beyke also competed in track, reuniting himself with Brewer and Schultheis for track season.

“They sort of expected you to run track because of the relationship you had with them as your coaches in football/basketball,” he said. “I would have liked —would have loved — to play baseball instead of track, but you almost felt like you couldn’t let them down and you didn’t want to let your classmates in track down. They’re individual events, but we had a heck of a track team all three years of sophomore, junior, senior year.”

He had a chance to go to the Air Force Academy, and wishes he would’ve done that. Instead, Beyke chose to attend the University of Evansville. He was asked to play football and basketball for the Purple Aces. Beyke tore his cartilage in his right knee, going down to injury playing football as a freshman. Had he known, he would not have played football in college in hindsight.

Beyke was supposed to be on the freshmen basketball team, but did not play. He would have liked to have played with somebody like Buse instead of against him, but it didn’t come to fruition. His athletic career ended after undergoing surgery.

It was especially hard that he couldn’t play on the Purple Aces team that won the 1971 NCAA Division II national championship basketball championship.

“It was fun watching them achieve those goals, but every time I think about U of E and basketball, I think of that, that’s for sure,” Beyke said.

Beyke returned to Jasper and had a myriad of roles in different jobs in his life. He’s been retired for a while, doing so before his 60th birthday and is 70 now.

His son-in-law is Michael Lewis, Jasper’s all-time leading scorer with 2,138 points. Lewis holds many other Jasper records, including career games played (104), points scored in a season (852), career scoring average (20.6 points per game), season scoring average (31.4 points per game), field goals in a season (290), 3-pointers in a career (170), free throws in a career (470) and free throws in a season (209).

“I always kid Michael — he obviously is a much better basketball player than I ever was, but I always kid him that he’s got all these records, I said, ‘But you don’t have the free throw record, Michael,’” Beyke said. “I said, ‘You never did get 20.’”

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