What started out as an unsanctioned club sport in the mid-1990s turned into a mini dynasty during the 2000 decade.
Denison-Schleswig initially fielded a boys’ soccer team in the spring of 1995, and five years later the Monarchs made what was their first of three straight and five state tournament appearances in a span of eight years.
The D-S boys advanced to the state tournament in Class 1A in back-to-back years in 2000 and 2001, finishing as the state runnerup both times in competition that took place at the Muscatine Soccer Complex.
Carlos Trevino and Virgil Johnson started the boys’ soccer program at Denison and co-coached the Monarchs until Johnson retired after the 2001 season to concentrate on his CPA business.
Trevino stayed on as head coach and took three other D-S teams to the state tournament, including a 2007 squad that again finished as the state runnerup in Class 1A.
In 2000, D-S reached the title match with 1-0 victories over West Central Valley of Stuart in the quarterfinal round and Central Lee of Donnellson in the semifinals.
The Monarchs then lost a tough 2-1 decision in double overtime to Nevada in the state championship match.
A year later, nearly the same group of Monarch players returned to Muscatine and beat Dallas Center-Grimes (3-0) and Fort Madison (3-1), before falling 1-0 to Waukee in the title matchup.
The 2000 D-S boys finished 16-4-1, while the 2001 Monarchs ended at 17-3 overall.
"We didn’t have a team of superstars. We just had a group of great athletes who understood the game and had a vision of being one of the best teams in the state," commented
"They were just so athletic and fought for 80 minutes. We had good offensive players and good defensive players, but it was the way that they played together. It really was like a family. They stuck together through thick and thin, on and off the field," he added.
According to Trevino, Nevada scored the winning goal in the 2000 title match on a corner kick.
"It was a one-in-a-million shot that just ended up being put through the side of the net. It definitely was a tough way to fall," remarked Trevino, who regrouped his familiar team a year later en route to making another run at a state title.
"It really was the same scenerio in 2001. We refined things a little bit and changed some formations, but I didn’t have to say too much. The kids had a vision and they knew what what was at stake. Unfortunately, we just fell short on the scoreboard to a very good Waukee team," Trevino said.
The 2001 season ended with Trevino and Johnson saying farewell to a talented and large senior class.
Roster members either on the 2000 or 2001 teams included Jordan Lickteig, Nick Potts, Simon Fuller, Nate Desy, Nick Desy, Dustin Moeller, Matt Frideres, BJ Jurgensen, Chris Ball, Michael Ford, Travis Hargens, Sam Ellis, Erich Brus, Ellery Segebart, Luke Freml, Eric Brus, Chase Harris, Josh Venteicher, Justin Magnuson, Cole Qualheim, Ale Arnez (foreign exchange student) and Eric Johnson, son of the then co-head coach.
Virgil Johnson just remembers how much the boys loved playing together.
"We had a lot of the same boys both years and they were talented. Heck, they played together since they were little and a lot of them played on the same traveling team with Ike Kuhlmann," Johnson said.
"They were together for more than just soccer, though. They were classmates, friends, and they all graduated together," he added.
Johnson wanted to keep the sport of soccer fun for the kids.
"We always emphasized that. We told the kids to enjoy what they’re doing and have fun. That was the big thing for me," noted Johnson, who still to this day thinks about what if.
"We were so close both years. We were one goal away from tying and two goals away from winning state titles. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be," stated Johnson, who along with Trevino almost led D-S to a state tournament berth in 1999.
"We should have went that year. We lost 1-0 to a team we shouldn’t have lost to in a substate final at Carroll if I remember right. That was disappointing," Johnson said.
"But we made up for it," added Johnson, who now is enjoying his retirement at home in Denison.
Potts was a member of the large senior class of 2001 and a three-year starter at goalkeeper for the Monarchs.
"The thing that I remember most about those teams was just how competitive we were. We had a lot of two- and three-sport athletes who just loved to compete," Potts said.
"We really weren’t into practices, though. Our coaches were always trying to get us to do different drills, but we just wanted to play and beat the other team," he added.
Potts can still picture the game-winning shots by his opponents.
"I was the last line of defense. It was pretty disheartening," Potts stated.
"In 2000, it was all new to us and we really didn’t know what to expect. It might have been a feeling of just being glad that we made it to state."
"It was a lot harder to take in 2001 because it was my senior year. We were so dang close, but now I feel really fortunate that we had the opportunity to play at state two years in a row and represent our school, remarked Potts, who currently teaches high school math at Denison and is an assistant football and track and field coach.
Lickteig also graduated from DHS in 2001 and was a four-year starter on the soccer field for the Monarchs.
Lickteig was one of the team’s top offensive players and led the team in 2000 and 2001 in combined goals.
"When I think back about those years, it wasn’t just about soccer, but it was just how the close the team was from a personal standpoint. I mean, we did everything together and played the sport since we were little kids," Lickteig said.
"You know, we weren’t the best soccer players, but we sure knew what each other was going to do. We knew what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses were," he added.
Lickteig admitted that he doesn’t remember a lot about the state tournament matches specifically, but rather focused on his teammates and the fun they had together.
"We just got along really well. From playing on the traveling team when we were kids and staying in hotels to reaching the state championship two years in a row. It’s just a bond that’s hard to break," Lickteig, who also played on the D-S baseball team in 2000 that finished as the state runnerup in Class 3A.
It really was all about having fun, according to Lickteig.
"It was never about the game. We did a lot of stupid things, but we had a lot of fun on and off the field. I remember Hargens getting a lobster from Hy-Vee in Muscatine and that was our mascot at state. We had a pet lobster," Lickteig said with a laugh.
Lickteig said that despite his team’s antics, they really did learn a lot from Trevino and Johnson.
"I felt sorry for both of them. They did their best to teach us the skills and believed in us because they knew how much potential we had. We were rowdy, though, and we got by on our talent, but honestly, we learned a lot from Trevino, Johnson and Kuhlmann," Lickteig said.
In reflecting, Lickteig remarked that his team’s accomplishments during that time really didn’t hit him until years later.
"It’s funny. When I got asked to make some comments, I got choked up for a minute or two. A few years ago, it really sunk in what we were able to achieve along with the friendships and memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life," Lickteig said.
Presently, Lickteig, 37, lives in Carroll with his wife, Sara, and three kids, including two sons, Bennett, 4, Asher, 3, and daughter, Lennon, 1.
Lickteig works for One Guard, a parent company of American Home Shield, but recently was promoted to a managerial position with a home warranty company in Phoenix, Arizona.
Sara currently is employed with New Opportunities in Carroll.
"We’re supposed to be in Phoenix June 1, but everything is up in the air now with the whole Coronavirus outbreak going on, so things are sort of tense at the present time," stated Lickteig, who is currently working from home and fathering three kids, while Sara is still going to her place of employment.
Sara’s maiden name is Slater and is the daughter of Steve and Sandy Slater of Denison.
Nate Desy, a 2001 graduate of Denison High, feels a sense of pride and accomplishment when reflecting back on those two years.
"It just wasn’t about soccer. It really was just about spending time together with guys that you grew up with and developing relationships and friendships that will last a lifetime," commented Desy.
"Reaching the state tournament in 2000 was just new territory for all of us. We had worked so hard to get there and we were able to get a taste of what it’s like to play on the big stage," he added.
"I mean the fields at the Muscatine complex were amazing. Heck, the USA National team used the fields for practice. It just blew me away."
After losing in the championship game for the second year in a row, Desy said that it really defined his senior year.
"We spent so much time and effort in getting back to Muscatine. After the loss to Waukee, I remember just looking back and watching my teammates that I played with for 15 or more years walk off the field for the last time together. That was hard and very emotional for me," Desy said.
Desy went on to play soccer at Iowa Central Community College at Fort Dodge and then was a member of the club soccer team at Iowa State University at Ames before graduating in 2006.
Today, Desy works as a juvenile court officer in the Council Bluffs area and lives in Denison with his wife, Rachel, and two daughters, Cadence, 7, and Gracelynn, who will turn two in june.
Rachel works at the Chamber & Development Council of Crawford County at Denison.
Desy credits a lot of his team’s success to coaches Trevino and Johnson.
"They were tremendous coaches. They knew how to connect with the kids and how to really bring the team together. We had a lot of talented individuals, but the coaches turned us into a team," Desy said.
Besides being on the sidelines for the three state runnerup finishes in 2000, 2001 and 2007, Trevino had also guided the Monarchs to state berths in 2002 and 2005.
The 2007 team included Trevino’s son, Carlos, who wasn’t able to play at state after suffering a torn ACL his senior season.
Trevino, who is in his 30th year of employment at the Smithfield Meat Packing Plant in Denison, had a plan to start his 25th year this spring as the Monarchs’ head soccer coach.