Immediately after the opening of school on September 17, 1929, the call for football tryouts was issued by Coach Bunger. The coach knew he had the makings of a good season as he welcomed 11 returning players. It was a young team with two-thirds being juniors and sophomores. However interest was high among the students as 22 eager Vikings made the team. In those days, they didn’t have pre-season practice and scrimmage games. The boys were already well conditioned as a result of hard farm and summer work obligations. Coach Bunger knew they would be ready for the first game on October 4th against Chowchilla. The starting lineup was set for the season; Frank Burnett (FB), Eugene Nelson (RH), Reuben Linman (C), Alvin Thorell (QB), Harry Ternquist (LH), Allan Nelson (RT), Arnold Hillblom (RH), Melvin Lindquist (RG), Eugene Danell (LT) with Stanley Anderson – Team Captain, QB and Left Half-Back.
Coach Bunger was used to winning and made a fine coach. Hopes were high but not everyone was so confident about the prospects for the 1929 Viking Football Team.
Although Kingsburg was a smaller school, they played in Division I athletics against much larger schools like Fresno High, Fresno Tech, Sanger, Reedley, Lemoore and Selma. On their first game they defeated Chowchilla 30:0. The game had everything; interceptions, recoveries, passing and punt returns for a touchdown. The story was on page 4 of the Kingsburg Recorder… people noticed! In the first five games the Vikings had scored 132 points while giving up no points to their opponent. With each game, Kingsburg fans grew in size and intensity. Their gridiron exploits were no longer on page four but above the fold on page one of the Kingsburg Recorder.
Next they faced off against the Rough Riders at Roosevelt High School followed by Fresno High School. To everyone’s amazement the Vikings defeated both power house teams and captured the league championship. By now it was like a scene out of the series Saturday Night Lights as the Kingsburg Vikings squared off against Fresno Tech Wolfpack at Ratcliffe Stadium to determine who would be Fresno County Champions. The Vikings managed to put only six points on the scoreboard by half-time. The two teams fought on even terms until the final minute of play. The tension in the air was as thick as valley fog. There was time of only one more play. The Wolfpack threw a 40 yard pass as the receiver raced to catch it. Arnold Hillblom leapt to tackle the receiver at the three yard line with only seconds remaining on the clock. Kingsburg Vikings had won their first County Championship 6:0!
Excitement in Kingsburg had reached a fever pitch as the team prepared to play the Bakersfield Drillers for the Valley Championship. The Viking vs Drillers was a classic David and Goliath matchup pitting a small school against the large school that had won ten consecutive Valley Championships. The consensus was that Bakersfield would severely trounce little Kingsburg. But that wouldn’t deter the Viking grit or put a damper on community enthusiasm.
Local businessmen and community leaders began to rally a loud and enthusiastic rooting section. With the help of the Southern Pacific Station agent, a special express train was brought to Kingsburg to carry as many as possible to Bakersfield. A round-trip ticket would cost $2.05 for adults and $1.00 for children. An engine, support cars and 12 passenger cars arrived at the Kingsburg Depot on the morning of December 7, 1929. A rally was to begin at 9 am sharp at the high school, immediately followed by a parade down Draper to the Depot. When the Viking Express pulled out of the station, it carried 600 adoring fans while an equal number traveled to Bakersfield by automobile.
The Vikings held their own, going into half-time with a tie score. However, the size difference between the two squads was enough to guarantee fresh players for Bakersfield while Kingsburg played the entire game with only 15 players. With a final score of 26:6, Kingsburg did not win the Valley Championship. However, they did win a great reputation and garnered great community pride that still exists today. Stanford University recruited Stanley Anderson and Alvin Thorell was recruited to play for U.C. Berkeley. In 1934 the two would once again play on the same field, but as opponents.
(Written by Mike Dunn based on the following sources: Bit of Sweden the Desert, 1930 Viking year book, and articles appearing in the Sept – Dec 1929 editions of the Kingsburg Recorder.)