'We'll be watching' as former Armour standouts follow Dakota Valley's pursuit of record win streak

Jan. 19—ARMOUR, S.D. — For more than four decades, the Armour Packers boys basketball teams of the late 1970s have stood alone atop the South Dakota boys basketball record books.

But the Packers may soon have company in the Dakota Valley Panthers.

From the start of the 1977-78 season to midway through the 1979-80 campaign, Armour went unbeaten over the course of 64 consecutive games, breaking the previous record of 61 set by Arlington in the 1930s. As of Jan. 16, Dakota Valley's streak rested at 61 straight wins — the longest active streak in the nation according to the MaxPreps high school sports website — with the opportunity to get to 63 by Saturday's end.

Several of the central figures of those Armour teams have moved away from South Dakota and, as such, haven't kept close tabs on the Panthers' steady build-up toward challenging the record. But with the Packers' vaunted mark now within reach, they're keen to see the Panthers' final push toward history.

"I guess I never expected it to last forever, but it's been kind of nice while we've had it," said former Armour coach Burnell Glanzer. "We'll be watching, and it'll be interesting to see what happens with it."

Though much has changed over the past 40 years of boys basketball in South Dakota, the paths both programs forged are similar. Both own back-to-back perfect state championship runs, welcoming countless challenges in the form of mid-season classics and difficult regional competition along the way, yet contests decided by single digits were few and far between.

While Glanzer and former Armour standouts Dan Freidel, Dennis Tiefenthaler and Jeff Tiefenthaler aren't cheering for the Packers' record to fall, all voiced their support toward Dakota Valley's pursuit.

"I don't want to sound cliche, but records are made to be broken," said Freidel, a 1980 Armour product. "You can compare athletes and teams; people do it all the time. The bottom line is they're dominating their era just like we dominated our era. I wish them luck, because I know it's not easy to do what they're doing."

Countless elements factor into carrying a winning streak through two full seasons and well into a third, not the least of which is building multiple talented rosters combined with the good fortune of staying healthy and the occasional lucky break.

But in recounting Armour's historic run, the former Packers echoed a sentiment that Dakota Valley coach Jason Kleis shared with the Mitchell Republic at last month's Parkston Classic: maintaining a winning streak isn't a top-of-mind thought.

"We were never focused on the streak; we were focused on state championships," Glanzer said.

Like those Packer teams, the Panthers hear the noise surrounding their successes. Some of that noise, by nature, is the product of public fatigue toward one team's domination. It's a feeling the Packers remember well, having faced growing animosity with each win that stacked up.

"I don't think we were ever thinking about breaking the (Arlington 61-game) streak. I just know we were trying to win every damn game," said Dennis Tiefenthaler, who was in the same graduating class as Freidel but missed his senior season due to injury. "Sometimes that rubbed people the wrong way ... but we wouldn't have had it any other way, to be honest. The exhilaration of winning when everyone else doesn't want you to win, it's a lot of fun."

"It wasn't like winning was a chore," Freidel added. "We loved it."

With a gauntlet between the Panthers and more South Dakota sports history, there's no guarantee they will match the Packers' longstanding feat.

Following a Friday night matchup with Tri-Valley, Dakota Valley comes to Mitchell on Saturday for the Hanson Classic, where No. 3-ranked Hamlin stands in the way. Win both and the streak reaches 63 wins, one shy of tying the record.

To pull level with the Armour record, the Panthers would then have to defeat No. 1 Sioux Falls Christian on the road in a rematch of last season's Class A state championship. Pull off win No. 64, and the record-setting win would have to come against another possible top-tier opponent at the Dakota XII/NEC Clash on Jan. 27 in Madison. (Weather-related postponements altered Dakota Valley's schedule, as the inclement weather pushed back games originally scheduled for Jan. 11 and Jan. 13. If the Panthers had been able to maintain the streak through that stretch, a Hanson Classic victory would have tied the record and the No. 1 versus No. 2 battle would be for win No. 65.)

But whether Dakota Valley's quest is successful or comes up just short of the finish line, the Packers agree that their possible successors have accomplished something special.

"They'll always remember this because they're making their legacy, and they've already done some magical things," Freidel said.

"More power to 'em. We've had that record a long time," added Jeff Tiefenthaler, a 1981 Armour product. "If they do it, congratulations. If not, no matter where they're at, they have a lot to be proud of because they've earned it."