The first decade of the Cape Henlopen consolidated school system began in 1969 and brought together the smaller districts of Milton, Rehoboth and Lewes. Students from each of the districts, including the Milton Warriors, Rehoboth Seahawks and Lewes Pirates, decided to become Vikings with school colors of Columbia blue and gold.
The culture was volatile in 1969-70. Americans lived through the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968, the 10-month Tet Offensive in Vietnam, prolonging an unpopular war, and the Democratic Convention in Chicago, characterized by many political scientists as the first televised police riot.
The newly established Cape Henlopen High School was housed in the Lewes School on Savannah Road. The Vikings became members of the Henlopen Conference. There was a football field with lights, an off-sized cinder track nestled behind Shields Elementary School and an old one-story Army building used as a men’s locker room and storage facility that everyone called “the Annex.” A new high school building and facilities on what is now the Cape campus opened in time for the 1976-77 school year.
Cape won 13 team state championships during the first decade in addition to crowning five individual state champions in wrestling. Cross country and track produced too many individual champions embedded inside state championship teams to list here.
Coach Tom Hickman got the track train chugging, winning Division II state titles in 1971, 1972 and 1973. Cape track under coach Dick Ward won another Division II state title in 1975.
Girls’ basketball coach Bob Cassady and his Vikings won the very first contested title in girls’ basketball in 1973.
Coach Ralph Baird won back-to-back state titles in boys’ basketball in the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons. The 1975 team from a cool 45 years ago is considered by many basketball aficionados as perhaps the best boys’ high school team in Delaware history.
Cape came back and won track state titles in 1976 and 1978 under coach Dave Frederick and cross country state titles in 1977 under Frederick and in 1979 under coach George Pepper.
Field hockey won its first state championship in 1979 under the direction of coach Carolyn Ivins. Football also captured the state title in 1979 with coach Jim Alderman at the helm.
Cape individual state wrestling titles in the 1970s include Willie Vann, 123 pounds, 1973; Tyrone Gibbs, 185, 1975 and 1976; Randy Johnson, 138, 1977; and Perry Walls, 105, 1978.
Vann and Gibbs were coached by Dick Lynam, while Johnson and Walls were coached by Bill Collick.
A list of the state championship head coaches from the ‘70s including Alderman, Ivins, Hickman, Ward, Frederick, Cassady, Baird, Collick and Pepper shows that only Bill Collick and George Pepper are Cape graduates and born-and-bred locals.
“We all got along and continue to be friends to this day,” said multi-sport athlete and 1975 Cape graduate Jim Allen.