Mustangs made their mark too
WHERE LEGENDS LIVE ON, By Diane Imrie
It was great to see a former St. Patrick Saints High School football player Nigel Romick be selected by the Ottawa Redblacks in the Canadian Football League 2014 draft going 23rd overall.
The current Saint Mary’s University student is carrying on a strong tradition of high school players who developed their skills on our local fields going on to play for various college and university teams with some of them, like Romick, being drafted to the pro leagues.
In previous columns I have highlighted some of those players as well as the history of the former Lakehead Rugby Football Union.
The LRFU was formed back in the late 1940s and, for over two decades, it provided local football fans with many memorable moments.
A lot of ink has been given to the team that dominated the LRFU for many years, the Fort William Redskins, given that they won 14 consecutive league titles.
I thought it was time to pay tribute to the team that 50 years ago broke their streak, the Lakehead College Mustangs.
One of the players on that team, Jim McDonald, recently stopped by for a visit and brought along a number of yellowed newspaper clippings that documented that historic win and I thought I would share some of the moments from that milestone season with you.
When the 1964 season opened, some changes had been made to the Mustangs, including a brand new coaching staff.
Heading up the squad were former players Jim Brownrigg as head coach and Bill Mokomela as backfield coach and Bill Shannon, who not only played on the 1964 squad but also served as a line coach.
A number of other changes were made by the club, including moving their practice field from Lakehead College (the forerunner to Lakehead University) to under the lights at the Port Arthur Stadium.
President Jim Gamble noted in the club’s program that thanks to the efforts of their Ladies Auxiliary they were also able to buy a movie camera so the team could film their games, a strategy used by their Fort William rivals for a number of years.
With only two teams active in the LRFU, an interlocking schedule with the Manitoba league took place that season with the local clubs also taking to the field against the St. Vital Bulldogs, St. James Rams and Elmwood Colts.
The opening game of the 1964 season took place in front of 1,000 fans at the Fort William Stadium with the Mustangs defeating the Redskins 36-12 which was a sign of things to come.
In their next regular season meeting, the Ponies welcomed their opponents to their home turf and truly dominated with a 34-0 final.
In their third and final matchup of the regular season, the Mustangs once again shut out their rivals by posting a 13-0 victory.
Having won all three of their previous matches, the Mustangs were the favourites going into the best-of-three final series for the LRFU title.
With home-field advantage in the opening game they did not disappoint their many fans, emerging victorious by a score of 37-7. They just needed one more victory to end their archrivals 14-year stranglehold on the local title.
The record-breaking game started with the opening kick-off at 2 p.m. on Sunday Oct. 25, 1964 at the Fort William Stadium.
The Mustangs were the first to score with quarterback Gary Boug getting the ball to Dennis Trevisanutto to put them on the board.
Single points scored by the Dave Smith of the Redskins in the first and second quarters would turn out to be the only ones earned by the Fort William club.
A touchdown by Larry Pineau and a convert by Jim McDonald saw the Mustangs go into the second-half with a 13-2 lead.
The rest of the game was all Mustangs starting with a field goal by McDonald in the third quarter for a 16-2 lead.
A 55-yard run through the centre of the line by Dick Huber set up a touchdown opportunity for Ted Bradford and a convert by McDonald increased the lead to 23-2.
The Mustangs final score started with a pass interception by Wayne Skene followed by quarterback Boug finding Ron Giardetti to connect on a 54-yard pass allowing Huber to take the ball in from the four-yard line.
Another convert by McDonald resulted in a decisive 30-2 final score and the LRFU crown finally returning to the Mustangs, a title they last won in 1949.
Their victory over the Redskins earned the Mustangs a spot in the Western Canadian semifinal where they faced the Manitoba Senior Football League champion St. James Rams.
The game took place at the Port Arthur Stadium on Nov. 8 in front of 2,000 fans.
As the defending Canadian champions, the Rams, who had defeated the Mustangs 38-0 in regular season play, were favoured to win.
In the first quarter, the Rams scored a single point and a field goal which the Mustangs surpassed on touchdowns by Bunting and Paddington and a convert by McDonald to lead 13-4.
The second quarter saw a touchdown by the Rams which was matched by another by Paddington taking the Mustangs into the second half up 19-10.
A scoreless third quarter had the local fans, and the Rams coaching staff, on the edge of their seats.
The final 15 minutes, however, would belong to the Rams who added 16 points to the scoreboard with two touchdowns, a field goal and a conversion resulting in a heartbreaking 26-19 final.
The players listed in the 1964 Mustangs program included: Wayne Skene, Gary Boug, Lawrence Ludwar, Larry Pineau, Frank Elmore, Ron Giardetti, Brian Christie, Don Smith, Frank Levanto, Richard Huber, George Paddington, John Clifford, Ted Bradford, Dennis Trevisanutto, Mike Pavletic, Steve Cox, Buck Rodgers, Bill Shannon, George Milton, Eric Kahara, Terry Bunting, Eero Warpula, Ed Christiansen, Bill Griffis, Don Wright, Kevin McGonigal, Ken Roulston, Ab Slivinski, Gerry Pupeza, Don McCuaig, Mike Pineau, Jim McDonald, Ferg Penner, Dennis Parsons and Ron Christiansen.
In honour of the 50th anniversary of the Mustangs victory, a move is afoot to try to host a reunion of people who were involved with the Mustangs and the LRFU.
If you would like more information please contact Jim McDonald at (807) 345-8845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
That is one reunion I hope I am invited to as I can imagine the great stories that will be told about the good old days on the gridiron.
Until next time keep that sports history pride alive.
(Diane Imrie is the executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. Her column runs every second Thursday in the Sports section.)