In my last ‘Whale of a Tale’ I wrote about events 50 years ago this October. (1971)
One of those events is riveted in my mind. Prince Albert Tech Tigers win their first football game after over five long years.
I did not at the time of writing that last article dwell on the event. The reason why is that I was one of the coaches of the TIGERS. Do not ‘blow your own horn’ my mom would say.
But, I must return to that event. After the last column, Norm a past student called me. He was adamant that I had neglected to mention ‘The big win.’
Obviously the game meant a lot to Norm. When we reviewed the story, Norm realized he had missed my brief note about the game.
Well ‘Norm’ I am glad you called because that was a momentous day for not only me and you, but many, many players, fans, coaches, and bless him Principal of Prince Albert Technical High School, Ross Homer.
So, in recognition of all those, including you Norm, I will write about, for me, what led up to that win in 1971.
Ross Homer had hired me to join the Prince Albert Technical High School staff in 1970. In our interview, I was asked to, besides teaching History and English, join the Tech football coaching crew. Ross pointed out that the team had not won a game for over five long years. “We badly need a win!” he said.
So the goal was set! But that goal was to prove more than difficult and demanding to obtain.
When we, the coaching staff, met with those that came out for the first practice in the fall of 1970, we were shocked by how few turned out. The promise of playing for Tech, in football anyway, held little hope of glory.
A most difficult decision was made. Tech Tigers were to withdraw from league play and begin a rebuilding program. I clearly remember one grade twelve boy, Jim McLachlan, in tears, pleading with us to not withdraw – he most dearly, dearly wanted to play out his senior year. Jim was to eventually go on to an outstanding career in University football and become head coach of Carlton Comprehensive’s football program.
We did withdraw from the league, but a call went out for all grade nine, ten and eleven boys to join our program. A valiant crew, despite knowing that no actual game would be played that fall, showed up, including Jim McLachlan, who as a grade twelve joined our coaching staff.
We worked hard on the basics. I will not name all that showed up for those practices, but they remain dear to me.
That next fall, 1971, our young very inexperienced crew reentered the league. We took several good thumpings, often remaining scoreless. I clearly remember one grade ten boy standing beside me saying, “Mr. Harrison, will we ever score a touchdown?” I said, “Yes and you will be one of many who carry the ball into the end zone.” That was Larry Kasbrick. He, as a running back, was to score several touchdowns in his grade eleven and twelve years.
Yet, back in the fall of 1971 our touchdowns were few and very far apart. Great credit to those young players that persisted and still came out for practice defeat after defeat.
Then it happened. October 2, 1971. We won!!!! It was a squeaker – 8 to 7. I ordered a quick kick from our opponent’s two yard line to assure us of the lead.
The side lines erupted when that gun went off. One overjoyed mother of two of our players ran onto the field and grabbed me in a huge bear hug. I had never met her personally until that moment. My wife, to the great dismay of the head official, ran on the field and hugged him. In shock he replied, “Please, you cannot hug the officials!”
Yes Norm, and yes all you very dedicated players, we did it!
That Saturday night, in celebrations, Principal Ross Homer and the members of the coaching staff had one of many toasts.
By the fall of 1975, the Tech Tigers went undefeated until the Leagues playoff final. We lost 21 -20 to the Melfort Comets in a hard fought game.
Players cried openly after that game. I did too. But I was above all proud of having been a member of the Tech Tigers’ coaching staff, as we shared cheers and tears with so many young dedicated players.
(Sorry mom – I told the story anyway. All those fans, players, coaches, and yes, Ross Homer, deserve to be remembered.)