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Home Sports Marauders celebrate 50 year anniversary of 1971 provincial football championship

Marauders celebrate 50 year anniversary of 1971 provincial football championship

Marauders celebrate 50 year anniversary of 1971 provincial football championship
The St. Mary Marauders 1971 football team. The Marauders defeated Moose Jaw Peacock 35-27 to win the 3A provincial championship. -- Submitted photo.

When former St. Mary Marauder football coach Keith Powell thinks back to his 1971 3A provincial champion football team, he remembers a close-knit group that always seemed to get along.

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the Marauders were Saskatchewan football powerhouses, consistently contending for the old Prince Albert High School Football league title. Despite fielding a championship roster, Powell said the 1971 team that won it all wasn’t his best. They were, however, the closest.

“A person never knows how a team is going to develop or how a team is going to get along,” Powell said during a recent phone interview. “It’s hard to predict, and that year, that was the winning difference. The team did get along very well.”

St. Mary enjoyed a dominant spell during that era, racking up a 38-12 record in Powell’s first six years at the helm. However, they always seemed to run into a wall that kept them from getting to the provincial final.

Powell credits his team’s ability to stick together for getting over that hump, and those close friendships continued beyond sports. With the 50th anniversary of their championship victory coming up on Thursday, he still gets the occasional reminder of just how much that team meant.

“A young man who was on the team who we see every few years, the last time he came over to visit he dropped off 12 roses that were coloured blue and white, the school colours, and a blue bottle of wine,” Powell said. “It’s all these little things that people still remember. It was an important time for kids and young people in their memories.”

The St. Mary Marauders entered the 1971 provincial championship with just one loss, which came at the hands of the Riverside Rams, their biggest rival. The Rams were a constant thorn in St. Mary’s side, having deposed the undefeated Marauders in the city final just one year before.

“The year before we got skunked,” St. Mary offensive tackle Joe Yuzik remembered. “Riverside beat us, so we had the motivation.

“A lot of us were going into Grade 12. That was the last year of eligibility for me, because I wasn’t going to go to university … so for me, going into the season, it was just as if I was playing for the Vanier Cup.”

St. Mary entered the 1971 city final as the underdogs with a 4-1-1 record, but were able to upset the Rams in a two-game total-point championship series. Afterwards, the Marauders downed the Melfort Comets 39-0 in the northern final to set up a provincial match with the southern 3A champs from Moose Jaw.

“They were classified as the strongest team for speed in the south,” said Yuzik, who also handled the team’s kicking duties. “It was a good game all the way through. I remember it was hard hitting on all sides…. It just turned out that we started to overpower them, and that was pretty well it for the game.”

Like Powell, Yuzik has fond memories of how close the 1971 team was. Many players participated in sports besides football, and that brought them even closer.

“A lot of us went right from football to basketball,” Yuzik said. “Pretty well from September to February or March when basketball was done, and throughout the year on weekends, we’d all get together.”

Both clubs entered the 1971 championship riding high after upset victories. Peacock High School from Moose Jaw had lost only two games all year, both to Moose Jaw Central, who they defeated in the city final.

The Peacocks made the trip up to Prince Albert for the final game, and faced a Marauder team known for a strong rushing attack, led by RB Tom Chad who set a school scoring record that year, and a powerful defence anchored by team captain Archie McKay.

 The Marauders jumped out to a 21-7 lead, but the visitors stormed back to go ahead 27-21 in the second quarter. By halftime, St. Mary was back in front 35-27, when one Marauder defender noticed a few similar patterns popping up in the Peacock play calling.

“He came off the field and said, ‘I know every play that Moose Jaw Peacock is going to run,’” Powell said. “Being the coach, I said, ‘yeah, yeah, okay, okay.’ Our offensive coach Jim Lyons said, ‘hey, you’d better listen to him.’

Most teams in the era, including St. Mary, used run heavy formations with two halfbacks, a fullback, and a quarterback all in the backfield. Shutting down the run game meant shutting down the offence, which is what St. Mary did in the second half.

“Each play you set up differently if it’s going to be a passing play or a running play, and he was just able to read their defence,” Powell said. “It was a close game at halftime … and we shut them down, basically, after that.”

The Marauders offence continued to put points on the board in the second half, while their defence didn’t allow a touchdown for the rest of the game. St. Mary rattled off 26 unanswered points to win 35-27.

Newspapers the next day carried photos for Powell being carried off the field on the shoulders of his players. It’s a memory that still sticks with him.

“It’s a very exhilarating feeling for your players to pick you up and to carry you like that,” he said. “I mean, that’s just a feeling of euphoria.”