Former players recall historic championship game

Carpenter High Schools Spartans players Dean Poitras (centre) and Blaik Esau (right), along with former CHS player Maurice Demmans, take a closer look at a photo of the 1963 CHS football team that also faced Indian Head for the provincial championship.

Carpenter High Schools Spartans players Dean Poitras (centre) and Blaik Esau (right), along with former CHS player Maurice Demmans, take a closer look at a photo of the 1963 CHS football team that also faced Indian Head for the provincial championship.

by Phil Ambroziak

It’s been a half-century, but the memories of Carpenter High School’s bid for championship glory on the football field in the fall of 1963 remain quite vivid for the men who competed that day.

Much like this past weekend’s championship game between the CHS Spartans and the Indian Head Broncs, 50 years ago also saw the Meadow Lake team square off against Indian Head – coincidentally, the last time Indian Head hosted a provincial championship and the last time CHS made it to the finals in football.

“The first thing I remember about that day was how it snowed the night before,” recalled former CHS football player Ray Miller. “We went down on the Friday and, come Saturday morning, a grader was used to remove all the snow from the field. It was an interesting experience, but we ended up losing the game 28-0. That was the sad end of it.”

While Miller admits the Indian Head squad was the better team that day, he said CHS’ lack of proper equipment also played a factor in the outcome.

“We were in running shoes while they were in football cleats,” he said. “At that time, our team hadn’t been around for very long, so we weren’t as organized as we should have been. But, we did have an excellent team.”

Maurice Demmans, who also played on the 1963 CHS football team, also remembers the cold November day.

“We had little or no traction against the other team,” Demmans said. “Every other game we played that year, we were never behind in points. We always scored the first touchdown and always led throughout. In that particular game, they scored first. They also had a very fast team and we had to make adjustments at half-time, which was difficult to do.”

In spite of Meadow Lake’s loss, both Demmans and Miller said they are proud to have been a part of that 1963 team.

“We really gelled as a team and exhibited a high level of sportsmanship,” Demmans noted. “We also had excellent coaching from Luther Lerseth, who originally came from Minnesota. He taught us not only about sports, but also about the responsibility of being young men and how to conduct ourselves while representing our school at such an important competition.”

Miller, meanwhile, said it was a big accomplishment for the team to make it as far as they did.

“I was disappointed we didn’t win, but when I look back at it, it was still a great experience because not too many guys even get a chance to play in a provincial championship game,” he said.

Miller and Demmans returned to Indian Head on Saturday (Nov. 9) to take part in a special recognition ceremony during the Spartans-Broncos Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association (SHSAA) final. According to current Spartans head coach Craig Paylor, news about the 50-year span between the two Meadow Lake-Indian Head finals was quite intriguing. He also said, however, high school football has indeed evolved quite a bit since 1963.

“I think the team used to be part of a six-man league back then (actually eight-man) whereas now it’s a nine-man squad,” Paylor said. “There’s also more equipment these days and the game is a lot more physical in terms of injuries.”

Demmans and Miller went on to praise the accomplishments of the current CHS team.

“This is an excellent team,” Miller said. “I’ve watched them and they have solid receiving and a good quarterback. We were a similar team, had a couple of strong runners and some big boys – our quarterback, George McLeod was about 6’5”. We didn’t have as many players, so a lot of our guys had to play both sides of the ball. This year’s team should cherish the memories they’ve made and be proud of their achievements.”

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