With tales of past greatness and vivid memories of gridiron victory, the 1977 St. Francis High School football team was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame during a pre-homecoming game ceremony Oct. 5.
That football team ignited the community’s passion for the game on the gridiron.
After going 0-35 in the previous four seasons, the ‘77 Saints won the Rum River Conference and advanced to the second playoff round of the state tournament.
How does an 0-35 team ever dream of winning a conference championship? By lighting a fire in those boys’ bellies, training them to “work harder than anybody else, be ready when your number is called and never, ever give up.”
And that’s just what first-year head coach Jim Swanson did when he took over leadership of the team that year.
Those “gentlemen Saints,” as Swanson always called them, lost only one game during the regular season and then – in state tournament action – lost to the team which would go on to become 1977 state football tournament champion, Fridley Grace High School (now Totino-Grace High School).
“That was the year we became a team, believing in each other and believing we could do something most thought was impossible,” said Corey Gilbertson.
Gilbertson and his fellow co-captains, Phil Stalpes, Dave Walton and Troy Ferguson, took the mike during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, reliving the glory days of the 1977 football season and thanking coaches, cheerleaders, parents and the community for the roles they played in that winning season.
The captains also recited the pre-game pep talk Swanson would give. And that pep talk always ended with this prayer:
“Pray in your own way, gentlemen. Pray not to win, for God willing we shall. Pray to give 100 percent of your bodies. Pray that no man on either team is hurt. Good luck. God bless you. I love each and every one of you men.”
Ferguson closed his comments by expressing the thoughts of all of the 1977 Saints.
“We love you, Mr. Swanson, and one of our prayers was answered when you became our coach,” he said.
After the induction ceremony, Swanson talked about what the honor meant to him.
“This has just been overwhelming to get back and see all the players. This is something I’ll always remember. That team – those players – created a bond that I think will stay forever,” he said.
Class of 2012 St. Francis Hall of Fame inductees 1977 St. Francis High School football team
On Oct. 5, St. Francis High School inducted into its Hall of Fame the 1977 St. Francis High School football team (listed numerically by order of jersey number):
10: Magnus Karlsson
11: Greg Schadewald
12: Chuck Madden
22: Mike Sizen
23: Tim Tollefson
24: Tom Combs
30: Bob Ott
31: Ellis Wangelin
32: Phil Stalpes
40: Randy Froemming
41: John Doll
42: Dan Ott
43: Scott Froemming
50: Dave Walton
51: Tom Jesse
52: Greg Coop
60: Troy Ferguson
62: Bernie Protas
64: Kent Reed
65: Rick Crist
66: Tony Kelley
70: Dan Hoglund
73: Jim Robertson
75: Carl Wagner
76: Mark Hanson
80: Bud Sundeen
82: Nick Bjergo
83: Paul Norton
85: Stan Sizen
86: Corey Gilbertson
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]